The curious case of the revisions that involve SMV emblem standards 276.8 and 279.14, or, Paid Science and The Elephant In The Room


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from St Joe Co, Ind. (next door neighbor county) to Berrien Co, Mich. (home of ASABE), with love

Incorporating a Tale of a Series of Unfortunate Events

This is a tale of the Elephant In The Room… something that the Ag Engineers and Big Ag (plus their Suppliers) don’t want to discuss or acknowledge. A recent article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine on elephants that ran recently has now brought all of this into focus to the good people at Safety Psychographics.

“And that’s the reality on the ground. It’s not the nice idea (i.e., the T-C T: AE50 winner) that people cook up and suggest, but that’s the reality. And in my view, an equally important threat, serious threat, is dependence on donor money. If you become dependent on donor money, you will inevitably become dictated to in terms of your policies. And your management integrity will be interfered with. And it’s not possible to be totally free of corruptive influences if you’re not financially independent.”

Additionally, “paid science” rears its ugly head in agriculture, as it does elsewhere.

“Some years ago, I wrote a column on how farm groups sternly preached the value of what they reverently called “sound science” but, in fact, usually endorsed only “science that sounds good” to the groups. Not coincidentally, I noted, most of that good-sounding science was “science” tied to research (OR LACK OF RESEARCH*) bought-and-paid-for by the groups themselves. Examples of this thumb-on-the-scale tactic continue to do exactly what they are intended to do: confuse, mislead, and redirect farmers, ranchers, and naïve policymakers away from solutions disfavored by the group.”          (*our insertion)

from Alan Guebert, nationally syndicated Farm columnist

“Philo T. Farnsworth didn’t fully realize that the process of invention itself was being transformed. Innovation became too important and too lucrative to be left in the hands of unpredictable, independent individuals. The giant corporations that had sprung up around all the new technologies of the past century wanted to control the future and avoid surprises that could topple their empires, and they were growing more and more frustrated over negotiating for patent rights with outside inventors.”
–The Last Lone Inventor, a tale of genius and deceit     -by Evan I. Schwartz

“In Apple’s case, the evidence shows, the company has a patent for technology designed to prevent texting while driving, but it has not deployed it. ‘The technology exists — we just don’t have the stomach to implement it,’ said Deborah Hersman, the president of the National Safety Council and the former chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board.”                                                                                                                                                        –statements on patent and technology suppression from a business article in the New York times by on 9-24-16, Phone Makers Could Cut Off Drivers. So Why Don’t They?

“Had a buggy whip manufacturer in 1910 re-thought things and concluded that rather than being in the buggy whip business he was instead in the business of creating ‘transportation starting devices,’ he just might have been able to survive the challenge of the new economy and make the transition into a new era.”  “The new buggy whip makers:  Pity the poor buggy whip manufacturers.  Not only was their business disrupted by the advent of the automobile, but for over 100 years academics and business professionals have held them up for easy laughs as business people who missed a shift in the market.”  “Buggy whip: definiton. A horse whip once used by a driver of a buggy; ‘since buggies have been replaced by cars the buggy whip has become a symbol for anything that is hopelessly outmoded.’ ”

“The scientists were encouraging but diplomatic. A new cloud name, they explained, could be designated only by the World Meteorological Organization, an agency within the United Nations, based in Geneva, which has published scientific names and descriptions of all known cloud types in its International Cloud Atlas since 1896. The W.M.O. hadn’t added a new cloud type to the International Cloud Atlas since 1953… ‘Because 50 or 60 years ago, we got it right.’ ”  —article in the New York Times magazine for 5-8-16, touching on an entrenched attitude among a science organization that could not envision the merits of change  (see also: “Status Quo” and “NIH”… Not Invented Here)

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“Industry has had over 50 years of experience with the present SMV emblem. To change it would detract from its effectiveness.”

I am objective enough to say, ‘If there are better marking materials on the market, they should be used to enhance the visibility of agricultural equipment.’ ”

(Note: the Tri-Color Triangle ™ has a center orange triangle that differs from conventional emblems for not being just fluorescent only but is both fluorescent and retro-reflective, a copyrighted aspect of it.) 

