[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 17 (Wednesday, January 27, 2010)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 4305-4307]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-1573]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

49 CFR Chapter III


Regulatory Guidance Concerning the Applicability of the Federal 
Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to Texting by Commercial Motor Vehicle 
Drivers

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of regulatory guidance.

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SUMMARY: The FMCSA announces regulatory guidance concerning texting 
while driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). The guidance is 
applicable to all interstate drivers of CMVs subject to the Federal 
Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).

DATES: Effective Date: This regulatory guidance is effective on January 
27, 2010.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Thomas L. Yager, Chief, Driver and 
Carrier Operations Division, Office of Bus and Truck Standards and 
Operations, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1200 New 
Jersey Ave., SE., Washington, DC 20590.
    E-mail: MCPSD@dot.gov. Phone (202) 366-4325.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Legal Basis

    The Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 (Pub. L. 98-554, Title II, 98 
Stat. 2832, October 30, 1984) (the 1984 Act) provides authority to 
regulate drivers, motor carriers, and vehicle equipment. It requires 
the Secretary of Transportation to prescribe regulations which ensure 
that: (1) CMVs are maintained, equipped, loaded, and operated safely; 
(2) the responsibilities imposed on operators of CMVs do not impair 
their ability to operate the vehicles safely; (3) the physical 
condition of operators of CMVs is adequate to enable them to operate 
the vehicles safely; and (4) the operation of CMVs does not have a 
deleterious effect on the physical condition of the operators. (49 
U.S.C. 31136(a)). Section 211 of the 1984 Act also grants the Secretary 
broad power in carrying out motor carrier safety statutes and 
regulations to ``prescribe recordkeeping and reporting requirements'' 
and to ``perform other acts the Secretary considers appropriate.'' (49 
U.S.C. 31133(a)(8) and (10), respectively).
    The Administrator of FMCSA has been delegated authority under 49 
CFR 1.73(g) to carry out the functions vested in the Secretary of 
Transportation by 49 U.S.C. chapter 311, subchapters I and III, 
relating to commercial motor vehicle programs and safety regulation.

Background

    This document provides regulatory guidance concerning the 
applicability of 49 CFR 390.17, ``Additional equipment and 
accessories,'' to CMV operators engaged in ``texting'' on an electronic 
device while driving a CMV in interstate commerce.
    Currently, 49 CFR 390.17 states, ``Nothing in this subchapter shall 
be construed to prohibit the use of additional equipment and 
accessories, not inconsistent with or prohibited by this subchapter, 
provided such equipment and accessories do not decrease the safety of 
operation of the commercial motor vehicles on which they are used.'' 
[Emphasis added]. As used in Sec.  390.17, ``this subchapter'' means 
Subchapter B [49 CFR parts 350-399] of Chapter III of Subtitle B of 
Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs).
    CMVs are defined in 49 CFR 390.5 as ``any self-propelled or towed 
motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport 
passengers or property when the vehicle--
    (1) Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight 
rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 
kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater; or
    (2) Is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers 
(including the driver) for compensation; or
    (3) Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, 
including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for 
compensation; or
    (4) Is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of 
Transportation to be hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and transported in 
a quantity requiring placarding under regulations prescribed

[[Page 4306]]

by the Secretary under 49 CFR, subtitle B, chapter I, subchapter C.''
    Section 390.17 is therefore applicable to drivers of CMVs, as 
defined by Sec.  390.5, when the CMV is being used by a motor carrier 
operation subject to the FMCSRs. The general applicability of Parts 390 
through 399 [49 CFR Parts 390 through 399] of the FMCSRs is prescribed 
by Sec.  390.3.

Basis for This Notice

    FMCSA recently completed its ``Driver Distraction in Commercial 
Vehicle Operations'' study and released the final report on October 1, 
2009.\1\ The purpose of the study was to investigate the prevalence of 
driver distraction in CMV safety-critical events (e.g., crashes, near-
crashes, lane departures) recorded in a naturalistic data set that 
included over 200 truck drivers and 3 million miles of data. The 
dataset was obtained by placing monitoring instruments on vehicles and 
recording the behavior of drivers conducting real-world revenue 
operations.
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    \1\ This report is available at FMCSA's Research Web page at: 
http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/facts-research/art-research.aspx?
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    Odds ratios (OR) were calculated to identify tasks that were high 
risk. For a given task, an odds ratio of ``1.0'' indicated the task or 
activity was equally likely to result in a safety-critical event as a 
non-event or baseline driving scenario. An odds ratio greater than 
``1.0'' indicated a safety-critical event was more likely to occur, and 
odds ratios of less than ``1.0'' indicated a safety-critical event was 
less likely to occur. The most risky behavior identified by the 
research was ``text message on cell phone,'' \2\ with an odds ratio of 
23.2. This means that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical 
event is 23.2 times greater for drivers who are texting while driving 
than for those who do not. Texting drivers took their eyes off the 
forward roadway for an average of 4.6 seconds during the 6-second 
interval immediately preceding a safety-critical event. At 55 mph (or 
80.7 feet per second), this equates to a driver traveling 371 feet, the 
approximate length of a football field, including the end zones, 
without looking at the roadway. At 65 mph (or 95.3 feet per second), 
the driver would have traveled approximately 439 feet without looking 
at the roadway. This clearly creates a significant risk to the safe 
operation of the CMV.
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    \2\ Although the final report does not elaborate on text 
messaging, the drivers were engaged in the review of, or preparation 
and transmission of, typed messages via wireless phones.
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    Because of the safety risks associated with texting, FMCSA will 
address the problem of texting in an expedited, stand-alone rulemaking 
to be completed in 2010. In addition to studies documenting the safety 
risks associated with texting while driving, the feedback the 
Department received during its Distracted Driving Summit, held 
September 30-October 1, 2009, in Washington, DC, from four United 
States Senators, several State legislators, safety advocacy groups, 
senior law enforcement officials, the telecommunications industry, and 
the transportation industry suggest there is widespread support for a 
ban against texting while driving. However, until the Agency has the 
opportunity to complete a notice-and-comment rulemaking proceeding to 
adopt an explicit prohibition against texting, the regulatory guidance 
below informs motor carriers and drivers about the applicability of the 
existing regulations to the use of electronic devices for texting.

