American Trucking Association rallies to ban distracted driving

In 2009, a spokesman for the American Trucking Association told the New York Times that the trucking industry should be exempted of a legislation that would ban the use of electronic devices, including cell phones, while driving.

Clayton Boyce argued that truckers use computers to keep in touch with dispatchers and for driving directions.  Boyce said truck drivers “have a screen that has maybe two or four or six lines.  And they’re not reading the screen every second.”  He added than banning the use of electronic devices “won’t improve safety.”

The vice president for government relations at Con-way, one of the nation’s biggest fleets, said safety is a priority for the industry, and for his company.  But that asking drivers to pull over to read their message would be costly.  “If it took a driver 15 minutes four times a day to pull over, you’d basically lose 10 percent of a driver’s time. You can’t take 10 percent of a truck fleet out of service to make them answer.”

What they seemed to ignore was that a study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers who used on-board computers faced a 10 times greater risk of crashing while using their device, and a 23 times greater risk when truckers send text messages.

After the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Distracted Driving Summit took place on September 30 and October 1 2009, the American Trucking Association issued a statement saying they would now “support the safe use of technologies and encourages drivers and/or motor carriers to consider a range of policies and safeguards intended to reduce, minimize and/or eliminate driver distractions that may be caused by the increased use of
electronic technologies (e.g., global positioning systems, cellular phones, etc.) during the operation of all types of motor vehicles.”

The change of heart came once Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced his intention of banning text messaging and restricting the use of cell phones by truck and interstate bus operators.

Source: New York Times, September 27, 2009 & American Trucking Association press release

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