“Therefore, the night-time only–hollow red triangle appearance would be eliminated and parameters of the third party communication purpose are changed. (i.e., change away from just the retro-reflective red triangle night-time appearance is ‘undesirable.’) Are there existing materials meeting both the retro-reflective performance requirements and the fluorescence performance requirements needed for SMV emblems (and do you use them, and, if not, why not just stick with a non-retro-reflective/fluorescent-only center orange section)?”

The above quotes except the first three and the second one from the NY Times are taken from comments of members of the Lighting and Marking committee when recently considering the elements of the Tri-Color Triangle’s ™ design elements to be incorporated into what would have been a new, improved and entirely different Standard Revision 276.8 that was being considered at the same time as this actual “Prohibition” standard. (Remember Prohibition? The 19th Amendment? And how did that work out? [see: 21st Amendment; watch this space for 276.9])

Standard WITHDRAWN... Yes.It.Happens.

A few more business quotes:

“What do you say to other business leaders who don’t want to get political?                  ‘If you have ideas about how to solve certain problems, I think it’s your responsibility as business leaders to speak up. This country is craving for leadership today, and the leadership is not coming out of Washington (or those that are positioned to have their standards to be taken at face value by Washington government departments*). So the leadership has to come from someplace else. Right now, the private sector (including obscure, ignored inventors in Northern Indiana*)  is the place that it’s going to have to come from.’ ”   —Ed Stack, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods             *(our insertions)

“I’d grown up with the old view of innovation as something that ‘should‘ happen within the four walls of our offices. Opening our products (or certain famous SMV standards not invented by us, but regulation of taken over by us*) to outside tinkering was akin to giving our intellectual property away. Yet, I knew in my gut that… …we would need to seek innovation everywhere.”   —Marc Benioff, Chairman and co-CEO of, talking on ‘What I Learned From Steve Jobs’          *(our insertion)


The nighttime “hollow red triangle” look of regular SMV emblems is part of the problem with them, “…violating the uniformity of appearance principle” according to the referenced Garvey study and article. It has an “inconsistent day/night appearance and lack of distinctiveness from other roadway symbols,” namely, it is nearly identical at night to the roadside breakdown triangle.

(The article excerpted here) addresses the possibility that the reasons for this include its inconsistent day/night appearance. “… and perhaps emblem modification (is needed) to make it more iconic in nature or at least to ensure that it appears the same to approaching drivers in daylight and at night.”  —Excerpted from an article in the Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health (published by the ASABE),  “Motorist Comprehension of the Slow Moving Vehicle Emblem” by P. M. Garvey

“This heterogeneity is a function of the era in which the emblem was originally designed. In 1962, sign material integrating retro-reflective and fluorescent qualities did not exist; therefore, for the emblem to be visible both in daylight and at night, it had to be constructed using two types of materials: fluorescent (daylight visibility) and retro-reflective (nighttime visibility). The result is a hybrid emblem that is visible in daylight and at night, but visible as two dramatically different images. The driver must therefore know that a solid orange triangle in the daytime and a hollow red triangle at night both have the same meaning.” —Garvey paper in Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health, 2003, published by ASABE.

(these quotes all taken from the Q + A page on this site)

philip Garvey   smv researcher

Philip M. Garvey, Research Associate, Pennsylvania Transportation Institute, 201 Transportation Research Building, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802; phone: 814–863–7929; fax: 814–865–3039; e–mail (see more below)

As is made clear above, the hollow red triangle look at night is not exactly a characteristic that was originally intended and is not worth preserving for its historical associations and inadvertent longevity. Now that modern dual-characteristic materials are available, they correct unavoidable compromises of the past and point the way to the future. This is the how the Tri-Color Triangle ™ is designed and manufactured. It will be explained here on this page and site later (as it becomes known) exactly why and how the ASABE, “an international scientific and educational organization dedicated to the advancement of engineering applicable to agriculture…,” came to the conclusion that a prohibition against progress and road safety was nominally in the public interest.


