Federal Government Issues Regulations on Cell Phone Use by Commercial Vehicle Drivers and Semi Truck Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a joint rule last year the prohibiting interstate truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating their vehicles. The FMCSA is charged with improving the safety of commercial vehicles and truck drivers through the promulgation of safety regulations. The new regulation is aimed at reducing the incidence of distracted driving among drivers of commercial vehicles and imposes serious penalties for non-compliance.

The rule prohibits drivers from “texting,” which under the rule means manually entering data into an electronic device; this includes reading or composing SMS text messages, emails, instant messages, accessing web pages or pressing more than one button to terminate the a voice call on a mobile phone.

The new rule also prohibits a CMV driver from reaching for or holding a mobile phone to start a voice phone call by pressing one more button. The phone does not prohibit the use of mobile phones, just reaching for or holding a device, or pressing multiple buttons. The rule does explain ways in which a CMV can use a cell phone while still complying with the rules, and provides the following examples:

  • Locate the device in a place where it can be operated by the driver while still being restrained by safety belts.
  • Using an earpiece or a speaker phone function.
  • Use one-touch or voice-activated features to initiate, answer, or terminate a phone call.

The penalties for violations of the new rule can be very severe, and include civil penalties of up to $2,750 as well as disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle for multiple offenses.  The law applies to companies that employ CMV drivers as well; the penalties for a motor carrier that allows its drivers to use hand held mobile devices could be subjected to civil penalties up to $11,000.

Distracted driving has been shown by recent studies as being extremely dangerous and the cause of many accidents. In research specific to CMV drivers, a study found that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (crash, near-crash, unintentional lane change, etc….) are almost 25% greater for CMV drivers who text than those who do not text. In addition, drivers who text while driving look away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which means that at 55 miles per hour they are traveling almost 100 yards while not looking at the road. If a driver dials a number while driving, he is six times more likely to be involved in a safety critical event.

It is clear that distracted driving is dangerous and can lead to serious injury or even death. If you have been involved in an accident due to another’s distracted driving, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. An experienced Coweta County truck accident attorney may be able to help. To schedule a free consultation, call Shane Smith Law at (980) 246-2656.

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