Federal Update
OOIDA wants texting rule to be clear... and fair

By David Tanner
associate editor


OOIDA leadership has asked the FMCSA to clarify the list of technologies and applications that would be permitted and prohibited under the agency’s proposed rule to ban texting for commercial drivers.

OOIDA submitted comments on the proposed reg in early May.

Many truckers use laptops and smart phones for recording duty status or for GPS navigation. The proposed rulemaking lumps laptops and smart phones in with texting regardless of the application.

OOIDA supports a ban on texting while driving, but believes clarifications are in order. The proposed rule would still allow GPS devices and fleet management tools such as Qualcomm, but ban laptops and smart phones that perform similar functions.

“Because the proposed ban covers those devices and not fleet management systems, this rule imposes a disparate burden on small business,” OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston stated.

“OOIDA believes that the agency would bring greater clarity to the rule if it were to define the unacceptable level of driver distraction created by wireless electronic devices.”

FMCSA’s allowance of fleet management systems misses the mark on the issue of fairness to drivers who routinely get messages while driving or in the sleeper.

“OOIDA is concerned that the proposed rule permits the use of ‘fleet management systems’ without any analysis of what kind of distraction they impose on drivers,” Johnston stated.

“OOIDA cannot believe that FMCSA simply put its faith in ‘safety conscious fleet managers’ to not require drivers to type or read messages while driving.”

Another concern is with enforcement and the expectations of privacy pertaining to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution – “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

“Will a trooper be permitted to read a driver’s texts or e-mails?” Johnston asked in the comments. “Will the trooper be able to retain copies of the driver’s texts or e-mails as proof of the driver’s violation?”

As the proposed rule continues to advance, FMCSA has unveiled an additional notice of proposed rulemaking to “restrict” the use of cellular phones.

The comment period had not yet opened on the proposed cell restrictions as of press time. The FMCSA is hoping to publish the cell phone rule in or about July.

OOIDA is again poised to offer comments that support and protect professional truckers. LL