Local truckers don't agree with NTSB proposed cell phone ban

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – There are new recommendations out there for hand-held phones, text messaging, and even hands-free devices, a government agency wants to ban the use by truck drivers.

Those in the industry say they are being unfairly targeted.

When truck drivers with Bulldog Hiway Express hit the road, company president and CEO Phil Byrd says their policies include no texting, no hand-held phones, and no checking computerized devices while driving. Byrd says his company and the American Trucking Association, the organization he vice-chairs, don't agree with the National Transportation Safety Board's recommended ban on cell phones by truck drivers.

"We do feel a commercial motor vehicle driver should have the capabilities of using a communication device so long as it's hands-free, and can be dialed and receive in bound calls by pushing a speed dial button," Byrd said.

The NTSB put out the recommendation after a deadly accident last year in Kentucky. They say the driver of an 18-wheeler was using his cell phone and got into an accident killing 11 people on board a passenger van.

NTSB's recommendation would apply to all 50 states and DC to, "Prohibit the use of both handheld and hands-free cellular telephones by all commercial driver's license holders while driving in commercial operations, except in emergencies."

For now the cell phone ban by the NTSB is just a recommendation, but those in the local industry and representing national organizations say they will be sure their voices are heard.

"The American Trucking Association has a large presence in Washington, and we will work shoulder to shoulder with the agency in respect to handheld devices," Byrd said.

Truck drivers feel they are being unfairly targeted, and if the law would apply to them, it should apply to all.

"Not only for us but for everybody. You lose your concentration and you aren't thinking about driving, in a little car or a big truck," truck driver Cloyd Gaffney said.

The NTSB recommendations do not include anything about truckers using CB radios for communication.

According to the Governor's Highway Safety Association... There is no statewide ban on the use of any handheld or hands-free phones while driving. But in Columbia, city council passed a texting while driving ban earlier this year for all drivers.

In the Kentucky case, aside from the cell phone distraction, the NTSB also found that the riders who died in the van versus semi-truck accident were not wearing seatbelts and the median barrier was not adequate to contain a vehicle as big as the truck.

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