Legislation is still pending before Congress that would place a federal ban on texting while driving. So far, 18 states and the District of Columbia have made texting while driving illegal while six states and the District of Columbia prohibit drivers from even talking on hand-held cellphones. Many operators of 18-wheelers are worried that such federal legislation may go too far and ban other forms of in-cab communication that has become an important part of the trucking business. South Carolina Truckers Association President and CEO Rick Todd says he is confident that the legislation will be focused on hand-held devices and not the larger units that truckers normally use.
“Devices truckers use range from CBs, to electronic dispatch, to cell phones, to PDAs, on up to a laptop computer. I don’t think the issue is actually using anything like a laptop computer while you’ re driving . I think the issue has really been, at least at the federal level, whether texting or using a hand-held device to text while you drive, send e-mails, or respond to messages is a serious safety issue.”
President Barack Obama signed an executive order September 30 banning federal employees from sending text messages while driving on the job or in a government-owned vehicle.
Todd says truckers and trucking organizations have always been very diligent in promoting the safe operation of vehicles and have developed a system for safely communicating with dispatchers. “Most fleet operators that use any kind of electronic dispatch unit in-cab have them set up so that the driver hears a ping so that he knows he has a message and he has to pull over the vehicle and come to a complete stop before he can read the message and send a response. Most fleets have already got that safety concern well thought out and have a process to insure safety.”
Todd says whatever form the legislation takes at the federal level, consistency across state lines will be of great importance, especially for truckers. “I would say we would generally support legislation on a state level similar to what North Carolina enacted this year which bans any additional technologies attached to a cell phone or PDAs like games, texting or e-mail devices. We would prefer any proposal that goes beyond that to be done at the federal level because we are pretty much an interstate industry so we need consistency and uniformity between states’ rules.”
Todd says he is confident that the trucking industry will have a voice in whatever form the final federal legislation may take. “The Federal Motor Carrier safety Administration is the federal government agency that regulates interstate trucking safety regulations. We would be looking for a uniform federal rule in addition to a simple texting ban at the state level.”