FMCSA silent on Arizona enforcement of TV reg on laptops

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 7/16/2008

Officials with the FMCSA won’t say whether the agency has told Arizona to stop citing drivers with laptops in their cabs, more than a month after the state requested guidance from the federal agency.

The issue has the potential to affect thousands of truckers who have computers, GPS devices or other technology in their cabs to track hours of service and use mapping technology.

In May, OOIDA received calls from members who had been cited or warned at the San Simon port of entry weigh station for having a laptop either mounted near their driver’s seat or sitting in the passenger seat.

However, FMCSA spokesman Duane DeBruyne told Land Line that Section 393.88 wouldn’t cover laptop computers.

Following the inquiries by Land Line Magazine in early June, the Arizona Department of Transportation suspended writing citations for drivers with laptops in their cabs.

Officials with the state DOT requested an interpretation on Section 393.88 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which bans screens capable of receiving a television broadcast from being within view of commercial drivers.

Kristin Schrader, a spokeswoman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration told Land Line this week the agency has no comment regarding the status of Arizona’s request.

Gerald Cook, an OOIDA member from Amarillo, TX, was cited in late May and told by an Arizona DOT officer the ticket could cost him $450. Cook has pleaded not guilty and is fighting the citation in court.

The story sparked outcry among OOIDA members and Land Line readers, many of whom use laptops for mapping and logbook software, including voice-activated mapping software.

The laptop issue is not likely to go away soon.

Members of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance were scheduled to address the issue of laptop computers in cabs of big trucks at their September conference 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 told Land Line in June.

Arizona DOT spokeswoman Cydney DeModica didn’t return recent phone calls by Land Line. In previous interviews, DeModica said Arizona DOT enforcement officers said they had seen drivers typing and using computers for chat sessions.

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