FMCSA says laptops shouldn’t fall under Arizona’s ‘TV’ interpretation

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 6/5/2008

The Arizona Department of Transportation recently began issuing citations to truckers who have open laptop computers in their cabs. The state is using a broad interpretation of a federal safety reg that bans televisions from being within a driver’s view.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, however, doesn’t see the issue the same way.

FMCSA spokesman Duane DeBruyne told Land Line Magazine that he doesn’t believe laptop computers fall under Section 393.88 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

“The title of 393.88 is ‘television receivers,’ ” DeBruyne said. “Laptop computers are not television receivers; therefore, they are not prohibited by FMCSA regulations.”

Inspectors in Arizona have begun cracking down on laptop users, according to Cydney De Modica, a spokeswoman for the Arizona DOT.

“Although in general, laptops are used for obtaining current information about road conditions, closures and restrictions, advancing technology does allow the devices to be used as a television receiver, which is the prohibition under which the driver was cited under 393.88,” De Modica told Land Line last week. “We all are aware that laptop capability and computer capability is advancing and changing on a regular basis.”

De Modica said Arizona DOT officers won’t issue tickets for drivers with laptops turned off, but are targeting drivers that chat while rolling.

De Modica said Thursday that the Arizona DOT had requested an interpretation of the television rule and was awaiting an answer from FMCSA officials.

Regulation 393.88 reads:

“Any motor vehicle equipped with a television viewer, screen or other means of visually receiving a television broadcast shall have the viewer or screen located in the motor vehicle at a point to the rear of the back of the driver’s seat if such viewer or screen is in the same compartment as the driver and the viewer or screen shall be so located as not to be visible to the driver, while he/she is driving the motor vehicle. The operating controls for the television receiver shall be so located that the driver cannot operate them without leaving the driver’s seat.”

The news about OOIDA members being questioned and issued citations in Arizona prompted several e-mails from Land Line readers, including Robert Rhoads of Bernalillo, NM.

Rhoads said he read Land Line Magazine’s Web story on Monday, June 2, story about Arizona issuing a citation to one OOIDA member “with disgust and disbelief.” He noted that many law enforcement officers use laptop computers mounted near their driver’s seats.

“Don’t most all police cruisers have laptops right in the officers’ face?” he wrote.

Another reader, who identified himself only as Ed, said he believes the issue of limiting technology as the number of GPS devices and other monitors rises is a threat to trucker’s rights.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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