DOT sends truckers a message: No more texting

WASHINGTON — Making good on a promise to crack down on truck drivers with tippy-tap fingers, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a ban today on texting by commercial vehicle operators.

According to reports, the ban is effective immediately.

If caught texting while behind the wheel of a moving truck or bus, violators would be subject to penalties of up to $2,750.

The regulatory guidance introduced by DOT bypasses the legislative process — which could take years — by re-interpreting and applying existing highway traffic rules.

Today’s move comes just a few months after U.S. President Obama banned all federal employees from texting while driving on the job.

Research shows that drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds for every 6 seconds spent sending and receiving text messages, the DOT said in the statement.

LaHood recently described distracted driving as a national epidemic, citing studies that liken texting and talking while driving to drunk driving.

On his blog at the DOT website, LaHood wrote that the rule isn’t intended to interfere with everyday trucking practices, but will "help prevent unsafe activity within the cab, and we want to make it crystal clear that texting is one of those unsafe activities these regulations prohibit.

"…Look, we know that a commercial truck or bus driven by someone texting or talking on a cell phone is a lethal weapon."

There was no mention on the blog whether the government plans to expand the ban to passenger car drivers in the future.

Despite misleading reports to the contrary, the American Trucking Associations supports banning the use of hand-held electronic devices, including texting.

At the same time, special interest groups like Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety continue to press the DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration arm to implement a rule to restrict the use of all "unsafe electronic devices" by commercial truck drivers, regardless of whether they’re needed for the job.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.