Ban on Hand-Held Cell Phone Use for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) banned the use of hand-held mobile phones by drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) in January 2012. The rule prohibits commercial motor vehicle drivers from three basic actions:

  1. A driver is prohibited from holding a cell phone for a telephone call or other voice communications.
  2. A driver is prohibited from dialing a cell phone, answering a cell phone or ending a cell phone call by pressing more than one button (or touching the screen more than once).
  3. A driver is prohibited from reaching for a cell phone. Reaching is defined as any action that the driver cannot complete while the seat belt is buckled and the driver is in the normal driving position.

Another federal rule prohibits commercial motor vehicle drivers from texting while driving. To date, 41 states and the District of Columbia have enacted their own bans on text messaging for all drivers, not just CDL drivers. In addition, 11 states and D.C. prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Many of these states classify these infractions as “primary offenses.” This means an officer can cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone even if no other traffic offense takes place.

Violations of these rules have consequences for both drivers and motor carriers. Commercial motor vehicle drivers will face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for a first conviction. Additional penalties for subsequent violations include a 60-day disqualification if a driver is convicted of two violations of the rule, and a minimum 120-day disqualification for any additional convictions. States also will suspend a driver’s commercial driver’s license after two or more serious traffic violations. CSA violations for using a hand-held phone while operating a CMV are one of the highest weighted violations and directly impact a driver’s CSA ranking and the Company’s CSA Unsafe Driving score.

The above rulings were implemented based on FMCSA’s research that shows using a hand-held cell phone while driving can cause a commercial driver to take risks beyond those associated with using a hands-free mobile phone. The ban on hand-held cell phone use is in place so drivers can keep their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel and their head in the game when operating a CMV. The objective is to increase highway safety by reducing the chance of truck-related crashes, fatalities and injuries associated with distracted driving.

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