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FMCSA Announces Final Rule Banning Trucker Cell Phone Use

The United States Department of Transportation announced a new final rule banning cell phone use by interstate truckers earlier this week. The Department of Transportation enacted the rule as a part of its concerted effort to decrease Missouri distracted driving truck accidents. The rule prohibiting cell phone during the operation of a large truck or bus was proposed in 2010. Now the rule is law. Two segments of the federal Department of Transportation – the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration – are promulgating the rule. This new rule will work in conjunction with the final rule banning texting while driving to decrease Missouri truck accidents caused by distracted driving.

The new rule prohibits interstate truck drivers and bus drivers from using hand-held cellular devices during the operation of their vehicles. The new rule creates penalties for truck drivers who use a cellular phone during vehicle operation. Federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 will be imposed on truck drivers who violate the rule. Multiple violations will disqualify a truck driver from operating a commercial motor vehicle across state lanes. Trucking companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones face stiff penalties as well. Those trucking companies may face penalties up to $11,000. The FMCSA estimates that the new rule will affect approximately 4 million commercial drivers.

The FMCSA specifically banned hand-held cell phones because their use involves a number of risky, distracting behaviors. Research indicates that holding a conversation while driving saps a driver’s attention from the road. Hand-held devices are riskier than hands-free cell phones, because they require distracting activities such as searching for the phone, reaching for the phone, and dialing. According to the FMCSA’s news release, “[d]ialing a hand-held cell phone makes it six times more likely that commercial drivers will be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event.”

Missouri distracted driver truck accidents are a major threat to public safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 5,000 people died in distracted driver accidents in 2009. More than half a million people were injured in distracted driving accidents that same year. Distracted driving accidents account for 16% of traffic fatalities nationwide.