Understanding Truck Driver Behavior with Respect to Cell Phone Use and Vehicle Operation

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Transportation Research: Part F

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Distracted driving continues to pose threats to transportation safety as it impairs driver performance and increases crash risk. In recent years, cell phone use while driving has become the primary research interest regarding distracted driving. However, the majority of this research has focused on the prevalence and risks of such behavior in passenger car drivers and few have investigated its effect on the performance of drivers of large trucks. Due to the inherent job responsibilities, truck drivers are more susceptible to use a cell phone, or other communication devices (e.g., CB radio), while driving to coordinate delivery logistics. The purpose of this study is to further understand distracted driving in the context of large trucks by identifying the factors that contribute to large truck drivers’ decision to report using a cell phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle. Through survey data collected in 2017 from drivers of large trucks who either pick-up or deliver goods in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, British Columbia), a random parameters binary logit model is used to identify these factors. Of the 515 respondents, 234 (45%) indicated that they use a cell phone while driving. Through the random parameters binary logit model, unobserved heterogeneity is captured, and specific driver behaviors, demographic, work, temporal, and management characteristics are found to affect the likelihood of truck drivers reporting to use their cell phone while driving. Of particular interest, are carrier management characteristics and safety training. Carriers who manage fatigue by imposing schedules to make it easier to take breaks result in a decrease in probability of drivers reporting cell phone use, while carriers who restrict the number of hours worked decreased the probability of reporting cell phone use for the majority of drivers. In addition, having participated in road safety driving resulted in a decrease in probability of reporting cell phone use for the majority of drivers. Such findings have the potential to aid government agencies and commercial motor vehicle carriers in understanding the factors influencing cell phone use while driving among truck drivers. Understanding these motives can aid in the development of programs and policy initiatives that are intended to mitigate distracted driving among truck drivers.


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