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From Notre Dame, Ind., to all the Amish people whose lives will be saved in the meantime, with love

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Philip Garvey received his B.A. degree in psychology from Lynchburg College in 1984, and his M.S. degree in experimental psychology with an emphasis on visual perception from Villanova University in 1986. From 1989 to 1994, Mr. Garvey worked as a research scientist specializing in traffic safety and visual perception at LRI, a private consulting firm, where he was principal investigator on Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) contracts “Relative Visibility of Increased Legend Size vs. Brighter Materials,” “Changeable Message Sign Visibility,” and “Visibility Requirements for Symbolic Traffic Signals.” Mr. Garvey began working at PTI in 1994 on the FHWA contract, “Hazard Markers for Older Drivers,” and served as co-principal investigator on the 3M/USDOT sponsored research project, “Legibility of Conventional Road Guide Sign Typography and Format.” The latter research resulted in the development of the Clearview font. Clearview has been approved by the FHWA for use on all highway guide signs, representing the first change in guide sign font allowed by the FHWA in over fifty years. In his tenure at PTI, Mr. Garvey has been principal investigator on numerous evaluations of commercial sign performance issues for the signage industry; guide sign font, arrow, and message visibility for the National Park Service (which resulted in a new font “NPS Roadway” that will be used on all future NPS guide sign installations); slow-moving vehicle emblem visibility for the American Civil Liberties Union; and he contributed to the federal guidelines on electronic message sign visibility for the FHWA and the Access Board. In his 21 years as a researcher, Mr. Garvey has also conducted research in the varied areas of ride quality evaluation, drunk-driving enforcement campaign assessment, and the development of bicycle-friendly shoulder rumble strips.

Mr. Garvey has been involved in numerous research projects investigating human performance and safety in transportation. His expertise in the field of human interaction with the roadway environment led to his selection as the chairman of the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) Committee on User Information Systems. As chair of TRB’s User Information Systems Committee, Mr. Garvey established TRB’s committee on Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS), which is TRB’s liaison with the international intelligent transportation systems (ITS) community. Mr. Garvey was a panel member on a National Cooperative Highway Research Program project on driver information overload, has been accepted as an expert witness in human factors issues in transportation safety and visibility in several states, has written a chapter on human factors in sign visibility for a transportation engineer’s handbook, and recently assisted the Dubai Municipality (United Arab Emirates) in developing its outdoor advertising control manual. In 2004 Mr. Garvey was invited to join the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices’ Human Factors Resource group, and in June 2006 he was appointed Chairman of the National Committee’s Human Factors Task Force.

(reproduced for informational purposes from

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from the New Yorker magazine for Feb. 12 + 19, 2018

Update: July 2016

A Tale of A Series of Unfortunate Events

It has come to light that the ASABE has given their reasons for the how and why of the underpinnings of SMV standard 276.8 as conveyed to us at Safety Psychographics. These reasons are put out here for the record. A series of conversations and voicemails are consolidated and paraphrased here, though a request for documentation of certain records referred to was declined so that “…this matter could be put to rest.”

Back in 2011 and 2012, in matters relating to updating standard 279 that primarily addressed the issue of discrepancies of wording as to whether the color of the center triangle of 276’s SMV emblem was “red-orange” or “orange-red,” a comment had been recorded that the color was additionally “non-reflective;” a detail that was not reflected (no pun intended) in the wording of standard 276. A recommendation was made then to “clean up” the wording of standard 276.8 so that it could be later incorporated into standard 279.14, as that was being considered for adoption on a federal, uniform level (which has recently happened).

The why of why such a need was apparently felt back then to make a prohibition against what is commonly, though incorrectly identified and now codified as “reflectivity**” is unknown, in light of the history brought to light and safety issues identified in the Garvey materials above. Most advances in engineering and safety are not specifically, narrowly  prohibited in areas that they could serve useful purposes in. Additionally, considering that ASABE is an engineering society that deals in technical matters and terms, it is curious that there is a discrepancy now, not only standardized but also codified on a federal level, that reflects (again, no pun intended) an apparent lack of knowledge, or at the least, lack of attention to detail, on the differences between Reflectivity and Retro-Reflectivity, considering the ramifications.

Reflectivity is what any color other than Vantablack does when light shines upon it. It is the nature of light of a specific wavelength not being absorbed by the material in question to consequently reflect that light back to the environment and be available for viewing from nearly every angle in a Lambertian, diffuse reflective sense (as contrasted with specular reflectance, which is closer to retroreflectivty). In other words, all colors are naturally reflective… up to 90% of light coming on them is reflected; the colors are reflective. With fluorescent colors, 200 to 300% of the light coming on them is reflected; fluorescent colors are reflective. Reflectivity is often erroneously used by laymen (non-engineers) when referring to the effect of reflectors* or materials that are retro-reflective.

