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Editorial: Foolish truck surveys, protests

Editorial: Foolish truck surveys, protests

Spending $600,000 for a survey of truckers is excessive

It was no April Fool’s joke, but Tuesday’s story on the state spending $600,000 to find out what truckers want at rest stops along the state highway system sure seemed like one.

A firm from Texas has been hired by the Thruway Authority and state DOT to interview truck drivers at truck stops and rest areas — for not one, but two years — to find out the kinds of amenities they like. (In addition to the obvious, like ample parking and clean rest rooms, maybe they’d like a facility that offered hot showers? How about an espresso bar to help them stay awake, or an Internet cafe or game room to while away the hours during those mandatory breaks? And food: maybe some decent Thai or Mexican instead of the usual fast-food fare?)

The purpose is to make the truckers happy so they’ll continue to use the state’s roads. Obviously not all trucks traveling through New York to other states have to make stops here; if we give them what they want, they just may keep using our highways (and paying our tolls and patronizing our businesses) instead of other states’. So, in that sense, the survey is justified.

But why so expensive? Couldn’t it have been done a lot more cheaply — via mail, the Internet or by simply placing questionnaires at truck stops? Does a survey of this sort require strict scientific methods to be valid?

And why go out of state to spend that kind of money? Couldn’t the DOT have found any local firms in this business? Better yet, how about one of the state’s many colleges (Siena and Marist come to mind) that teach and conduct opinion polling? That surely would’ve cost less than $600,000.

Speaking of truckers and April Fool’s jokes, it was hard to figure out who the truckers that staged protests over high diesel fuel prices Tuesday were trying to kid. Themselves, maybe?

Do they think there is much anyone can do to bring those prices down, other than to use less so as to create a glut?

Staging a brief strike — pulling over to the side of the road and delaying shipments for a few hours, to “send consumers and government a message” — won’t have much impact. Store shelves would take days to become empty, and what would be the point of that?

The only practical solution is to squeeze more miles out of each gallon. For truckers, and everyone else stuck with a guzzler, that means slowing down to achieve better mileage and idling less at stops.

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