GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has a message for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration when it comes to issuing driver distraction guidelines for portable and aftermarket devices: hands off.
“OOIDA questions NHTSA’s statutory authority over the proposed Phase 2 guidelines which are outside NHTSA’s jurisdiction over motor vehicle equipment under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer wrote in comments submitted in response to the proposal. “NHTSA, like all federal agencies, has only the authority that Congress grants it via statute. In NHTSA’s Phase 1 guidelines notice, NHTSA states that their ‘safety mission is to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce economic costs due to road crashes.’ NHTSA has taken it upon itself to create its own jurisdiction where none exists.”
The proposed, voluntary guidelines are designed to encourage portable and aftermarket electronic device developers to design products that, when used while driving, reduce the potential for driver distraction, NHTSA said it issued the proposed guidelines in December.
The guidelines are meant to encourage manufacturers to implement features such as pairing, where a portable device is linked to a vehicle’s infotainment system, as well as Driver Mode, which is a simplified user interface, according to the proposal.
Both pairing and Driver Mode will reduce the potential for unsafe driver distraction by limiting the time a driver’s eyes are off the road, while at the same time preserving the full functionality of these devices when they are used at other times, NHTSA said.
OOIDA feels that NHTSA is ill equipped to deal with electronic wireless equipment that has a full spectrum of applications that could be utilized by subversive individuals to render the controls of a vehicle useless or seize control of a vehicle, Spencer wrote.
“We have seen this lack of expertise and conscientiousness in NHTSA’s proposed speed limiter mandate,” he said. “NHTSA did not thoroughly research the issue and negligently submitted flawed data in their request. NHTSA has a history of submitting recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration without completing the necessary due diligence and substantive research.”
But since NHTSA appears to be moving forward with the Phase 2 guidelines, Spencer said OOIDA would be remiss not to request that NHTSA review all the applications that truck drivers utilize on a regular basis and the negative results of recommended guidelines that would hamper the use of these applications.
“A few examples of applications that truck drivers utilize are navigational applications for truck routing to avoid roads that have low bridges or are restricted for a certain weight,” Spencer wrote. “They also use applications that alert them to variances in their temperature-controlled loads and applications that advise them of real time truck parking availability, a well-known problem as identified by the secretary of transportation.”
Spencer continued to point out how truck drivers use hands-free equipment in their work … “which allow them to acquire real time weather and traffic information for areas that they will be traveling. These applications allow them to have contact with their shipper which may recall a food product due to an allergen or contamination issue. It allows those who ship security-sensitive commodities the peace of mind of being able to contact their driver at a moment’s notice if there’s an incident or issue that needs to be addressed immediately.”
The comment period is now closed on the proposed guidelines.
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