Mo more Chicken Little

Linda Longton, editor
llongton@rrpub.com

For centuries, power-hungry politicians, religious zealots and single-issue advocates have preyed on people’s fears. Using a few key words, they whip people into an emotional frenzy,
convincing them that their livelihoods, if not their very lives, are at stake.

Various organizations use those same techniques daily to advance their agendas. Nowhere is this more true than in the trucking industry, where safety advocates vie with unions, trucking associations and government officials to manipulate the message you, the media and average Americans receive. Whether the issue is hours of service, truck safety, toll roads or opening the border to Mexican trucks, separating fact from hyperbole can be difficult. Some examples:

  • Calling on Congress to strengthen the hours of service rule, Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook called large trucks “rolling time bombs.”
  • At a Sorrow to Strength rally for families who lost loved ones in accidents involving trucks, Jackie Gillan of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety called car-truck accidents a “public health disaster.”
  • In a 2006 letter urging its Indiana members to protest the potential lease of the Indiana Toll Road to an Australian-Spanish consortium, Todd Spencer of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association warned: “The governor wants to sell it to a foreign country! This isn’t thinking outside the box. It’s thinking outside the planet!”
  • But perhaps the best example is Teamsters President James P. Hoffa quoting a Teamsters-sponsored reporter who wrote that Mexican truckers couldn’t run “without cocaine and crystal meth and then they do marijuana to come down from the high.”

In each of these scenarios, the goal is to scare people into believing that they are victims – of exhausted, overworked truckers, of foreign invaders or drug-crazed Mexican drivers. Fear breeds outrage; opinions are formed by emotion rather than fact. Developing an informed opinion about any of these issues is made more difficult because there may be a shade of truth in each exaggeration. The problem is, none tells the whole truth, and all are clouded by a particular agenda.

When people play on our emotions, keeping our heads can be tough. But doing so is key to making sound decisions that impact the future of our industry – and your business. Look beyond the exclamation point the next time someone screams, “The sky is falling!”

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