Commercial truck drivers should be banned from using cell phones while driving, including hands-free phones, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
The NTSB cited an accident that killed 11 people Tuesday when recommending a nationwide ban on the use of mobile phones by truck drivers except in emergencies. The agency has no rulemaking power but makes recommends to agencies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Congress and states.
Truckers are already banned from texting on the road. The NTSB wants the FMCSA and states to extend that ban to any use of a cell phone behind the wheel.
The Department of Transportation proposed a ban on cell-phone use by commercial drivers last year, but that proposal would allow use of hands-free phones.
The NTSB also wants the FMCSA to toughen carrier screening, noting the carrier involved in the crash, Hester, continued to operate after being told to shut down.
“Distracted driving is becoming increasingly prevalent, exacerbating the danger we encounter daily on our roadways,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “It can be especially lethal when the distracted driver is at the wheel of a vehicle that weighs 40 tons and travels at highway speeds."
The fatal accident cited by the NTSB occurred March 26, 2010, when a tractor-trailer struck a 15-passenger van, killing himself and 10 occupants of the van. The accident took place on I-65 near Munfordville, Ky. T
he truck crossed a 60-foot-median and broke through a cable barrier system before hitting the passenger van. NTSB investigators determined the truck driver was on his cell phone at about the time he lost control of the truck, sending across the median into oncoming traffic.
The driver, a 45-year-old-man, made 69 calls and text messages in the 24-hour period before the crash and four calls in the minutes before the crash. The driver also was fatigued at the time of the accident, the NTSB said.
A summary of the NTSB report, including the agency’s recommendations, is available on the agency’s website.