The formal ban on all handheld cell phone use by commercial truck and bus drivers during the operation of their vehicles put in place by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) last week is drawing praise from many corners of the trucking industry.

However, most believe the rule offers only a strong first step in the effort to battle the larger issue of distracted driving among commercial vehicle operators and everyday motorists alike.

“Anything that’s done to help focus more of a commercial truck and bus driver’s attention on the road is a good thing, but there’s still a lot more education and outreach we need to conduct concerning the issue of ‘distracted driving,’” Stephen Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), told Fleet Owner.

“We’re very supportive of this effort but we need to be careful with the regulatory approach to dealing with the distracted driving issue,” he pointed out. “Distracted driving goes way beyond the use of handheld devices for there’s an awful lot of technology present in today’s truck cab. It’s really going to require a ‘culture change’ in how we approach driver behavior while operating their vehicles.”

Along those lines, Keppler noted that to make such a ban effective will require a change of approach by management within the trucking community.

“People at the working level in this industry – the drivers – need to understand that operating their vehicles is a sacred task,” he explained. “Management must reinforce this view by explaining to them that, no, we don’t want you responding to a cell-phone call or text message until you’ve pulled over to a safe place. We need you to first and foremost focus on the road in front of you; that is your primary duty.”

Bill Graves, president & CEO of the American Trucking Assns. (ATA), added that wider ban of cell-phone use among the driving population is needed as well to effectively make the roads safer.

“Studies have shown that actions like texting and dialing a phone can greatly increase crash risk, so by taking steps to curb these behaviors hold great promise to improve highway safety,” he said in a statement, noting in particular that ATA supports a ban on texting and using handheld cell phones for all drivers, not just truck drivers.

“While the federal government cannot enact such bans for drivers of passenger vehicles, ATA urges all states to follow the lead of DOT [the Dept. of Transportation] and FMCSA and take steps to ban these dangerous activities for all drivers,” Graves said.