Truckers, Cell Phones, and the Long Highway

As of January 3, 2012, the Department of Transportation adopted a new rule restricting use of hand-held mobile phones and devices by interstate commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers – or truck drivers as we more usually call them.  Intrastate hazardous materials drivers are also covered.  Specifically, the rule says no reaching for or holding mobile phones, and no pushing more than one button to operate phones while driving a commercial motor vehicle.

CMV drivers are not cut off from civilization as we know it if they follow the new regulation – they can still connect to the wide world through mobile phones and devices.  In short, drivers may initiate, answer, or terminate calls:

  1. On a device within their reach without taking their eyes off the road  – securely within    reach at the control panel, not loose in the driver compartment or sleeper cabin
  2. With the push of a single button
  3. Without holding a device in their hand – requiring either a headset, earpiece or speaker      phone instead

Oddly, the rule did not cover the operation of either two-way or CB radios, so their use is permitted even though drivers hold the device and push a button more than once.  The Push-To-Talk program on its mobile device is addressed and it is not allowed.  The mobile device is like a phone and Push-To-Talk requires multiple button pushes, prohibited by the rule.

The Department of Transportation amended both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA) regulations and Hazardous Materials regulations with this rule.  As an employer, your responsibility is to inform and train your drivers.  Policy regarding the new regulation should be set and enforced.  Get signed verification from your staff that they have read and understood the new rule and your new policy saying, “Do it!”

Why do you care – other than the fact that you’re a responsible person who would prefer public and property healthy and whole?  Legally, the FMCSA holds employers accountable for the actions of their drivers, whether or not you sanction such actions, if employees are doing their job or acting on an employer’s behalf when violations occur.

Exemptions

Hand-held cell phone use by drivers is allowed for emergency purposes and for contacting law enforcement.

Penalties

Penalties include drivers losing licenses and companies paying fines big enough to notice. 

State Requirement

States are required to adopt the regulations by 2015.  Once states adopt the federal regulatory language, the rule is applicable to intrastate non-hazmat CMV drivers.

So, to bring back a phrase from the past, “put the petal to the metal and keep on trucking.”

Cally Graves is an Industry Liaison between business, workforce, and education working with Workforce Solutions. She has 35 years of experience in workforce development, primarily working with employers in Houston, Texas and the Gulf Coast region.



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