    (*Reflector, a device that causes reflection {for example, a mirror or a retroreflector})

Retroreflective is what materials are that reflect light back to the viewer from a light source close to the viewer in an engineered, narrow angle that maximizes directional reflectivity with a minimum of scattering but short of specular reflectance. “Retroreflective” is what has been specified for the red border of SMV emblems from the original R276 all the way through the new S276.8. The intent is to convey that red light is directed back to the viewer with a minimum of scattering. The only new wording of revision 276.8 is a prohibition against the center red-orange triangle from being reflective, that is, it states for it to be “nonreflective.” It appears that somehow, somewhere in the rush to revise this standard, the definitions of reflective, retroreflective and nonreflective have gotten confused. As it stands, and is codified and adopted on a federal level in S279.14 that incorporates S276.8, the center fluorescent red-orange triangle cannot (simply) reflect light (this would be on par with Vantablack), which of course is a direct contradiction to common sense and likely the intentions, whatever they actually are, of the ASABE. They likely meant the wording to be stating that the center cannot be “retroreflective.” However, if, as it states, the center is specified to be a color (fluorescent red-orange) and is not to be reflective, that leaves only one possible option left: for said center to be retroreflective. At the least, there is not a stated prohibition against it being retroreflective. The Tri-Color Triangle(TM), copyrighted and under Patent Pending status, has a retroreflective fluorescent red-orange center triangle. If, whether by actions coincidentally set into motion back in 2011-12 or possibly by later actions set in motion after the T-C T came to the attention of the ASABE, the wording of this Engineering Society’s latest revision does not prohibit this major design element of the T-C T. Whatever the reasons for usage of the wording prohibiting center “reflectivity” when it is likely that they meant to prohibit “retroreflectivity,” this specific circumstance, compounded by its federal codification ramifications, does not necessarily reflect well upon ASABE (pun intended) and the T-C T will continue to be produced and sold, and efforts will continue to keep it from being either actively or unintentionally sidelined and/or elements of it from being prohibited. We will not idly sit by if conditions approaching Restraint of Trade or similar circumstances appear to be working against this product… one that fulfills the original promise of what the SMV emblem aspired to be originally (but was not for lack of modern materials) and now can be and therefore has a much greater potential to save lives. It is too good of an idea to allow it to be suppressed, intentionally or otherwise.

A question in light of all of this: is it proper for industry-funded and manned associations and their committees and the studies that they often put money behind to properly be in a position to write standards that end up being codified into law? From a news story on the historical conflict of interest involved in behind-the-scenes sugar industry funding of and shaping the scientific outcomes in a study on fat, sugar and nutrition in a landmark 1967 article on nutrition, researcher Professor Marion Nestle said that

“…policy makers should consider giving less weight to industry-funded studies….”

When entrenched industry interests wield influence with those who call the shots and then such stances are reflected in law, perhaps we can at the least question the objectivity of these parties and veracity of their stances.

In conclusion, it is our postmortem analysis that the process of having the Tri-Color Triangle ™ go through the standard-changing process was just a going-through-the-motions perfunctory gesture to humor an AE50-awardee new member; something “performed with minimal interest or attention… halfhearted, cursory,” as it later became clear that there was no real intention of changing the standard toward Progress while a Regressive, industry-protective standard was in the pipeline simultaneously, and that its passage was a foregone conclusion.


**The term “reflective” here here, of course, reflecting*** the layman’s incorrect use of what is actually properly meant as “retroreflective,” which is directionally-reflective. Real agricultural engineers would know and use this term, at least in industry standards, you would think, especially for those standards that get incorporated into laws (it should go without saying… unless Real engineers are not behind things such as updates to these sorts of standards’ revisions that, say, get passed by engineering societies’ nominally-uninfluenced committees that maybe do not operate solely in the interest of public safety for the greater public good but may be more of a industry trade protectionist group; as influenced by money as politicians are influenced by lobbyists… See our other page here if you haven’t visited it before)

***pun intended, as long as it’s still fun to point out to Engineers, who should know proper engineering terms, and who pass codifiable standards, the difference between Reflective and Retro-Reflective

http://www.regulations             (dot) gov/document?D=NHTSA-2016-0064-0002