A proposed rule to ban texting for truck and bus drivers will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood has announced.

The rule would replace the interim ban instituted in January. That ban drew criticism from Todd Spencer, executive vp of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA). Spencer said at the time he objected not to the ban, but to the manner in which it was implemented, bypassing normal regulatory procedures.

Spencer told FleetOwner he’s happy the rule will go through a formal regulatory process, although there are still a number of concerns OOIDA has about it.

“We’re thankful it is a regulatory process, but the concerns we had before are still there today,” he said. “There really is no hint as to how this will be enforced.”

Spencer is also concerned over what he sees as DOT “favoring” one technology over another in creating the rule.

“A preliminary read of the proposal [implies] that the agency is favoring certain technologies,” Spencer said. “Distraction is distraction whether you are texting from an [onboard computer] or a cell phone.”

The proposed rule would make permanent the interim ban, Secy. LaHood said. DOT will also be forming a partnership with Cornell University to promote public involvement and collaboration in the rulemaking process as part of the e-Rulemaking Initiative.

Part of that partnership will be the formation of the Regulation Room, an online environment where people can learn about and discuss proposed federal regulations, and a place where the DOT can receive feedback to its proposals.

“This is good news on two fronts,” said LaHood. “This rulemaking keeps our commitment to making our roads safer by reducing the threat of distracted driving. And our partnership with Cornell on the e-Rulemaking Initiative is an important step toward keeping President Obama’s promise of opening government to more effective citizen participation.”

The public may also submit comments about the proposed rule to the regulation.gov web site.

“We are committed to using every resource available to eliminate the dangers of distracted driving,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “This rulemaking to prohibit texting by interstate commercial truck and bus drivers, along with the Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative, reinforces our unwavering commitment and provides the public with a unique opportunity to share their ideas and comments on how together we can make our roads safer.”