No Cell Phones, Less Working Hours, More Regulations: Oh My!

No Cell Phones, Less Working Hours, More Regulations: Oh My!

The September 13th announcement of the NTSB’s latest recommendation that cell phone use of any kind by commercial drivers be banned was the latest in a long list of regulations, recommended regulations and proposed regulations that have become overwhelmingly burdensome to truckers.  This in a governmental atmosphere of backing off on regulations to spur the economy, a quote from President Obama highlights this: “At the same time, I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover,” he said. 

What about the trucking industry? 

Just this summer, against the wishes of the majority of people in the country, the government decided to go ahead and open the Mexican border to Mexican trucks that will have the potential of putting thousands of American truckers out of work.

New Hours of Service regulations propose to cut trucker’s work hours to 10 in a 24-hour period and extend the 34-hour restart to potentially 57 hours off including the midnight thru midnight section.  This will not only cut a driver’s wages, but increase the need for more drivers, more trucks and add to the congestion already caused by the old new hours of service.  In many truckers’ opinions, this will lead to bringing in more foreign drivers who will not only work cheaper, but who may not be as safe as American drivers due to the so-called driver shortage.

Almost all truckers agree that the ban on texting while driving for truckers was a good move, but most do not agree with the need for more ‘nanny laws’ and all agree that the fine for texting while driving, up to $2700.00 for a first offence and the possibility of losing one’s license, are too stringent.

More states, cities and counties are instituting anti-idling laws while some companies have decided, because of the economy, not to add apu units on their trucks.  If a driver cannot sleep safely and comfortably, the driver risks accumulative fatigue, this while the FMCSA and lobbying groups are citing driver fatigue as a major contributing factor to accidents against statistical evidence to the contrary.

Drivers now are ticketed for mechanical failures that may occur after the pre-trip or where the driver is told by their employers to bring the truck to the nearest shop or terminal for repair.  Furthermore, if a law enforcement officer feels that only a warning ticket needs be issued for minor infractions, it will still show up on a driver’s and their company’s safety scores to the detriment of both.

Now the proposed ban on cell phone usage rears its head.  In 2009, Ray LaHood head of the Federal DOT, conducted the first ‘safety summit’ where it was cited that the most problems were with young drivers 24 and under who texted while driving.  In the report of this summit, it stated that the NTSB had recommended a full ban on cell phone usage three years before.

A study done for the FMCSA by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute that addressed the prevalence of driver distraction in CMV safety-critical events (defined as ‘crashes, near-crashes, crash-relevant conflicts and unintentional lane deviations’), shows that talking or listening on a hand-held cell phone in real world driving conditions does NOT create ANY increased risk of such safety-critical events for CMV drivers.  (Olson, Hanowski, Hickman & Bocanegra, Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations, Doc. No. FMCSA-RRR-09-042 (VITI Distraction Study) see Fed. Reg. at 80020-80021 & Table 1.)  (This information from OOIDA’s February, 2011 response to the FMCSA proposed rule against texting.)  In OOIDA’s response, it also stated that the FMCSA did not take into consideration hands-free cell phones.

LaHood has cited several areas of distracted driving that needs to be addressed beyond texting and has set up a government website detailing this and focusing on the victims of distracted driving.  One must wonder that if the FMCSA takes the NTSB recommendation seriously what will be next that truckers are not allowed to do.

As has been seen in recommendation after recommendation for more stringent regulations, the FMCSA, the NTSB and the Federal DOT has taken study after study and twisted the information to fit their own agenda; that of over-regulating the trucking industry.  Working with the emotionally driven ‘victim’s’ groups such as PATT, CRASH, Concerned Citizens, et al, the governmental agencies that regulate the trucking industry are responding to the emotional, not the sensible, in their bid to put trucking behind other forms of commercial transportation.

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