Cell Phone Ban for Truckers Proposed by Washington D.C.
The US Department of Transportation is now proposing a complete cell phone ban in commercial vehicles, including semi trailers and buses. This follows the current ban on texting while driving and affects 4 million drivers.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is increasing pressure through a campaign to reduce incidents due to driver distraction. LaHood also seriously questions the safety of "hands free" cell phones and other communications technology and gadgets; especially when it only takes a split-second of inattentiveness by a driver (any driver, not just truckers) for an accident to occur. LaHood said in a prepared statement that, "Every time a commercial truck or bus driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cell phone, even for a few seconds, the driver places everyone around them at risk."
This post on a tractor trailer attorney's blog highlights the dangers.
According to government safety statistics, some 5,000 fatalities have been ascribed to distracted driving with another 500,000 injuries – though these statistics include accidents involving all vehicles and not just semi tractor trailers and other commercial vehicles. Fatalities involving bus drivers were involved in 38 fatalities in 2009, up from 20 the year previously while inattention was cited as the reason for 9% of tractor trailer crashes (though this represents a decline on prior year numbers).
Large carriers, such as WalMart and UPS already operate an in-cab prohibition on cell phones while driving their trucks, but trucker reaction to the proposed federal ban is mixed.
Generally, most truckers appear to be against the proposed ban – which is currently open for a 60-day comment and consultation period. Many truck drivers recognize that cell phones need to be used safely, however with lengthy periods of time away on long-distance runs, frequently in isolated parts of the country, there is a safety issue involved in maintaining a cell phone and communications link with the outside world. There is also a need for truckers to maintain communications between base and the customer; this is frequently vital in a cut throat business where keeping the customer happy is practically rule number one. Safety is a serious issue, though many customers understand when it comes to the need for safe delivery of their cargoes, and no-one wishes to deliberately compromise public safety.
The proposals do not affect hands-free handsets, which are commonly in use within the trucker community anyway. Only handheld cell phones and communication devices are directly affected by the proposed ban, though with LaHood's already stated doubts about the safety of hands-free devices, it is possible we can expect a broader prohibition to be considered as well, if not now, then soon.