Augusta trucking companies welcome texting ban
By Adam Folk | Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

There was a time when Reginald Williams would text while driving, but that time ran out Tuesday.

The Transportation Department's announcement that it would fine truck and bus drivers up to $2,750 for texting behind the wheel has changed his mind.

"It ain't worth it," said Williams, who stopped to pump gas into his rig at Pilot Travel Center on River Watch Parkway. On his way to Bishopville, S.C., to deliver a load of lumber, Williams said he knows other drivers who text but expects they will change their minds, too.

"If they got any sense, they would," he said.

The company Scott Rodgers works for, F&W Transportation on Mike Padgett Highway, has 75 trucks that deliver all over the Lower 48. Rodgers, who is safety director, said F&W always prohibited its drivers from texting on the highway.

"It really doesn't change anything in our operation at all," Rodgers said. "It's ridiculous to text behind the wheel of a car or a truck."

Still, Rodgers said he plans to go over the new regulations at his next safety meeting. Since his employees will still be allowed to use cell phones to talk, he said he would have to reinforce the idea that texting while driving is not accepted.

Walter Welborn, the president of Augusta Transportation on Molly Pond Road, said the drivers in his fleet of 28 trucks know better than to use their phones to text. "For us personally, I don't think texting has been an issue."

His company provides drivers with work cell phones but does not pay for texting. Drivers often use the phones to communicate for work but Welborn said they've been asked to pull over if they expect the conversation to be long. Some do not, he said.

For his company, dealing with the safety implications of talking while driving has been a bigger issue.

"We've talked about phone conversations but we haven't even talked about texting because it's almost assumed that you just don't do that," Welborn said.

Phillip Johnson, 51, a J.B. Hunt driver, said prohibiting truck drivers from texting is a step in the right direction, but it's the everyday person on the way to work or school who is the main problem.

He has nearly been hit several times by people who are distracted while on the phone.

Recently, his wife was caught speeding in North Carolina. She admitted to Johnson that she didn't notice how fast she was traveling because her eyes were on a text message.

"That's something I don't do myself," he said. "This is my job; this is my life. I'm out here for my family and my bill collectors."

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

COMING SUNDAY

Bills are pending in the Georgia and South Carolina legislatures to outlaw texting while driving. The Augusta Chronicle looks at the measures, the hurdles they must clear to become law, difficulties of enforcement and incidents that have added to the call for a ban.

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