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FMCSA proposes rule to ban hand-held cell phone use by commercial drivers

December 22nd, 2010  |  Lucas Otto

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a proposed regulation that would specifically prohibit interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle. The rulemaking, which was recently published in the Federal Register, is part of the agency’s ongoing campaign to end the practice of “distracted driving.”

The proposed FMCSA rule would prohibit commercial drivers from reaching for, holding, or dialing a cell phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle. Drivers who violate these restrictions would face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification of their commercial driver’s license (CDL) for multiple offenses. Additionally, states would suspend a driver’s CDL after two or more violations of any state law on hand-held cell phone use. Motor carriers that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving would face a maximum penalty of $11,000. Approximately four million interstate commercial drivers would be affected by this proposal.

Commercial drivers reaching for an object, such as a cell phone, while driving are three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event, according to FMCSA research. Drivers dialing a hand-held cell phone while driving increase their risk by six times. “Implementation of this proposal would help make our roads safer and target a leading cause of distracted driving,” said FMCSA administrator Anne S. Ferro. In September 2010, FMCSA issued a regulation banning text messaging while operating a commercial motor vehicle. “We are committed to using every resource at our disposal to ensure commercial drivers and vehicles are operating safely at all times,” Ferro added.

Many of the largest carriers, such as UPS, Covenant Transport, and Wal-Mart, already have company policies in place banning their drivers from using hand-held phones, notes FMCSA.

FMCSA is providing 60 days for the public to comment on this rulemaking once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register.