Letters: In-Cab Distractions, Sen. Bunning, CSA 2010, DOT Physicals

These Letters to the Editor appear in the March 15 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

In-Cab Distractions

In-cab distraction regulations are not as simple as some might suggest.

Numerous national health and safety organizations have come together to petition and support the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulation to ban cell-phone use in commercial vehicles. They cite research that shows the majority of serious truck crashes — or close calls — are the result of distractions inside the cab of the truck. Many of those distractions were found to have originated with cell-phone use or text messaging.

Even American Trucking Associations agrees and reportedly supports legislation that would ban reading, writing and sending text messages at all times while operating a commercial motor vehicle.

With pending legislation to require electronic onboard recorders, recently announced regulations to prohibit texting while driving and the information requirements found in FMCSA’s Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010, we need to be sensitive to the available technologies.

Let’s be sure we don’t get caught short of current and near-future technological capabilities when we craft this legislation. We don’t need numerous appeals for exemptions because of poorly chosen terminology in the regulations.

So, for the discussion of this writer’s concerns, let’s start with the common communication devices being used in our industry: smart phones, rugged PDAs (personal digital assistants), EOBRs and, of course, two-way radios. Any and all can be hard-mounted permanently, temporarily placed in a cradle or totally portable.

When is a handheld device an EOBR, and when does an EOBR function as a handheld device? If a smart phone or rugged PDA is mounted in a cradle on the dash, synchronized with the vehicle and capturing all the information an EOBR might capture, is it now an EOBR?

If an EOBR has a mobile data terminal that can be removed from a cradle or offers cellular connectivity, is it now a “cell phone?”

Is two-way radio communication to be treated the same as cellular? Suppose the two-way radio is part of a cell-phone feature?

Isn’t a constant real-time Global Positioning System location of value for safety, security, hazardous materials tracking, dispatch and scheduling, traffic avoidance, turn-by-turn directions, etc.?

GPS coordinates and other critical information such as engine diagnostics, driver speeding, directions, arrival/departure, etc., will require use of the wide area network. So powering the devices down is out of the question. It is really a matter of minimizing the use of a distracting feature.

If an EOBR, smart phone or rugged PDA has a feature that powers down just the display (on a handset or mobile data terminal) when movement is sensed, does this mitigate the requirement for regulation? Why not make that simple recommendation? If such a feature is acceptable for an EOBR, shouldn’t it be the same for a handset?

If the industry wants to regulate an activity that may be distracting, let’s be sure to define that activity and not the communication device or form factor [the physical dimensions of major computer system components]. It should be obvious that many of the activities are shared across multiple in-cab and PDA hardware configurations. It also should be obvious that a constantly connected vehicle offers a multitude of advantages.

Do our lawmakers understand the current state of communication technology and the near future road map? Or are we destined to revisit this every year?

John Moscatelli
Industry Solutions Practice
Tampa, Fla.

Editor’s Note: ATA’s 42-member executive committee voted overwhelmingly in October to support the Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers Act — or ALERT Drivers Act — which would require states to ban texting while driving.

Sen. Bunning

My response to the online article about the possible shutdown of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and furlough of that agency’s employees: Hooray! The sooner the better. (States Scrambling Following Transport Funding Shutdown, Transport Topics Online, March 2.)

Is there any way to include the California Air Resources Board and all the environmental protection agencies everywhere? One can only hope.

Lee Hobbs
Chief of Operations
Hobbs Trucking Co.
Anaheim, Calif.

I say good for Sen. Jim Bunning. He isn’t trying to put Americans out of work; he’s trying to force the government to stop authorizing unfunded projects that simply grow the deficit.

This administration spends without concern for the future, and it has to stop. Jim Bunning is putting principle ahead of popularity.

Linda Meehan
Marketing Manager
Manna Freight Systems Inc.
Mendota Heights, Minn.

CSA 2010

If it is not ready, CSA 2010 should not be implemented. All snafus must be resolved.

The current administration tends to do everything “right now,” even if it does not work and may not be ready.

On the other hand, the industry is expected to do things exceptionally right or face stiff penalties.

Something is wrong with this picture.

Steve Teeple
Pollywog Transport Inc.
Palmetto, Fla.

DOT Physicals

Is this “white-coat hypertension?”

My job requires me to have a physical that normally is good for two years. But since shoulder surgery in February 2008, I had to have a recertification physical to make sure the shoulder functioned and I was not on drugs, so the clinic’s certified physician assistant decided to have me disrobe and stand naked in the middle of the room with bare feet a shoulder-width apart as he bent at the waist and looked south rather than north.

“Excuse me — I have a shoulder injury.”

The PA told me that I would allow his check if I wanted my health card.

My blood pressure shot up to 160/110 in anger, and here comes Catch-22: At this point, the physical has become a threat to my employment because it causes high blood pressure, and I cannot get “the card” with high blood pressure.

I don’t have high blood pressure outside of the clinic.

The nurse suggested I rest for 15 minutes, not understanding that the longer I’m inside the clinic, the higher the blood pressure goes.

She left the room, returned and checked my blood pressure again. The reading was up three points from the last one, and the nurse told me that unless the blood pressure came down, they could not certify me for work.

Get the point here? I only get high blood pressure when threatened — and doctors are now a threat to my employment.

The nurse asked what they could do to help me get the blood pressure down.

I said, “Give me my card, and let me leave.” In other words, eliminate the threat and my blood pressure would drop like a rock.

The head nurse took my blood pressure with a manual cuff, and it was barely low enough to pass with a “one-year card.”

When out of the clinic and back to my company, I put on a blood-pressure cuff, and a mere 15 minutes later than the reading in the clinic it was 131/81 — normal.

Blood pressure meds are not the answer; get rid of the threat.

The other thing that gets my blood pressure up is the requirement to strip completely. Just what does that have to do with a man’s ability to operate a commercial vehicle? I’ve had physicals all my life and never had to be completely naked.

Terry Wilcox
Sgt. 1st Class
U.S. Army (retired)
KLLM Transport Services Inc.
Anniston, Ala.