Routing and scheduling software and transportation management systems have long been integrated with vehicle tracking devices and driver communications systems and are used by commercial carriers and private fleets. With a successful history of in-cab mobile communications use in the trucking industry, responsible commercial drivers are trained and instructed to use work-supplied mobile devices only when their vehicles are stationary. Not everyone on the road is so careful.
According to a recent survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, motorists that use cellphones while driving could be leading themselves down a slippery slope of bad habits at the wheel. The research found 69 percent of licensed drivers have admitted to talking on a cellphone while driving at least once during the last month, and 65 percent of such motorists also said they have done some speeding during that same time period. These distracted drivers often pose a safety risk to truckers because they do not observe the same professional work standards for operating mobile devices while on the road.
"Ninety percent of respondents believe that distracted driving is a somewhat or much bigger problem today than it was three years ago, yet they themselves continue to engage in the same activities," said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Unsafe driving happens quite frequently
The U.S. economy relies heavily on commercial and private trucks to transport products safely and on schedule, but professional drivers must also contend with motorists who are distracted and paying attention to other things at the wheel. The AAA survey found 44 percent of drivers who use cellphones on the road said they have also driven while drowsy during the past month, while 59 percent said they have sent a text message or an email while driving and 16 percent operate their cars without a seatbelt. Unlike professional drivers, most passenger vehicle drivers are not subject to regular training and safety evaluation that could hold them to safer driving standards.
"These same cellphone-using drivers clearly understand the risk of distraction, yet are still likely to engage in a wide range of dangerous driving activities," said Kathleen Bower, AAA vice president of public affairs.
Motorists hypocritical when it comes to distracted driving
The dangers of unsafe driving practices are clear, and Americans agree that regulations should be set in place to stop people from engaging in them. However, many people speaking out against distracted driving are the same ones taking part in these dangerous acts. Ninety-five percent of respondents said they disapprove of texting and emailing while driving, while 27 percent admitted to sending a text or email at least once in the past 30 days, and more than one-third said they read a text or email while driving.
"More work clearly is needed to educate motorists on the risks associated with using a cellphone while driving, especially given that most Americans believe this problem is becoming worse," said Kissinger.
States taking extra measures to improve safety
The federal government placed a ban on drivers using handheld cellphones that went into effect in 2012, forcing many fleet owners to look into "hands free" options for communications devices that would allow drivers to remain in safe contact with their managers while on the road. Some states are finding that this federal mandate is not enough to protect truck drivers and other motorists from distracted driving practices.
According to an article for NBC Chicago, texting or using a handheld mobile is now a violation in Illinois. The state is only allowing headsets if that vehicle is used in transporting commerce that weighs nearly 3,000 pounds. Exceptions for the regulation are for vehicles designed to transport 16 or more people, RVs, emergency response vehicles, fire trucks, police vehicles and tankers with hazardous materials on board.