Truckers Insist on Keeping Computers in the Cab

Team:  These wonderful Drivers, continually giving their time to improve our lives, need and deserve EMF (electromagnetic fields) protection along with the serious cost savings associated with the eeFuel and eeLube additives.

Protect them from wireless technology / radiation dangers so they can effectively continue doing what they love.

Help them, for there are already helping us by transporting the food and commodities we use every day.

_______

Published: September 27, 2009

Crisscrossing the country, hundreds of thousands of long-haul truckers use computers in their cabs to get directions and stay in close contact with dispatchers, saving precious minutes that might otherwise be spent at the side of the road.

Mark Schiefelbein for The New York Times

Like many truckers, Kurt Long uses a dispatching computer. “We’re supposed to pull over,” he said, “but nobody ever does.”

The trucking industry says these devices can be used safely, posing less of a distraction than BlackBerrys, iPhones and similar gadgets, and therefore should be exempted from legislation that would ban texting while driving.

“We think that’s overkill,” Clayton Boyce, spokesman for the American Trucking Associations, said of a federal bill that would force states to ban texting while driving if they want to keep receiving federal highway money.

The legislation will be discussed at a conference on distracted driving in Washington, starting Wednesday, organized by the Transportation Department.

The issues raised by truckers show the challenges facing advocates for tougher distracted-driving laws, given that so many Americans have grown accustomed to talking and texting behind the wheel.

Mr. Boyce, who said the industry does not condone texting while driving, said computers used by truckers require less concentration than phones. The trucks “have a screen that has maybe two or four or six lines” of text, he said. “And they’re not reading the screen every second.”

Banning the use of such devices, he added, “won’t improve safety.”

But some safety advocates and researchers say the devices — which can include a small screen near the steering wheel and a keyboard on the dash or in the driver’s lap — present precisely the same risk as other devices. And the risk may be even greater, they note, given the size of 18-wheel tractor trailers and the longer time required for them to stop.

Some truckers say they feel pressure to use their computers even while driving in order to meet tight delivery schedules.

“We’re supposed to pull over, but nobody ever does,” said Kurt Long, 46, a veteran trucker based in Wagoner, Okla., who hauls flour, sugar and other dry goods.

“When you get that load,” he added, “you go and you go and you go until you get there.”

The trucking industry has invested heavily in technology to wire vehicles. Satellite systems mounted on trucks let companies track drivers, send new orders, distribute companywide messages and transmit training exercises. Drivers can also use them to send and receive e-mail and browse the Internet.

After videotaping truckers behind the wheel, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that those who used on-board computers faced a 10 times greater risk of crashing, nearly crashing or wandering from their lane than truckers who did not use those devices.

That figure is lower than the 23 times greater risk when truckers texted, compared with drivers simply focused on the road, according to the same study. However, the Virginia researchers said that truckers tend to use on-board computers more often than they text.

The study found that truckers using on-board computers take their eyes off the road for an average of four seconds, enough time at highway speeds to cover roughly the length of a football field.

Richard J. Hanowski, director of the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the Virginia institute, said videotape monitoring of 200 truckers driving about three million miles showed many of them using the devices, even bypassing messages on the screen warning them not to use the devices while driving.

“Is this any different than texting?” Mr. Hanowski said. “With either one, the risks are very high.”

In Mr. Long’s unkempt cab, the computer screen is mounted on the dashboard to the right of his steering wheel. He operates it both by touching the screen and by using a keyboard, which he often keeps in his lap (along with one of the two Chihuahuas that keep him company on his drives).

On the computer screen, there is a warning: do not use while vehicle is in motion.

“But it gives you a proceed button,” Mr. Long said with a laugh during an interview in August at a truck stop in Joplin, Mo.

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  1. Lapping The Web: Driving While Blogging | Auto News, Recalls and Car Blog - DriverSide

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