OOIDA member pleads not guilty; will fight AZ laptop citation

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 6/17/2008

An OOIDA member pleaded not guilty before a judge in Bowie, AZ, on Tuesday morning, June 17, advancing his legal challenge to a citation against having a laptop computer near his driver’s seat.

Gerald Cook, a company driver from Amarillo, TX, was cited in late May after he pulled into a scale house at the San Simon Port of Entry off of Interstate 10 in Arizona. An Arizona Department of Transportation enforcement officer cited Cook for allegedly violating Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 393.88, which prohibits drivers from placing television screens within view of the driver’s seat.

Cook was one of several drivers who called OOIDA’s Member Assistance Department in early June regarding warnings or citations they had received in relation to the TV reg.

The Arizona DOT has since suspended writing citations for laptop computers under 393.88 until the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration responds to the state’s request for an interpretation of the reg.

Section 393.88 of the FMCSR states:

“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 Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance had been scheduled to address the issue of laptop computers in cabs of big trucks at its upcoming conference in September in Winnipeg, but the Arizona DOT’s request for a legal interpretation and other confusion about the rule has magnified the importance of the issue, CVSA Executive Director Stephen Campbell recently told Land Line Magazine.

Before Arizona asked the FMCSA for an interpretation, FMCSA Spokesman Duane DeBruyne told Land Line he didn’t believe 393.88 applied to laptops, pointing to the regulation’s emphasis on screens capable of receiving a “television broadcast.”

The Arizona DOT has said officers have seen some drivers with laptops typing or chatting online while rolling.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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