DOT Prohibits the Use of Hand-Held Cellular Devices for CMV Drivers

The Department of Transportation (DOT) published a Final Rule restricting the use of hand-held mobile phones for drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV). Effective January 2012, CMV (as defined in Part 390) drivers – are prohibited from using hand–held mobile devices while driving. This rule prohibits all push-to–talk functional phones, but hand–free devices such as mobile phones with a speaker phone option and one-touch dialing are permissible.

The Rule also prohibits Motor Carriers (employers) from allowing or requiring drivers to use a hand-held mobile device while driving. The employer is held responsible for employee violations if the employee is acting on behalf of the employer and/or under the employer’s direction.

 The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed this Rule to reduce accidents on national highways caused by distracted CMV drivers. Prior to the creation of the final Rule, the FMCSA banned the use of text messaging by commercial truck and bus drivers in September 2010. The PHMSA followed with its own ruling in February 2011 to ban the use of text messaging by intrastate hazardous materials drivers. The agencies developed a joint-initiative to ban hand-held mobile devices based on research from the FMCSA indicating commercial drivers using hand-held cell phones are more at risk for crashes than drivers using hand-free devices.

 The research indicated commercial drivers reaching for objects such as cellular devices are three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other accidental event; and commercial drivers using the dialing feature on cell phones are six times more likely to be involved in a crash or other accidental event.

Penalties: Commercial drivers found using hand-held cellular devices are subject to federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification from operating a motor vehicle for multiple offenses. Motor Carriers who violate cell phone restriction laws can face civil penalties totaling up to $11,000.

Exceptions to the rule include usage of hand-held phones in case of emergencies and contacting law enforcement. Drivers may also use a hand- held device when the vehicle is moved to the side or off the highway and halted in a location where it can remain stationary.

What do you think about this regulation? How do you think it will impact your business?

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