Truckers to feds: Hands off our phones

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should stop worrying about distracted truck drivers and focus on vehicle standards, a drivers group says.

truck driver“NHTSA continues to overstep its authority and continues to fail at its mission of saving lives and improving safety,” Todd Spencer of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association charged.

“NHTSA should concentrate a great deal of its efforts on the Federal Motor Vehicle Standards.”

Spencer, executive vice president of the truckers organization, made his comments in reference to the NHTSA’s second phase of its “Driver Distraction Guidelines.”

Distracted driving regulation has almost exclusively come from states, which have control over most road safety laws. The federal Department of Transportation actively worked to bring attention to the dangers of cell phone use during the administration of ex-chief Ray LaHood, but that activity leveled off significantly under his successor. The NHTSA is part of the DOT.

The federal government does have authority over commercial trucking that crosses state lines.

Spencer wrote that the NHTSA should be spending its time and resources in areas in which it has statutory authority.

Spencer pointed to essential commercial applications used by truck drivers, such as trucking-specific navigational apps, apps that monitor temperature of refrigerated loads, and those that advise them of real-time truck parking availability. His group said regulators should “consider the negative results that any guidelines hampering those applications would have for truckers.”

In late November, the NHTSA asked smartphone manufacturers to develop a “driver mode” that shuts down most functions of the wireless communications devices while the vehicle is in motion. The voluntary guidelines also encourage manufacturers to implement features such as pairing, where a portable device is linked to a vehicle’s in-dash infotainment system.

The agency sought public comments on its proposed guidelines.

Spencer did note the dangers of distracted driving: “Every day our members are forced to take evasive maneuvers to avoid collisions with motorists who are utilizing some form of technology within their vehicle that impedes safe driving habits.”

Spencer’s comments were reported in the online version of the group’s official publication, Land Line magazine.

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