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To Text or Not to Text: As a National Ban Nears, Some Truckers Want Exceptions

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Truck drivers are responsible for moving millions of tons of cargo back and forth across the USA every year. They work year round. They haul and deliver everything from flip flops to frozen peas with the pressure of deadlines and keeping costs as low as possible weighing on them. They do all this while attempting to maintain some degree of sanity and health. It is no surprise then, that some truckers are at odds with current legislation that would make texting while driving illegal nationwide. For many, technology is their only connection to the world for long stretches of time.

I have great respect for truck drivers. These individuals are truly the backbone of America. They are underpaid and undervalued. They live marginalized lives, and are often criticized for behaving crassly. I know some of them choose a life on the road because it is dangerous, and outside the norm, but the fact remains that these people literally sacrifice their bodies and lives for American commerce.

But, for all it’s outsider allure, the trappings of modernity have still crept into the world of trucking. Most now have onboard computers with heads up displays similar to those found in police vehicles. Many hauling companies require these systems to maintain control of inventory, deadlines, and even to keep tabs on the location of their drivers. But, they are also used to access the internet, and to communicate. Some drivers even have their own computer set ups solely for personal use.

While recent studies have shown that the average driver may as well be drunk as make a call while driving, truckers have managed to dodge those same statistics. A trucker is no less likely to have an accident while on the phone as off it. But, in the area of texting, they have not fared so well. The average driver was 23 times more likely to have an accident while texting. And, even though truckers come in at only 11 times as likely when using their onboard computer systems, the obvious evidence of distraction is there. So, should truckers be exempt if Congress enacts a nationwide ban on texting while driving?

It seems that they have a good case as far as the necessary monitoring equipment. For commerce to continue sailing smoothly, things like GPS and freight monitoring only make sense. But, opponents also have a good case. Being 11 times more likely to have an accident is still a large deficit. Some like TruckerSteve think the studies are politically motivated:

First I want to point out that I can agree with the fact that it is obviously dangerous to text and drive. However I would like to know why this "study" was done in the first place, They claimed "we are scientists, not politicians", yeah right [expletive deleted]. This project has to be funded by someone hmm I wonder who that is? Clearly they have a political agenda.

Clearly this issue is important to garner such a response. But, who’s agenda would it be promoting? Safety on our highways has to be a concern of truck drivers as much as anyone else. No value can be placed on lives lost due to careless accidents because some driver just had to send that text right away. Maybe if so much pressure wasn’t put on these truckers, they wouldn’t feel as pressured to communicate without stopping. or maybe this legislation can include some stipulation for required use.