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Texting Truckers Want Computers In Cab

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, September 28, 2009 4:46 PM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Trucking Industry, NHTSA, Transportation Department, Texting While Driving, Distracted Drivers

The trucking industry wants to hang onto its computers and GPS in the cab, even though states may lose federal highway funds as a result.

Computers In Cabs

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IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ trucker in the fall/ author: Ktkt 1234

There is a general consensus that texting while driving is beyond the realm of safety and this week federal legislation is being considered that would force states to ban texting while driving in order to continue receiving federal highway money.

But truckers think they should be exempt.

“We think that’s overkill,” says Clayton Boyce, spokesman for the American Trucking Association to the New York Times.

Long-haul truckers use computers in their cabs to stay in touch with dispatchers, get directions, and talk to families.

Often screens are near the steering wheel and a keyboard on the dash or on the driver’s lap. Trucking companies can send new orders, distribute e-mails. Drivers can also browse the Internet, listen to a satellite radio, find directions with a GPS, or talk on a CB radio.

Talking to the NYT reporter, driver, Kurt Long, says he is on one device or another about 90 percent of the time he is driving and argued that it keeps him awake.

On Monday he collided with a dump truck reaching down to grab a cup of coffee.

“I guarantee if you’re not an ace on that keyboard, you’ve got to look to find them letters,” he said. “Sometimes, it takes a lot longer to find a letter on that keyboard than it does to get a cup of coffee.”

Is It Safe?

A Virginia Tech study found truckers using on-board computers faced a 10 times greater risk of crashing than those drivers who did not use the electronic devices. Texting brought the risk to 23 times.

The average time they took their eyes off the road was four seconds. That’s enough time to cover the length of a football field at highway speeds.

The Center for Truck and Bus Safety videotaped 200 truckers crossing about three million miles. It showed many using the devices even though a warning may appear on the screen: do not use while vehicle is in motion.

The risk is even greater given the size of an 18-wheel tractor trailer.

It comes down to economics. Every minute a truck sits idle translates to $1.50, says Randy Mullett, VP of government relations for one of the nation’s biggest fleets, Con-way. He points out that a driver only has to press a button on the screen to acknowledge they received new directions.

Some new systems limit use while the vehicle is in motion, allowing a driver to only read messages or listen to a computerized voice.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports there were 4,808 deaths associated with large trucks in 2007, a slight increase from a decade ago.

The conference on distracted driving is organized by the Transportation Department and hearings start Wednesday in Washington. #


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