Handheld Phone Ban for Commercial Drivers to Improve Safety?

While cell phones can be necessary for travel, particularly long distance travel, studies have shown that their use while driving can be dangerous. This is especially true for commercial drivers, who operate large vehicles that can pose a greater risk of injury or death when involved in accidents with passenger vehicles. Commercial drivers are three times as likely to be a part of an accident because of a distraction and are six times as likely to be involved in a crash when dialing a handheld phone.

But, as of January 3, 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) banned commercial motor vehicle drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. Commercial motor vehicle drivers include drivers of trucks and buses. This ban affects approximately four million commercial drivers and should come as welcomed news to those who have been injured in a distracted driver accident.

What Does the Commercial Driver Cell Phone Ban Cover?

Commercial drivers are essentially banned from touching a phone while behind the wheel. Drivers may not reach for, dial or hold the actual phone.

Truck and bus drivers may still use their cell phones with a wired or wireless ear piece. Commercial drivers may also use the speakerphone function of a mobile phone. Any device that allows the driver to make phone calls without touching the actual phone are allowed.

Prohibiting the use of a cell phone behind the wheel of a commercial truck or bus follows the prior ban on texting while behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle. Texting while driving is still not allowed for commercial drivers.

This rule only applies to commercial drivers driving commercial vehicles. A commercial driver in his or her personal vehicle may use a mobile phone while behind the wheel if there is no state law against doing so.

FMSCA's Power to Regulate Commercial Drivers

Because the FMCSA is a federal agency, the rule covers only interstate commercial drivers and drivers who transport hazardous materials. Drivers employed by a state, county or city are exempt from this rule and are governed by the relevant state law.

Tow truck drivers must comply with the cell phone ban if his or her truck is considered a commercial motor vehicle involved in interstate commerce. One exception is made, however, for tow truck drivers who are responding to a police emergency.

Penalties For Violating The Commercial Cell Phone Ban

The potential penalties for violation include a monetary penalty of up to $2750 for each offense and the suspension of a driver's commercial driver's license (CDL). For companies that encourage or require drivers to violate the ban and use a phone while behind the wheel, a penalty of up to $11000 may be levied.

In addition to financial penalties and the potential loss of a CDL, violating the commercial driver cell phone ban creates a risk of serious injury and even death for others who share the road with a commercial truck or bus. If you've been injured by a distracted driver, a truck accident attorney in your area can explain your options.