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Antenna detects unauthorized cell phone use by truckers

Safety device would help prevent distracted driving and Michigan truck accidents, but motor carriers must take charge and implement new policies

I was recently interviewed by the Grand Rapids Press in a story about how many truck company owners and truck drivers in West Michigan are not aware of the new cell phone ban. Under the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ban that’s now in effect, commercial truck drivers are not allowed to use cell phones while driving.

This means no texting, no talking on the phone and surfing the web when driving. The penalties are steep, as they should be. Distracted driving has been linked to a far greater likelihood of causing a preventable truck accident, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has finally acted.

There are Federal civil penalties up to $2,750 for each offense. States will also suspend a truck driver’s CDL after two or more serious traffic violations, and they will disqualify a trucker for multiple offenses. Commercial truck and bus companies will face a maximum penalty of $11,000 if their truckers are caught using cell phones while driving. So even if it’s out of sheer financial concern, it would be in truck company owners’ best interests to use this device and enforce the cell phone ban immediately.

This new safety device that would make distracted driving using cell phones nearly impossible in trucks and buses. That would mean far fewer truck accidents and bus accidents in Michigan, but only if motor carriers are willing to implement and enforce this new device.

The device is a new antenna that attaches to a truck and detects cell phone use inside the cab. With it, motor carriers will know if a truck driver is breaking the law and talking on a cell phone. Here’s more information about the cell and text detection antenna.

According to Todd W. Follmer, CEO of inthinc Technology Solutions, which produces the antenna, this cell detection service allows managers to be notified when a cell phone is being used and to take appropriate action. The technology can decipher various wave frequencies including phone calls, text messages and e-mails. Managers may adjust the settings to either send an in-cab voice alert to drivers when a cell signal is detected, or quietly report the violation via e-mail or text alert.

As I’ve stated before, it’s the trucking companies’ responsibility to inform their drivers that they are no longer allowed to use cell phones and drive. Not because of the new law. But because this common sense precaution will reduce distracted driving and save lives.

Enforcement of this vital law has to start somewhere, and that onus is on the truck companies that employ these drivers. Motor Carriers must properly train, supervise and monitor how their truckers are driving.

Just a reminder about how dangerous cell phone use and driving can be — especially when behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound truck:

o Commercial drivers dialing a cell phone are six times more likely to be involved in an accident.
o There were 5,474 fatalities caused by distracted driving in 2009.
o Commercial drivers reaching for an object, like a cell phone, are three times more likely to be involved in an accident.
o Nearly half a million drivers were injured by distracted driving in 2009.
o Distracted driving makes up for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities.

– Source, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)


Steven Gursten is head of Michigan Auto Law and one of the top truck accident lawyers in the country. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Litigation Group, and has received the top-reported jury verdict in Michigan for a truck accident case. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his work to promote national truck safety.

Related information to protect yourself:

Proposal for national cell phone ban while driving

Help for truck drivers

8 important things to know about truck accident cases

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (800) 777-0028 or to speak with one of our Michigan truck accident lawyers now.

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