Got the roads on the show

Linda Longton, Editor

Recently on Fox News Sunday, Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee talked up his efforts to improve his state’s roads.

“We had the worst road system in the country, according to Truckers Magazine,” he said. “Five years later, I was proud to be the governor of what was called the most improved road system in the country.” Huckabee referred to Arkansas’ rank at the top of Overdrive’s Worst Roads list in 1999 and our Most Improved list in 2004.

While we wish he’d gotten our name right, what’s more important is that 17 years after its debut, the Overdrive Worst Roads survey still influences the debate over highway funding. The survey started in 1991, when the Federal Highway Trust Fund was up for reauthorization. A response card in Overdrive asked truckers to list the five worst roads they’d driven.

“Then we can go to the state and federal administrators and say, ‘These are the roads that must be marked for repair as a first priority,'” Overdrive’s editors wrote. “These roads will be identified by the men and women who use them, not by politically motivated interests.”

That poll drew 2,500 responses, and Pennsylvania “won” hands down for the worst roads in the nation. On Oct. 22, 1991, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, D-Ala., now a Republican, entered the resulting article into the Congressional Record.

As Pennsylvania continued to top the list (12 of the past 17 years), the poll drew press attention, with every major TV network and most of the nation’s top newspapers covering the results each year. State departments of transportation and PennDOT in particular found themselves fielding questions from reporters with new-found interest in the state of the nation’s roads.

To mark the poll’s five-year anniversary, Overdrive hired a research firm to conduct a more formal survey. The outcome didn’t change (Pennsylvania won again), but this quieted detractors who felt the old poll didn’t scientifically reflect the trucking population.

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To give a broader picture of the challenges you face in your daily travels, today’s survey ranks best and worst roads, four-wheelers, truck stops and rest areas and the toughest and weakest truck inspections.

Even if Overdrive’s readers can’t take sole credit for states getting serious about roads – although Pennsylvania’s I-80 ranks second on the most-improved list this year – there’s certainly no more credible source for this information than America’s truck drivers. Just ask Mike Huckabee.