NTSB Wants Hands-Free Phone Ban While Driving Trucks

The National Transportation Safety Board in the U.S. says the current FMCSA ban on drivers using hand-held phones does not go far enough.

According to a report in Heavy Duty Trucking, the board made a recommendation to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that drivers should not use hands-free phones while driving.

Commercial drivers are already banned from using hand-held communication devices in most jurisdictions in North America.

The NTSB made its recommendations after an investigation of a 2013 truck-train crash that caused a derailment. The Board found that the truck driver, who made that crossing regularly, was in the habit of relying on the sound of a train’s horn to determine if it was coming.

One key contributing factor in this incident was that the driver was distracted by a call that came in on his hands-free phone just as he was approaching the tracks.

NTSB said the current FMCSA ban on drivers using hand-held phones should be expanded to include hands-free communication as well.

However, the board acknowledged several other factors also contributed to the crash:

For one thing, the driver had severe, untreated sleep apnea that likely affected his alertness, the board said.

The company also had a long record of noncompliance with safety regulations such as driver qualification, drug and alcohol testing and hours of service.

The company and the agency went through several cycles of enforcement and corrective action, but the board found that the agency did not do enough.

The board also said efforts to improve safety at private grade crossings are  “inadequate.”

The NTSB is not a regulatory body. It has no legal authority to implement, or impose, its recommendations.

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