The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a new rule that bans texting by interstate truckers and drivers of commercial vehicles, such as buses and vans, that carry at least eight passengers. The ban took effect immediately, and violators are subject to fines of up to $2,750.
The National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) immediately announced its support of the rule. The association has long advocated for a national ban on texting while driving and supports legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that would prohibit all motorists from texting while driving. NSWMA participated in DOT's Distracted Driving Summit last September, and the association says that many of its member firms prohibit talking on cell phones or texting while operating a company vehicle.
“The solid waste industry applauds this action by the Department of Transportation,” said Bruce Parker, president and CEO of NSWMA, in a press release. “With a fleet of more than 130,000 trucks driving many miles each day to collect and manage America's solid waste, roadway safety is of paramount concern to our industry. Making texting illegal while driving a commercial vehicle is a sensible idea that will help protect garbage collectors and millions of other Americans who use our nation's roads every day.”
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), people who text while driving are approximately 20 times more likely to get in an accident than drivers who don't. FMCSA says that motorists take their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds out of every six seconds they spend sending and receiving messages.
The texting ban wasn't the only regulatory matter that NSWMA has weighed in on in recent weeks. In late January, the association filed comments on possible changes in truck hours-of-service rules with FMCSA that strongly urged the administration to keep the “100 air-mile” reporting exception and the 34-hour reset provision as part of the federal hours-of-service regulations.
The 100 air-mile exception says that “local route” drivers, such as those on solid waste and recycling collection routes, can show compliance by using time records instead of the federally mandated logbook. “The exception recognized the lessened impact of fatigue on short-haul drivers … ,” a NSWMA press release says.
As for the reset provision, drivers of commercial motor vehicles are required to stop driving once they have been on duty for 60 hours during seven consecutive days, or on duty for 70 hours during eight consecutive days. The reset provision says that once a driver has been off duty for 34 consecutive hours, the hours worked before that time no longer have to be considered when calculating the driver's hour limit.
“NSWMA and its members are dedicated to safety, and we don't take our duty to protect the public health and the environment lightly,” said Parker in a press release. “We want to ensure that waste collection, processing and disposal operations are performed in a safe manner. As part of this, our members recognize the need to ensure that trucks are operated safely. Because of our demonstrated commitment to safety, we ask FMCSA to take our comments into consideration as the agency undertakes a new hours of service rulemaking.”
Also in January, NSWMA has filed comments on combustible dust regulations that could be formally proposed later this year. The comments were filed with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“NSWMA's comments expressed a concern that OSHA has included the solid waste industry as a target for regulation even though in September 2008, OSHA issued an advisory stating there was no history of combustible dust events at transfer stations, material recovery facilities (MRFs) or landfills,” says a press release from the association.
NSWMA recommended that, if OSHA does propose combustible dust rules, that the administration not base the rules on the current National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) consensus standard. “Any combustible dust rules that OSHA might propose based on the current NFPA standard could force transfer station and MRF owners and operators to incur significant, unnecessary capital expenses,” an NSWMA statement says.