Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010 – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s announced Tuesday that text messaging behind the wheel is prohibited for commercial drivers effective immediately.
It’s not the intent of the law, but it’s the process and the possibility of unintended consequences that have the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association raising concerns about the texting ban.
While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations do not explicitly prohibit “texting,” LaHood says the regs do prohibit the use of equipment or accessories that decrease safety during the operation of a commercial vehicle. Specifically, LaHood says Section 390.17 of the FMCSRs applies to electronic devices that send and receive text messages.
OOIDA leadership believes the DOT should have used a formal rulemaking process to institute the ban.
“We support where they are going, but not how they got there,” said OOIDA’s Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.
“Making their action effective immediately bypasses normal regulatory rulemaking processes. Those processes allow actions to be vetted for unintended consequences, as well as potential implementation and enforcement problems.”
The texting ban comes with a stiff penalty.
“… Any truck or bus driver who violates the federal regulations mentioned in this guidance is subject to a civil and/or criminal penalty up to $2,750,” LaHood stated during a rollout event at the National Press Club.
OOIDA is concerned about the DOT’s legal justification.
“We very much share in their goal, but their legal justification for taking immediate action raises many concerns,” Spencer said.
Truckers are among the safest of all drivers based on miles traveled, and their livelihoods depend on safe operation.
OOIDA’s position on distracted driving includes calling upon government entities to educate the motoring public on safe driving practices. The Association encourages law enforcement agencies to fully enforce existing laws pertaining to inattentive or negligent driving.
The U.S. DOT is in the process of issuing regulatory guidance in the Federal Register. It states, in part:
“Although the current safety regulations do not include an explicit prohibition against texting while driving by truck and bus drivers, the general restriction against the use of additional equipment and accessories that decrease the safety of operation of commercial motor vehicles applies to the use of electronic devices for texting,” the document states.
The applicable portion of the notice will be posted on www.ooida.com.