Florida state Sen. Victor D. Crist thinks his state has too many gators. Not the kind with all those sharp teeth; he's talking about the ones that litter roadsides all over the country.
Most of them are from commercial trucks, and the senator wants to eliminate the tire failures that create them. His solution? He writes a bill to ban retreaded tires from tractors and trailers operating in Florida.
That's not all. He's concerned about truck drivers too. So he writes another bill to require them to complete six years of training, including two years of driving experience, before they can drive in the gator state.
His first bill was just another in a line of attempts by state politicians to outlaw retreads on trucks. It's been tried in Maine, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, to name a few. None of them went for it, once the facts on retreads came out.
His second bill, on the other hand, tops anything we've ever heard of. Six years' training to drive a truck? One could almost finish medical school; why drive a truck?
Wonder where Sen. Crist got his background information. Could it have been the public media and/or anti-truck groups like CRASH (Citizens for Reliable & Safe Highways)?
He's made it known that he doesn't expect either of his bills to pass; neither has a sponsor in the Florida house. He says he only proposed them to start discussions.
First off, why go to the trouble of proposing legislation just to start a discussion? There are plenty of expert sources: The American Trucking Associations; Truckload Carriers Association; Professional Truck Driver Institute; Commercial Vehicle Training Association; Private Truck Council of America; The Technology & Maintenance Council; the Tire Retread Information Bureau; International Tire & Rubber Association; and a cadre of independent tire and safety experts.
Instead, the senator did the equivalent of tossing a pair of dummy grenades into a crowded room to see who'd react.
Reacting is what TRIB does best, and it gave Sen. Crist a whole course on retreads and what causes gators. Managing Director Harvey Brodsky pointed out that for years, retreads have been used safely on buses, airlines, small package delivery services, and the U.S. Postal Service, emergency vehicles and race cars, as well as on trucks. California just gave TRIB a $75,000 grant to promote retread use on public sector vehicles. And there is a federal executive order mandating use of retreads on most federal fleets.
Had the senator done his homework, he would have also learned that most tire failures come from underinflation. Not only that, but retreads save $2 billion a year for truck operations – translating into savings for consumers. And it takes only 7 gallons of oil to make a retread, whereas a new tire requires 22 gallons.
His ridiculous driver training proposal compares to the Professional Truck Driving Institute of America's standard of 148 hours of training, including 44 in street and range driving. The institute complies with federal requirements.
Banning retreads from Florida would at best result in higher costs for trucks serving the state – and at worst drive some trucking operations out. Bottom line for the state's economy: Very expensive freight rates. And it wouldn't likely eliminate a single gator.
A six-year driver training program would simply eliminate big rig service in Florida for lack of drivers. Florida's economy would flat-out die.
Sen. Crist's office told us he is optimistic that he may have started "an ongoing dialogue." Maybe so.
But next time, senator, couldn't you just ask?
E-mail Doug Condra at [email protected], or write PO Box W, Newport Beach, CA 92658.