As a truck driver, there are many rules for you to keep track of. There’s one that was established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that’s especially important for you to know. The FMCSA has prohibited the use of handheld cell phones by CMV drivers – drivers of semi trucks, box trucks, flatbeds, and other trucks. And there are pretty severe consequences for breaking this law. We’ll explain what you need to know about the cell phone ban, and we’ll go over why it’s important to adhere to it.
What does the cell phone can prohibit?
The handheld cell phone ban applies to holding a phone, dialing a phone, and texting.
So, how are mobile phone use and texting defined by the ban? Mobile phone use means reaching for a device in a way that takes the driver out of a seated driving position, dialing a phone by pressing more than one button, or using one hand to hold the cellular device to make a call. Texting is defined as entering text into an electronic device or reading text on a screen. That includes texting, email, IM, or basically anything else that involves text.
The ban applies when a driver is operating a CMV on a roadway. That includes when the vehicle is moving, when the vehicle is stopped in traffic, when the truck is stopped at a light, and when the truck is stopped due to any other delay. Basically, if your truck is on the road and you’re not pulled over, the ban applies.
Why did the ban come to be?
The Department of Transportation (DOT) established the ban on handheld cell phones for CMV drivers because distracted driving is highly dangerous both for the CMV driver and the other drivers on the road. According to the FMCSA the risk of being involved in a safety-critical event like a crash, near-crash, or unintentional lane departure is six times higher for a driver who is dialing a phone and 23 times higher for someone who is texting.
Let’s reinforce those numbers with some more numbers. Let’s say that a driver sending a text takes their eyes off the road for about 4.6 seconds. A truck traveling at 50 miles per hour can go 337 feet in that time – that’s over the length of a football field. Dialing a call takes your attention off the road for about 3.8 seconds, and a truck going 50 miles per hour can cover about 279 feet in that time.
So. Dialing a call or sending a text is very much like driving down the street or highway blindfolded for the length of a football field.
What are the consequences of breaking the handheld cellphone rule?
There are plenty of potential consequences of not adhering to the cell phone ban. Both the driver and the business can face serious repercussions.
- Fines of $2,750 for the driver
- Fines of $11,000 for businesses that allow or require drivers to use a handheld phone or text while driving
- Driver disqualification by the FMCSA or the state (for multiple offenses)
- Getting the maximum severity of penalty on the Safety Measurement System (SMS)
How can I use a phone and be within the law?
To adhere to the law, you should…
- Use a hands-free earpiece or speaker
- Use voice-activated features to start, answer, or end a call
- Pull over safely, stop the truck, and make the call
However, talking on the phone using a hands-free device is still not ideal. Conversation can take your attention off the road and slow your reaction time. If you’re talking on the phone with a hands-free system, try to keep your conversation brief.
The handheld cell phone ban is a big deal. Distracted driving is a serious problem, and it’s important to put the phone away and keep your full attention on the road.
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