Thursday, March 5, 2015

Regulations giving out brain freezes

Turkey in de straw, turkey in de hay
Turkey in de straw, turkey in de hay
Roll ’em up an’ twist ’em up a high tuc-ka-haw
An’ twist ’em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw

All right, so those lyrics may not jog your memory, but perhaps this will:

“Turkey in the Straw” is the song that many children in the United States associate with ice cream trucks. Kids are conditioned to drool over the sound it (someone should do an experiment about this). But maybe not for long.

According to the Napa Valley Register, many parents in American Canyon, Calif., are pushing for legislation to ban ice cream trucks immediately after school hours. More specifically, ice cream trucks in the city cannot operate from 15 minutes before school ends to one hour after dismissal. The proposed changes would also ban ice cream trucks from peddling their wares after sunset. To make matters worse, no music allowed.

Ice cream truck drivers are about to get a dose of what commercial truck drivers have been dealing with for decades: overregulation. In this case, a vocal minority shouted their grievances, which forced lawmakers to make a kneejerk reaction. Truckers see this whenever an isolated incident happens on the road and lawmakers instantly bring up hours-of-service rules.

While lawmakers are trying to ban ice cream trucks from operating for all but a few hours a day, anyone can drive one. Currently, there are no requirements for background checks for drivers, despite working primarily with children. Lawmakers are addressing a non-issue while ignoring a very real issue. Sound familiar? *cough* driver training *cough*

Politicians have a history of implementing rules and regulations based on nothing more than a gut feeling or moral compass. In the book “Think Like a Freak” by the authors of “Freakonomics,” the writers noted that when politicians make decisions based on their moral compass, “facts tend to be among the first casualties.” Safety groups appeal to emotion by tugging at the heart strings of lawmakers. Facts about crashes and causation seem to drift away when Congress is being shown images of fatal scenes. Now, even ice cream trucks are under attack of the Appeal to Emotion logical fallacy. No one is safe!

The aforementioned book also explains the “I don’t know” phenomenon. This refers to the petrified fear that decision makers have of the words “I don’t know.” Rather than admit that they do not know the solution to a problem, lawmakers tend to submit ideas despite not knowing why, how or even if the solution is a good one. Decision makers do this so that they do not come off as incompetent, regardless of the possibility of their ideas failing.

Sometimes, government regulations completely overstep boundaries. It is up to a child’s parents to regulate ice cream consumption, not the ice cream truck driver or the government. Similarly, it is up to individual truckers to determine when it is time to tuck themselves into bed, not the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Through the eyes of politics, we are all children.

For ice cream truck operators, lawmakers don’t know how to deal with people’s children buying ice cream. Commercial drivers are dealing with lawmakers who do not know the particulars of crash data. Either way, an industry is losing money due to illogical rules and regulations.