Updated: Jun 26
This is a first for me. I’ve used many products over the years that substantially increase safety, or the potential for safer acts and operation, and I’ve even written about some of them – but I’ve never “endorsed” a product before. I think this is mainly because I’ve never been so personally moved by a product before - I see the incredible potential for a product, program, or application to save so many lives and save incredible amounts of money on insurance costs and damage claims. NoCell, I believe, will also help immensely with driver retention – one of the biggest issues most carriers face.
The statistics are staggering. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a person who is texting and driving is 23 times more likely to cause a crash. Police officers have routinely stated that observing a person who is texting, and driving is just like watching a drunk driver that would test at two or three times the legal limit for alcohol or drugs.
Texting or messaging while driving a commercial vehicle is prohibited per 49 CFR 392.80. For those drivers wanting to nitpick or argue, let’s look at how the FMCSA explains “texting”:
“Texting includes (but is not limited to), short message services, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a web page, pressing more than a single button to initiate or terminate a call using a mobile telephone, or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or entry, for present or future communication.”
It’s illegal in any commercial vehicle, according to federal law. For those with fleets containing some non-commercial vehicles, most states have prohibited the action in all vehicles. As of March 2019 in the U.S., text messaging is banned for all drivers in 47 states and hand-held cellphone usage while driving is banned in 20 states (hands-free driving laws).
I know the tech folks at NoCell can do a much better job than I at explaining how their program and interface works, but I want to discuss this from an experienced commercial driver’s perspective. I also want to explain the impact, as I see it, in reducing crashes and all of the ancillary costs associated, based on what I see in my trucking and towing liability cases.
According to their website, the concept is fairly simple:
“The NOCELL® app enables custom policy enforcement and limits driver distraction caused by mobile device usage. Our unobtrusive NOCELLtag™ creates the NOCELL Zone to disable unauthorized apps. The NOCELL app on the driver’s device interfaces with the NOCELLtag and removes distracting apps from the phone when company policy parameters are triggered.”
Simply put, NOCELL enables the removal of texting and social media apps and provides a phone-handling detection feature with alerting capabilities.
Like many polarizing issues in our society today, we have laws, citations, criminal charges, and monetary consequences in place already to prohibit unlawful activity. Gun violence, drug use, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, speeding, hours of service infractions, equipment violations, and other unlawful notions are already illegal, and with societal law in place, we should be able to assume that people won’t break those laws because our society doesn’t allow it. We all know that’s not what happens. People always push and test the limits – who doesn’t drive a couple of miles per hour over the speed limit? Who hasn’t had a beer and then drove their vehicle? I’m not saying any of this is right, but we know it happens. And people text and drive. And play around on social media while driving. This is exceptionally prevalent with commercial drivers. I see it every single day.
There are already substantial fines and penalties in place if a commercial driver is caught talking on the phone with the phone to their ear or texting or other interactive communications while driving. Despite fines of up to $2,750 per offense, like I said, I see drivers doing these things every single day. I've even seen commercial drivers watching movies or sporting events on their phones while driving.
The problem is that law enforcement personnel can't really see them doing it – truck drivers sit up too high for a police officer in a Dodge Charger or even a Chevrolet Tahoe to see the phone in the driver’s hand. Other truck drivers see it, though – I know I do. And unfortunately, drivers are still texting and performing extended interfacing with social media and things like that while driving and they're putting themselves at risk, along with your company's reputation, and of course the truck, trailer, and cargo. And the motoring public, in general.
This product allows a driver to talk on the phone using a Bluetooth earpiece or headset. It allows them to use talk to text. They can listen to music or their favorite podcast. They just can’t handle and interact with their phone by picking it up and inputting words or numbers with their fingers while driving. They can’t update their Facebook status. They can’t apply for a job on LinkedIn. If their truck stops, they can do all of those things – they just can’t do them while driving.
As a former terminal manager and safety manager, I can already hear all of the complaints about intrusions of privacy and wanting to place an app on my phone.
A driver would complain that this application and service would prevent them from receiving an emergency call. No, it won’t. You can call people and receive calls as normal.
A driver would complain that it would prohibit them from texting. No, it won’t. Pull over into a rest area or truck stop and text to your heart’s content.
You just can’t do it while you’re driving – which is what the federal law states on the matter, as well as most state laws.
I very strongly believe that a fleet equipped with NoCell is easily 75-100% safer than without, just based on what I see on the road every day. I’m on the road with thousands of trucks per day, and come in close proximity with several hundred – easily more than half of those drivers are using their phone in a manner prohibited by state and federal laws. And company policies. Company policies that would have previously been unenforceable without a police citation or a documented crash where phone usage contributed. You can’t watch every driver in your fleet 24/7, regardless of your camera technology. This system eliminates the possibility of a distraction. Without the distraction, the crash doesn’t happen.
One other factor: One of the first things I look at in a case was the cell phone usage of the driver at the time of the crash. This system will exonerate your driver and your company if they weren’t using their phone (by hand) at the time of the incident. It would also ease the company’s liability to a degree if they were using their phone, and your truck or other communication didn’t distract the driver. The driver would have chosen to violate company policy and disregard alerts – essentially assuming primary responsibility for the crash.
There will always be wrecks, crashes, and collisions, so I won’t be putting myself out of work as an expert witness in these cases by endorsing NoCell. I do wonder, though, how many of those incidents and events could have been prevented if a driver’s company was using this technology.
I also wonder how much their insurance rates would have dropped, also, since at least one major insurance carrier (Nationwide) has teamed with NoCell, obviously recognizing the value and savings brough forward by limiting distracted driving.