Feds consider rulemakings to ban texting while trucking

| 10/1/2009

If you rely on the use of a cell phone and text messages for your business, be aware that the federal government is proposing restrictions that will affect drivers of commercial vehicles.

The emphasis of a two-day summit this week in Washington, DC, was to generate awareness about the dangers of text messaging and other distractions while driving. Truckers and their concerns were represented at the summit by OOIDA, which accepted an invitation from the DOT to participate.

In his closing remarks, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Thursday, Oct. 1, that he will pursue three possible rulemakings to restrict texting and cell-phone use for truck, rail and bus operators.

LaHood’s proposals for rulemakings would:

  • Ban text messaging altogether, and restrict the use of cell phones for truck and bus operators;
  • Restrict cell-phones and other electronic devices for rail operators; and
  • Disqualify school bus drivers convicted of texting while driving from keeping their commercial licenses.

Before truckers start to feel picked on, it must be noted that efforts are and have been under way for some time in statehouses and in Congress to curb the use of text messaging and cell-phone use by the general public.

To date, 18 states and Washington, DC, have enacted driver-texting bans while similar bills are pending or have at least been discussed in two-dozen additional states.

In New York, where a ban on cell phones while driving is strictly enforced, State Police officers have written 315,000 tickets for the offense so far, according to Maj. David Salmon.

A bill introduced in July in the U.S. Senate urges the remaining states to enact a ban on texting while driving or face the consequence of missing out on federal funding.

The summit brought together lawmakers, safety groups, transportation agencies and victims of driver distraction to dialogue about the future.

As the summit concluded, President Obama announced that the federal government would be leading by example on the issue of driver distraction. Obama issued an executive order banning federal employees from engaging in text messaging while using government equipment or vehicles or while in their own vehicles if on government business.

– By David Tanner, staff writer