Other Electronic Devices

    FMCSA acknowledges the concerns of motor carriers that have 
invested significant resources in electronic dispatching tools and 
fleet management systems; this regulatory guidance should not be 
construed to prohibit the use of such technology. The regulatory 
guidance below should also not be construed to prohibit the use of cell 
phones for purposes other than text messaging.
    The Agency will address the use of other electronic devices while 
driving in a notice-and-comment rulemaking proceeding rather than 
through regulatory guidance.
    It is worth noting, however, that while fleet management systems 
and electronic dispatching tools are used by many of the Nation's 
largest trucking fleets, the Department believes safety-conscious fleet 
managers would neither allow nor require their drivers to type or read 
messages while driving. To the extent that there are fleets that 
require drivers to type and read messages while they are driving, the 
Agency will consider appropriate regulatory action to address the 
safety problem.

Compliance With State and Local Laws, Ordinances and Regulations

    In addition to announcing regulatory guidance on CMV drivers' use 
of electronic devices to engage in texting while driving, FMCSA reminds 
motor carriers and drivers subject to the FMCSRs that the Federal 
regulations require compliance with the laws, ordinances, and 
regulations of the jurisdiction in which the CMV is being operated. 
Section 392.2, ``Applicable operating rules,'' requires that ``Every 
commercial motor vehicle must be operated in accordance with the laws, 
ordinances, and regulations of the jurisdiction in which it is being 
operated. However, if a regulation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety 
Administration imposes a higher standard of care than that law, 
ordinance or regulation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety 
Administration regulation must be complied with.'' Thus, in the States 
and localities having laws, ordinances, and regulations related to 
``texting'' while driving, non-texting cell phone use, or any other 
similar traffic offenses, a violation of the State or local provision 
is also a violation of Sec.  392.2 for those CMV drivers to whom it 
applies.

Summary

    Based on the clear consensus that emerged from the Distracted 
Driving Summit, FMCSA's top priority is to initiate a rulemaking to 
address the safety risks associated with texting by prohibiting all 
truck and bus drivers from texting while they are operating on public 
roads. The regulatory guidance issued today clarifies the applicability 
of the Agency's current safety regulations and serves as an interim 
measure to deter texting while driving.

Regulatory Guidance

Part 390--Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; General

Sections Interpreted
    Section 390.17 Additional equipment and accessories:
    Question 1: Do the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations 
prohibit ``texting'' while driving a commercial motor vehicle in 
interstate commerce?
    Guidance: Yes. Although the current safety regulations do not 
include an explicit prohibition against texting while driving by truck 
and bus drivers, the general restriction against the use of additional 
equipment and accessories that decrease the safety of operation of 
commercial motor vehicles applies to the use of electronic devices for 
texting. Handheld or other wireless electronic devices that are brought 
into a CMV are considered ``additional equipment and accessories'' 
within the context of Sec.  390.17. ``Texting'' is the review of, or 
preparation and transmission of, typed messages through any such device 
or the engagement in any form of electronic data retrieval or 
electronic data communication through any such device. Texting on 
electronic devices while driving decreases the safety of operation of 
the commercial vehicles on which the devices are used because the

[[Page 4307]]

activity involves a combination of visual, cognitive and manual 
distraction from the driving task. Research has shown that during 6-
second intervals immediately preceding safety-critical events (e.g., 
crashes, near crashes, lane departure), texting drivers took their eyes 
off the forward roadway an average of 4.6 seconds. Therefore, the use 
of electronic devices for texting by CMV operators while driving on 
public roads in interstate commerce decreases safety and is prohibited 
by 49 CFR 390.17.

    Issued on: January 22, 2010.
Anne S. Ferro,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2010-1573 Filed 1-22-10; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 4910-EX-P