Last January, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood banned the practice of texting by truck drivers in order to cut down on tractor-trailer crashes. At the time of the announcement, it was only a regulatory guideline and not yet an official FMCSA rule. That changed at the end of last month when a final rule banning texting by truck drivers took permanent effect.
The final rule specifically targets texting, not just talking, as studies have shown it to impair attention far more and thus making it more likely to result in a serious injury accident. While any number of distractions can exist in the cab of a tractor unit and result in riskier situations, texting results in crash rate 23 times higher than focused, undistracted driving.
The ban comes at a time when text messaging has exploded as a means of communication. The total number of text messages sent last year was 22 times higher than it was just four years ago.
While support of the ban is pretty widespread, some groups, like the American Association for Justice, say it doesn’t go far enough. They and other safety advocacy groups argue that there are many more in cab distractions that should be banned, such as some on-board computers. The final rule on texting bans the practice on personal phones and other dispatch or communications equipment, but many other on-board distractors are not addressed by the rule.