ATA lauds anti-cell phone rule; Owner-ops oppose blanket ban

ARLINGTON, Va. – The largest trucking group in the U.S. says it favors a proposed ban on the use of hand-held phones and related devices, but it also urged regulators to permit hands-free technology for truck drivers.

"(Our) progressive safety agenda calls for the safe use of technology and our associations’ policy calls for laws and regulations that ban all motorists from using hand-held mobile phones while driving," said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves. "Recognizing the risks of hand held mobile phone use, it simply makes sense to prohibit their use by all motorists to make the highways safer for everyone."

In comments filed this week with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the ATA reiterated its support for a ban on talking and texting while operating a vehicle.

However, while drivers should be prohibited from dialing while driving, the rule shouldn’t prevent them from pushing "a limited number of buttons in order to initiate hands-free" communication.

ATA also objected to the proposed ban on reaching for a mobile phone while driving. Doing so, ATA argued, would prevent drivers from initiating hands-free calls which can have a net safety benefit.

Further, ATA claimed, it is inconsistent to permit drivers to reach for other objects (e.g., a C.B., a radio dial) but prohibit reaching for a cell phone.

Meanwhile,  in its own comments, OOIDA opposed a complete ban on mobile cell phones for truck drivers.

Although it favored a federal restriction on texting last year, a blanket hand-held ban is too restrictive and would make drivers’ jobs more difficult.

OOIDA says that enforcing existing laws that punish inattentive and reckless driving would accomplish many of FMCSA’s goals to curb distracted driving.

OOIDA President Jim Johnston said that the proposal in "striking contrast to FMCSA’s treatment of other forms of communication equipment."

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