Texting Truckers Told To Hang It Up

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) -The Transportation Department's texting ban for bus and commercial truck drivers on interstates went into effect on Tuesday.

Arkansas already bans texting while driving, as do 19 other states.

But this new road rule extends nationwide. What does it mean to the younger generation of truckers who are "Text" savvy? But for many over the road drivers the cell phone is their link to home.

His name is Nathan Cotta.

He passed his D-O-T test a couple of hours before I arrived at the ASU Newport Driver Training Center.

He is fairly typical of the younger generation that turn to truck driving.

Using a computer and texting are second nature to him.

Today we put him to the text test... Behind the wheel.

Even though the law says don't, many still text behind the wheel.

But a new Department of Transportation regulation says commercial truck and bus drivers cannot text on interstates.

"We will require you to do so."

Says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Effective immediately put up the phones and just drive.

For many younger truckers like Cotta, it may not be that easy.

Bentley Wallace  is the Director of the ASU Driver Training Program. He realizes that new drivers may not be able to just hang up.

"Younger drivers are more text savvy and more comfortable with it. But we are seeing cell phones and internet devices are becoming ubiquitous especially in the professional driving arena."

I rode along with Nathan and his instructor Bobby Forrester on a final student - teacher run up Highway 67.

Nathan's a texter but he's going to have to control himself. He's got plenty to do.

"You have a 53 foot trailer behind you and you have to worry about people pulling out in front of you and having to make a turn."

Nathan says one of the biggest problems truck drivers face and he's not looking forward to it. Is the boredom.

"Nothing to do, nothing but the road and you."  It makes it hard to resist the temptation to reach out and text someone.

Since he's already passed the DOT test, how about one more?

On the ASU driving range we had Nathan wind among a few cones at a slow speed.

Easy as pie...and then we texted him.  "Send your address."

Weaving around the barrels Nathan often took his eyes off the road for 4 to 5 seconds at a time to text. According to the Federal Motor Safety Administration drivers take their eyes off the road for an average 4.6 seconds out of every 6 while texting. About the time it takes a truck to drive the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour.

For Cotta, it was a wake up call.

"It's a lot harder than I thought it was even at these speeds. It takes your attention off the mirrors and your back tires are off track and there is no way you can have a conversation on text message and drive one of these trucks safely."

Wallace said it was probably a good easy last lesson.

"It was a real eye opener for him. I think he understands that with the power and the weight of that vehicle the last thing he needs to do is try and text and drive."

If caught drivers can face up to a $2750 dollar fine. However how will a police officer be able to see into the cab of a truck to see if the driver is texting? That is a problem still to solve.

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