The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says safety must be a priority following new research that shows using a hands-free kit is as distracting as holding a mobile phone while driving.
A University of Sussex study found that conversations could cause the driver to use the part of the brain that normally watches the road to visually imagine their conversations, thus leading to a reduction in concentration and attention. Some campaigners are calling for a complete ban on mobile phone use in cars, citing the new research as proof that even hands-free calling is not safe.
FTA Deputy Chief Executive James Hookham said: “A lot of our members have policies that prohibit mobile phone use in lorry cabs or have zero tolerance to abuse – drivers will be dismissed if they break the law.
“But the nature of the transport industry means some operators need to stay in regular contact with their drivers, especially if they are making lots of deliveries during the day. Phones and telematics equipment are valuable tools, but safety is paramount. Essential phone conversations should be kept short and chatting should be discouraged.”
Mr Hookham said it was important for companies to have mobile phone safety policies in place and to ensure all employees are aware of them. He said Traffic Commissioners took a serious view of operators who were responsible for talking to their drivers on hand-held mobile phones.