Texting rule continues fast track

| 8/31/2010

A federal rulemaking to ban text messaging for commercial drivers has cleared another hurdle and could be finalized within a matter of weeks.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s final rule to ban texting while driving for CMV operators was delivered to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Friday, Aug. 27. The move puts the rule a step closer to an already expedited publication date. Officials have set a target publication date of Sept. 17 for the final rule.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued guidance declaring that texting while driving was already banned under existing regulations. The latest FMCSA rule will put an exclamation point on the issue.

The FMCSA also has an additional rulemaking in the pipeline related to the use of hand-held electronic devices for drivers of commercial vehicles.

A growing number of states have banned or restricted texting while driving for all vehicle operators, and Congress continues to pursue legislation designed to get the remaining states onboard.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has targeted texting and other forms of driver distractions since day one. On Sept. 21, LaHood is scheduled to convene his second summit on distracted driving.

The summit will follow up on last year’s two-day event, which brought together transportation stakeholders, product vendors, safety groups and victims of distracted drivers.

OOIDA plans to attend the summit as a stakeholder, similar to last year. The Association has been active in seeking member input and filing comments on the issue. Truckers generally favor a ban on texting while driving for all vehicle operators, but want the rules to be fair.

Truckers who use smart phones or laptops for directions to a customer, for example, should be able to do so rather than be forced to purchase devices that do not fall under the scope of a ban.

OOIDA has also raised issues about driver privacy as texting bans are enforced. Another issue is whether or not Qualcomm or other devices would be included in a ban or restriction.

– By David Tanner, associate editor