FMCSA examines other in-truck distractions

Jill Dunn | June 25, 2010

After a final texting rule is issued this fall, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will develop another rule on other in-truck distractions, such as CB radios and dispatch systems.

The agency will examine “the full range of other in-vehicle distractions,” Rose McMurray, FMCSA chief safety officer, told the National Association of Small Trucking Companies earlier in June. The goal is for a proposal that “reduces risk, but doesn’t unnecessarily affect the legitimate needs for communication with and by the driver.”

The agency has asked its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee for ways to combat distracted driving, which the committee will report at its August meeting.

The FMCSA will address other high-risk driver distractions in a notice-and-comment rulemaking following the final texting rule, the MCSAC stated. The committee also has reported the agency is developing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NRPM), to be published later this year, limiting cell use by certain commercial motor vehicle operators in interstate commerce.

The FMCSA published regulatory guidance in the Federal Register Jan. 27, clarifying interstate truck and bus driver violators of the texting ban carries could receive a maximum penalty of $2,750. On April 1, it followed with a NPRM explicitly prohibiting texting and providing disqualification penalties.

Presently, the FMCSA is developing a NPRM to limit wireless telephone use by certain CMV interstate operators, which it will publish later this year.

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia ban texting for all drivers. Of these, 24 states and D.C. have primary enforcement, which allows law enforcement to stop and ticket offenders solely on this violation. Texting bans are secondary in the remaining four states, where an officer must have another primary reason for stopping the vehicle.

An additional nine states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

On April 28, the Automobile Club of Southern California reported the results of its roadside driver survey on texting. When California implemented the law 15 months before the report, there was an initial drop in texting while driving. Since then, the practice appears to have risen.