BOSTON (CBS) – The dangers of texting and driving are well documented and well understood. Those risks are even greater for truckers and that is why they face tougher laws, but the I-Team found many truckers are not getting the message. Even more troubling, police say it’s difficult to stop them.
Trooper Mike Tucker works on the State Police Truck Team and spends much of his time cracking down on distracted truckers. “It’s one of the most dangerous things we deal with daily,” he said. “You get into an accident with an 80,000 pound truck and your likelihood of causing a fatality is going to go up astronomically.”
Part of the reason is those 80,000 pounds make it difficult to stop a truck and that is why drivers behind the wheel of large commercial trucks are required to be completely hands free. No calling. No texting, nothing. But the I-Team found truckers routinely driving with their phones in hand, eyes clearly on their screens and not on the road. We spent several hours standing on overpasses over 128 and 93 and we saw truck after truck violating the law.
We spoke to several truck drivers at a rest stop in Framingham. They all insisted they don’t do it, but they see truckers texting all the time. “You can go down the road at any time and look at any semi, and they are texting,” one retired truck driver told us. “Everybody does it,” another trucker told us as he was gassing up his rig.
Trooper Tucker admits there are many challenges to cracking down on texting truckers. “Depending on the cruiser and where you are positioned, the [trucker’s] phone is going to be down low, so it’s difficult to see,” he said. Another challenge is radio communication by police and truckers. Drivers can pick up police chatter on their radios so they are often aware of troopers in the area and can curb their behavior.
Despite those challenges, the I-Team saw first-hand the extent of the problem. While on patrol with Trooper Tucker, we watched as he ticketed three drivers in a short period of time. The last driver had just been ticketed in New York for texting a few hours earlier. After running his information, Trooper Tucker discovered a long list of violations that put the driver in jeopardy of losing his right to operate. Such drivers pose another challenge for law enforcement. According to Tucker, drivers can apply for a new DOT number under a different company name and be back on the road.