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January 26, 2010  |   Comments (6)   |   Post a comment

Feds ban texting for bus, truck drivers


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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced federal guidance to prohibit texting by drivers of commercial vehicles such as large trucks and buses.

The prohibition is effective immediately and is the latest in a series of actions taken by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to combat distracted driving since LaHood convened a national summit on the issue in September.

“We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe,” LaHood said. “This is an important safety step, and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving.”

The action is the result of the DOT’s interpretation of standing rules. Truck and bus drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.

In an e-mail to members Wednesday, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services said that the federal guidance "does not apply, technically, to most school bus operators who are exempt from most FMCSRs [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations]."

However, during the September summit on distracted driving, LaHood announced that there would be a forthcoming federal rulemaking seeking to disqualify school bus drivers convicted of texting while driving from maintaining their commercial driver’s licenses.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said in a press release that it is working on "additional regulatory measures" on the use of electronic devices while driving, and that those measures will be announced in the coming months.

 

Some states specifically prohibit school bus drivers from using cell phones — hand-held or hands-free — and some states prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones or just from texting.

FMCSA research shows that drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting. At 55 miles per hour, this means that the driver is traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road.

 


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Hopefully this also applies to rail operators as well after some of their mishaps while using the same devices.

Michael    |    Jan 27, 2010 06:52 PM

While I have no problem with this law, I believe that it is completely discriminatory. It singles out Buses and large trucks while leaving alone all other smaller vehicles. My feeling is that there are many more of them, and they are very likely to be traveling at faster speeds, creating an equal if not greater chance for disaster. Make it complete or delete.

Joe Murgittroyd    |    Jan 27, 2010 03:15 PM

NASDPTS has been a strong supporter of federal, state, and local policies prohibiting various forms of distracted driving, especially texting. Last year, we sent a letter of support to the four Senate sponsors of the ALERT Act, that would withhold funds from states that don't have policies prohibiting texting while driving by all motorists. For clarification, today's new FMCSA Guidance does not apply, technically, to most public school bus operators, who are exempt from most of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). That said, we support the intent and are hopeful that FMCSA will act quickly to propose actual rulemaking on this topic so that we can assess the potential effects and provide comments in general support of "undistracted" driving by all motorists, including school bus operators.

Charlie Hood    |    Jan 27, 2010 01:57 PM

This is a great step in the right direction. I have been asking for this from law makers for quite sometime now. Many others feel the same way. The recent air line pilots who over flew the airport by 150 miles had to have been distracted by something such as texting, laptops, or other vices people seem to enjoy more than paying attention to the duties of the jobs they were hired to perform in the first place. The little steps taken can and will save lives. Now, if we could only do something about those parking lots outside the bars people park cars and trucks in where alcohol is served, and someone drunk goes out and to their vehicle to drive home drunk. What is the difference? States can go above what the Federal requirements in the law may be but States cannot go below the requirements in the law.

Dan Luttrell    |    Jan 27, 2010 11:09 AM

With my being a professional school bus driver in Oregon, in our school district this is already phohibited, not to mention it's also an Oregon Law that it has to be hands free now. However, to see this happening to the 'other' big rigs, I couldn't be happier! I do exculsive field and athletic trips for our district and am on the road daily and see the drivers of those big rigs all over the road (not maintainig lane control, etc) and excessive speeding (65+ mph)due to texting and talking on their cell phones.

Sheila    |    Jan 27, 2010 10:35 AM

It's about time. Our school board transportation department is very strict when it comes to cell phones, even with student usage while on the bus as it causes distractions. I'm so glad this is finally coming about.

THERESA DANIEL    |    Jan 27, 2010 09:38 AM

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