Regulations

WHEW! Massachusetts Operators Can Keep Talking Hands-Free

LCT Staff
Posted on July 21, 2010

ABOUT PHOTO: NELA President Mike Pazzaneze, immediate past NELA president Larry White, and NELA executive director Rick Szilagyi traveled to the Massachusetts State House several times in the last few months to educate legislators on the harmful effects of a proposed ban on two-way wireless communications by commercial drivers.

SUMMARY: NELA roots out some last-minute language in a bill that would have constricted the ability of operators to communicate behind the wheel.

DURHAM, N.H. — Some quick action by the NEW ENGLAND LIVERY ASSOCIATION recently warded off legislation that would have hurt operators by banning their right to use wireless two-way communications.

NELA was able to help modify language used in the final draft of Massachusetts’ new Safe Driving Legislation signed by Gov. Deval Patrick on July 2. A ban on two-way communications in all commercial vehicles in Massachusetts would have rippled throughout New England, affecting businesses in neighboring states and potentially motivating other legislatures to pass similar strict laws.

While such legislation would have harmed several other industries, NELA was the first to react to the issue and meet with legislators.

NELA President Mike Pazzaneze and other association officers at first were confident that the legislation intended to ban texting-while-driving, a position NELA and other industry associations such as the NLA strongly support.

Initial drafts and modifications of bills from the House and the Senate would not have affected the chauffeured transportation industry. Most reputable operators prohibit their chauffeurs from texting and talking on hand-held devices anyway as a matter of safety and good customer service.

But NELA member Steve Skiffington, regional vice president of Veolia Transportation Services, based in Lombard, Ill with operations in New England, reviewed another new modification that included language that would have banned the use of any two-way wireless communication devices in all commercial vehicles.

Rick Szilagyi, NELA’s executive director, immediately contacted the offices of Sen. Steven A. Baddour, D-First Essex, and Rep. Joseph F. Wagner, D-Eighth Hampden, and four members of the bill’s Conference Committee to set up meetings. Szilagyi enlisted help from Al LaGasse, CEO of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA), who provided background information assembled at the national level to help NELA design its presentations to the legislators.

Pazzaneze, Szilagyi, and immediate past NELA president Larry White then traveled to the Massachusetts State House several times to present the information showing how much a ban on wireless two-way communications would hurt the ground transportation industry overall.

Baddour, Wagner and the committee chairs welcomed the data and comments presented by the NELA representatives, Pazzaneze said.

When lawmakers realized how the proposed legislation would hurt taxis, limousines, trucks, commercial vehicles, shuttles and other transportation industries, the committee deliberated for many hours and revised the proposal to remove the language what would have banned all two-way wireless communication in commercial vehicles.

GOV. PATRICK SIGNS LEGISLATION

NELA Information: Rick Szilagyi, executive director, (866) 736-6352; NEW ENGLAND LIVERY ASSOCIATION WEB SITE

Source: NELA

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