Truckers these days may have a variety of electronic devices in the cab:
- GPS systems that keep their company apprised of their location
- Various satellite systems that allow the company to send new orders, training exercises or company-wide messages
- CB radios for communicating with other truckers
- Weather band radios for information about conditions where they are headed
In addition, a trucker might have a Blackberry or cell phone for staying in touch with friends and family during his long absences. And like every other vehicle, trucks also have radios and CD players for entertainment. Computers have been more recently added to the list as a way of improving company/driver communication.
Make Cab Computers Illegal?
Some in Congress are trying to pass legislation that will make it illegal to text while driving and they want to ban computers used in big rig cabs. They claim that a trucker using a computer while on the road presents greater danger to other traffic. They cite a study done by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute where drivers were videotaped while driving.
That study concluded that truckers glance away from the road for four seconds, on average, to look at their computer screen. In four seconds, a truck going at highway speed could travel the length of a football field. However, a single study is never definitive.
Trucking Industry Approaches
Randy Mullett, vice president for government relations at Con-way, one of the largest fleets of 18-wheelers, says that the trucking industry discourages drivers of long-haul trucks from speaking or texting on a cell phone while they drive, but does not have an official policy against it. It would not be realistic, given the unavoidable conditions of this line of work.
When a trucking company sends a computer message to drivers, Mullett says that no response is necessary beyond pressing one button on the screen to acknowledge receipt. The cab computers have larger screens than cells phones and are mounted on the dashboard. Using them is not like peering down at a small handheld device. The truckers can still see the road when they glance at the monitor. Peripheral vision is what we all use in being aware of neighboring traffic or upcoming road signs.
If truckers had to pull over every time they needed to use a phone or computer, it would take about 15 minutes each time and at about four times each day for each driver, that is an unacceptable and impractical amount of driver downtime.
The Truck Driver’s Situation
From the driver’s perspective, an active means of entertainment helps against trucker fatigue, one of the causes of truck accidents. Music can be sleep-inducing but responding to computer messages or using a cell phone to speak to friends and family can help a driver stay awake on those long hauls.
Time will tell whether this new law will be passed and whether it will include trucker computers. One would think that truckers are a different category of driver than flighty teens texting their friends or harried parents trying to locate their kids. They are adults in charge of a huge vehicle and trained in how to maneuver and control it. For greater safety precautions, perhaps truckers could be taught keyboard skills so they are not poking around to find each letter.
If you have been injured in a truck accident and would like to know more about your legal position and options, please contact our experienced truck accident attorneys for a free consultation. We serve the entire Mobile, Alabama area.