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.

Take the pledge

Thousands are injured or die each year because people continue to use their cell phones while driving. Join the National Safety Council this month in urging those you care about to:

  • Stop using cell phones while driving
  • Understand the dangers of the cognitive distraction to the brain
  • Inform people who call you while driving that you’d be happy to continue the conversation once they have reached their destination
  • Tell others about the dangers of cell phone distracted driving No phone call is worth a life. Take the pledge to drive cell free.

For more information, click here.

Taking it Seriously

The use of a cell phone while driving is dangerous. We know the laws and consistently hear the warnings. The message has become as prolific as the warnings against drinking and driving.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s drinking and driving began to be recognized and taken more seriously. With that came increased awareness and a call to action from organizations like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) and the public started to get the message. This led to designated drivers, school-sponsored post-prom parties and the drinking age being raised to 21 in most states in the country. Over the last thirty years, the number of drunken driving fatalities has been significantly reduced according to the CDC. While drinking and driving is by no means a thing of the past, the message has made an impact.

Now that cell phones are indispensable accessories in our daily lives, they pose another danger that has gained momentum. Phones with added features such as email, cameras and texting have become more irresistible as we find ourselves stuck behind the wheel on our commutes. Calling home, texting a friend or checking an email while at a stop light isn’t likely to result in a collision, but once the vehicle is in motion, the dynamic quickly changes.

While 60 mph is generally considered on the slow side for interstate driving, a vehicle traveling that speed can cover 88 feet in a single second. That’s nearly a third of a football field. Taking a second to check an email can equal 88 feet of unseen roadway. One second can turn into three or four and then the danger becomes multiplied.

This poses a serious risk for the safety of the motoring public so it is important to keep the message coming. If the vehicle is in motion, the phone should not be in use. It takes real commitment and constant education of the public. It also unfortunately takes time to see improvement. But if history is any indication, it could be well worth it.

Copyright 2017 Werner Enterprises

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