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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Truckers Want an Exemption from No-Texting Laws

3 comments

There has been a great deal of chatter on internet blog sites and in the news media about texting while driving, especially with regard to younger drivers. Nothing could be more dangerous, right? Wrong! How about a big-rig truck driver using in-cab computers to get directions, stay in close contact with dispatchers, and who knows what else? Many companies require these systems to maintain control of inventory and to monitor deadlines, but drivers are also using them to access the Internet and for personal use.

While there may be a need for this technology, a recent article in the New York Times suggests that many drivers may have their hands on computer keyboards and be looking at screens while they are driving. As Congress ponders making it illegal to text and drive, the trucking industry wants to be exempt. The trucking industry says these devices pose less of a distraction than BlackBerrys, iPhones and similar mobile devices. Clayton Boyce, American Trucking Association spokesman says:

"We think that’s overkill,"

Banning the use of these devices, he opined,:

"won’t improve safety."

Yeah, right. Is it really too much to ask that these truckers pull off to the side of the road or into a rest stop to use their computers? I understand that pulling over may delay meeting a deadline, but wouldn’t a couple of minutes of delay, for safety, be better than a potential fatal accident? How would you feel being passed by an 18-wheel tractor trailer going 70 mph in the interstate, computer keyboard on his lap, with his eyes focused on the computer screen? I don’t know about Mr. Boyce, but that certainly doesn’t seem to be less of a distraction than an iPhone to me.

Safety advocates and researchers say that on-board computers may present an even greater risk to safety, given the size of an 18-wheeler and the longer time required for them to stop. The article states that studies show that those who used on-board computers faced a 10 times greater risk of crashing, nearly crashing or wandering from their lane than truckers who did not use those devices. No surprise, there, in my opinion. One study found that truckers using on-board computers take their eyes off the road for an average of four seconds, enough time at highway speeds to cover roughly the length of a football field.

So, should truckers be exempt if Congress enacts a nationwide ban on texting while driving? I strongly disagree with the industry on this one; if anything, distracted driving regulations should be stronger for these huge, potentially distructive vehicles. I realize that these are professional drivers, but professionals shoud be more willing to comply for safety sake than non-professionals. Meanwhile, all of us can take steps to reduce texting and the use of other devices while driving. A good way to begin is by supporting AAA’s week of voluntary unplugging while driving; it is called Head’s Up Driving Week and it runs from October 5-11. Can we all take one, simple, week of putting away distractions and focusing on the road?

Truck accidents are responsible for 5,000 deaths and 130,000 injuries on the roads each year, resulting in lawsuits which can often take an extended period of time to settle. As important as trucks are to the country’s economy, they can also be dangerous to passenger vehicles on our nations roads. Even in accidents where the truckers are not at fault, their reaction times are crucial to safety, injury, and death prevention. Using cell phones and other mobile devices has become one of the most recognized driver distractions that can take a driver’s eyes off the road. Given that a big-rig can, literally, crush a smaller vehicle at high speeds, the "length of a football field" is far too serious a distraction. An18-wheeler accident can devastate its victims and their families, causing wrongful deaths and disabilities that will affect them for the rest of their lives. It can also be financially devastating, taking victims out of work, sometimes permanently, just before six-figure medical bills start pouring in. When a truck accident occurs, determining fault can be one of the most critical aspects of a lawsuit claim.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, it is important to contact an attorney immediately for expert legal advice regarding your case, to protect your legal rights, and preserve the evidence resulting from the accident.

But what if you are injured or disabled? What if you have a mountain of medical expenses and household bills, or even worse ─ funeral expenses? Couple that with the amount of time that a lawsuit takes because of insurance company delay tactics, and you may be facing financial devastation. What are your options if you are in such a quandry? Lawsuit funding is a service that helps cover bills while cases are being prepared for trial and settled. A financially distressed client is not a positive influence on settlement negotiations. Lawsuit funding will help to prevent you from resolving your case for less than full value due to pressing financial need.

3 Comments

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    The New York Times story cited here was incorrect. We are not seeking a blanket exemption to texting bans. The two quotes attributed to me in this blog were missapplied to this context by the NYT. We do not oppose texting bans, and most of our members that use dispatching devices already ban use of them while the truck is in motion. The NYT’s misunderstanding stemmed from mentions of ways to change the equipment to eliminate hazards, such as converting text to speech, speech to text, or using heads-up displays. A year ago ATA led the nation on this issue by issuing a recommendation among 18 safety agenda items calling for limits or elimination of use of texting devices. See http://www.truckline.com/safety, which also includes a request for a federal regulation mandating speed governors that keep truck from exceeding 65 mph, or even less.
    Clayton Boyce, American Trucking Associations

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    And one more fyi, the NYT printed two corrections to the stats it ran in the story which incorrectly said trucking is getting more dangerous. In fact, trucking is continuously getting safer by all measures and is the safest it has ever been since the US DOT began keeping numbers on the subject. While the NYT said that the annual number of truck-involved crash deaths increased significantly from 1997 to 2007, in fact the number decreased 11 percent during that period while the number of miles traveled per year by trucks increased substantially.
    Clayton Boyce, American Trucking Associations

  3. Mark Bello says:
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    Clayton: Thank you for correcting the record. I am pleased that you realize the dangers of distracted driving, especially in big rigs. Our (yours and mine) principal concern must continue to be safety for all who use our roads and I welcome you as a partner in making our roads safer. I went to http://www.truckline.com/safety and I am impressed with the 11 policies effecting driver performance and other safety measures being recommended. Hopefully, members and non-members will take heed. Please continue to be an advocate for safety on our roads. Regards, Mark