Intra State Hazmat Haulers Face Texting Ban

March 10, 2011

Trucker to Trucker, the principal source for information on trucks for sales, financing, insurance and trucking industry issues focuses on Intra State Hazmat Haulers and the Texting Ban:

There is a federal ban for all interstate truckers from driving and texting, however federal rules apply only to interstate commerce. Or truckers driving solely within a state, federal rules do not apply, however states are promulgating their own rules (which we reported on earlier this month).

In addition to the existing and proposed regulations which the states have been coming up with, and which apply to all drivers and not just truckers, there is a raft of federal orders and regulations which are now in effect for drivers of trucks carrying hazardous materials (Hazmat).

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued a binding rule which takes effect from March 30, 2011 addressing commercial hazmat haulers and drivers. The new PHMSA rule takes the FMCSA's rule on hazmat carriers and texting and builds upon it. In addition, the PHMSA rule promulgation has utilized the same scientific studies which the FMCSA's rule is based upon, particularly the study conducted by Virginia Tech.

Unlike the FMCSA's rule which provides for fines and penalties, the PHMSA's final rule does not make any mention of penalties and fines. The FMCSA provides for fines of up to $2,750 for individual drivers and up to $11,000 for carriers.

The Obama Administration is pushing the topic of distracted driving hard across the board, not just for truckers, though they are being targeted as a major risk group. The potential for harm is magnified when you are driving an 80,000 pound truck compared to a 5,000 pound family car. Countering the targeting of truckers, is the fact that just as truck drivers must drive responsibly to avoid causing accidents, so must other road users who may cause an accident involving other vehicles, e.g. a tractor trailer, because they are not paying attention.

There seems little point in applying a preventative rule just to truckers in this instance. If a reckless driver decides to cut up a truck, the cost of that mistake is a tractor trailer incident, but is this something a trucker who is not texting will be able to avoid? The answer must be no – there are practical limitations on what a truck driver, even one who is fully alert and driving safely can do to avoid an incident if other drivers are not complying with the same road rules.

In this light, if the intra state rules are to apply to Hazmat truckers and carriers, it makes sense that they should apply to all truck drivers and carriers operating solely within one state. If the rules should be applied to truckers, then they should also be applied to all road users in the state too. If the research indicates the risk of texting while driving, then the risk must be there no matter what the vehicle is or who is doing the driving.

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