At the end of 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed a new safety regulation that would specifically prohibit interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle. The DOT says fleet management and approximately 4 million commercial drivers would be affected by this proposal.
FMCSA research shows that using a hand-held cell phone while driving requires a commercial driver to take several risky steps. In particular, commercial drivers reaching for an object, such as a cell phone, while driving are three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event. Drivers dialing a hand-held cell phone while driving increase their risk by six times.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) says it supports the proposed legislation, which would put an end to the use of handheld mobile phones by commercial truck drivers. According to the ATA website, ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said “Recognizing the risks of hand held mobile phone use, it simply makes sense to prohibit their use by all motorists to make the highways safer for everyone.”
However, ATA is requesting the agency to allow the use of hands-free devices. “ATA…believes drivers should be prohibited from dialing a telephone number while driving, but should be permitted to push a limited number of buttons (e.g., three or fewer) in order to initiate a hands-free call,” the association said. “Finally, ATA strongly objects to the proposed provision that would impose serious penalties against employers who do not somehow prevent their drivers from violating mobile phone prohibitions.”
ATA has supported laws and regulations banning handheld phone use for all motorists at the state and federal levels. ATA reiterated this position in comments filed Feb. 22 on FMCSA’s proposed ban for truck drivers. Last year, ATA also supported DOT’s ban on texting by drivers of commercial vehicles while their vehicles are in motion.
OOIDA Objects to Proposed FMCSA Regulations Prohibiting Mobile Phone Usage by Truck Drivers
OOIDA is on the other side of the fence regarding the FMCSA regulation prohibiting cel phones used by commercial drivers while driving.
OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston said in comments filed Feb. 22, “Indeed, cell phone use is no more distracting than other types of communications and electronic equipment used regularly by truck drivers such as in-cab fleet management devices, global positioning and other navigation systems, and Citizens Band (CB) radios that have not received the same level of scrutiny by FMCSA.”
OOIDA said the potential penalty of $2,750 for a driver and up to $11,000 for the driver’s employer are the same as for the texting final rule. “These penalties are clearly excessive when compared to the significantly lower fines for egregious traffic violations such as DUI/DWI or excessive speeding,” Johnston said.
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