Texting Truckers: How Dangerous is Distracted Driving?

Driving a truck

Even if you are not a truck driver, you’ve likely been warned about using your cell phone – especially texting – while operating a vehicle. However, the dangers of driving while distracted take on even greater significance when the vehicle being operated is a bigger work truck or van, or an even more massive semi-truck. This is not news to commercial drivers, 93% of whom believe that reading a text while driving is a distraction. So how many truckers read and send texts?

With such a high majority of commercial drivers saying that texting is a dangerous distraction, you would hope that no truckers are using their phones while driving. Unfortunately, according to a new study, 47% of commercial drivers have read texts and 39% have sent texts while driving. And distracted driving is not limited to texting, as 60% of commercial drivers have answered a phone call while driving and 90% have engaged in other distracting activities, like changing the radio or adjusting other in-cab controls.

Cell phones contribute so much to the modern world – like helping truckers stay connected to loved ones while on the road – it can be difficult to remember that they also make some situations worse or even dangerous. Additional research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute confirms the dangers of distracted driving, finding that you are 6 times more likely to crash while dialing a call, and 22 times more likely to crash while texting. In fact, a 2009 study by the FMCSA found that 71% of large-truck crashes occurred when the truck driver was focusing on doing something other than operating the vehicle.

Again, you may not be surprised that 72% of commercial drivers acknowledge their distracted driving could cause a collision. So what can be done? The FMCSA – which prohibits handheld mobile phone use by commercial drivers, including reaching for, holding, reading, dialing, or texting on the phone – offers the following tips for commercial truckers while driving:

  • Do not let objects outside the truck distract you, including billboards and buildings.
  • Do not text or dial a phone – doing so takes your eyes, hands, and mind off the road.
  • Do not eat – a recent NHSTA study found eating to be riskier than talking on a cell phone.
  • Do not use a dispatching device.
  • Do read, write, or use paper maps.

Penalties for driving while distracted include fines and, upon multiple violations, disqualification or being put out-of-service. Meanwhile, an employer who knowingly allows or requires handheld device use can also be fined and may have their Safety Measurement System rating negatively affected.

Before you curse technology, however, new innovations are also being used to limit distracted driving. Commercial drivers are 4 times more likely than general drivers to use distraction-prevention apps, which limit smartphone functionality while driving, and can even send automated return texts that tell people texting you that you are driving and will get back to them later. You can view top distraction-prevention apps here.

Hands-free options for cell phones and for dispatch devices, which require no more than a single push of a button, are also increasingly available. You can find some solid rankings of top hands-free Bluetooth headset recommendations here and here. However, we do not recommend using any talk-to-text features – it can seem safe because it is hands-free, but a recent AAA study found that talk-to-text systems are more cognitively distracting than any other form of distraction.

If you drive for a living, we’re so appreciative of the hard work you do, and we hope you stay safe doing it. And if you’re a trucker or other commercial driver, we want to hear from you – how do you minimize distractions while driving? Let us know in the comments below:


Ethan Smith HeadshotAbout the Author

Ethan Smith

Ethan is a Content Curator for Trader Interactive, serving the commercial brands Commercial Truck Trader, Commercial Web Services, and Equipment Trader. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to commercial dealers and their buyers.

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