DALLAS — President Obama has a message for truckers: Keep your hands on the wheel and save your text messages for later.
Obama's transportation secretary on Tuesday banned truckers and commercial bus drivers from sending and receiving text messages.
The new rules, first suggested last fall but announced with little warning Tuesday, carry stiff fines and prohibit sending or receiving text messages by truckers and commercial bus drivers.
"Today we're sending a strong message," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "We don't merely expect you to share the road responsibly with other travelers — we require you to do so."
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It's the latest in a Washington campaign to make drivers keep their eyes on the road in an age of wireless devices increasingly prone to distract them.
Last month, Obama ordered about 3 million federal workers to stay off their cell phones while driving. He strongly encouraged states and companies alike to follow suit.
The news was greeted by lukewarm support from the trucking industry, which sees such bans as appropriate, but faulted the haste with which the move was made.
Texas trucker Jeff Barker says he sees no reason to single out commercial drivers, though after 14 years of crisscrossing the continent, he said he readily agrees that drivers who text are courting disaster.
"I used to do it, until I began seeing the effect it was having on other drivers," said Barker of San Antonio. "Now I pull over before I send a text. But it should apply to all drivers. To single out bus drivers and truckers is kind of stupid. I can see it every day from drivers of all types: A distracted driver is a hell of a danger to everybody out there, and it doesn't matter what kind of vehicle they are in."
Tuesday's announcement makes sending, or even reading, a text message while driving a federal safety offense, and could put some commercial drivers at risk of losing their authority to operate — plus subject them to fines of up to $2,750 for each offense.
How those tickets will be issued, though, and under what circumstances wasn't immediately clear. Federal safety rules are typically enforced by state inspectors and highway patrols.