SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A federal safety agency says truck drivers shouldn't be using cell phones behind the wheel- at all.
The recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board comes a year after a truck driver on his phone caused a crash that killed 11 people on a Kentucky interstate.
Right now it's just a recommendation. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration would still have to adopt it.
In Missouri and 34 other states commercial truck drivers are already prohibited from texting behind the wheel, but this ban would go much further.
John Fobes is in the driver's seat of a pretty powerful weapon.
"This is really not a truck- this is an 80,000 pound missile."
He'll gladly tell you why, but usually not while he's driving.
"If I didn't do this literally every day, take students out here, we wouldn't be talking," Fobes explains.
That's because even on this practice course, the CDL instructor with more than two decades of trucking under his belt, says this conversation is distracting.
That's why fobes doesn't use a cell phone either but, he says, of others do. The NTSB is recommending they don't.
"Of course everybody has cell phones but they're using headsets," says Prime Inc.'s Director of Safety Don Lacy.
While Springfield-based Prime tells its drivers to keep the driving and talking to a minimum, Lacy says it's tough to regulate. But the company would be comfortable with government regulation in that area.
"A truck driver will make as many as 100 decisions in a single mile," says Lacy.
"I have read a report that stated the only industry that makes more decisions in a day than a truck driver was an air traffic controller," seconds Fobes.
Both say the job is already hard enough without a cell phone.
According to Fobes if a semi-truck is traveling between 55 and 60 miles per hour it takes a minimum of 400 feet to stop, and that's after the driver has taken a second and a half to analyze the emergent situation and engage the brakes.
That's why Fobes always keeps two hands on the wheel and a quiet cab. He says as a result: "I've gone about 2 and half million miles accident-free." (22:40)
"Common sense should tell you when you're dealing with people's lives you need to pay a little bit more attention, but no amount of legislation is going to correct that," he concludes.
We talked to about a dozen truck drivers at the TA Travel Center off I-44 near Strafford Tuesday.
About half say they never use cell phones while driving, half say they use hands-free devices, and all say they support a ban of- at least- handheld phones while driving.
Prime tells us the trucking industry's safety record is the best its been in its history and has been steadily improving the last couple of years.