The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to ban interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.
The proposed rule would prohibit commercial drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle.
“Every time a commercial truck or bus driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cell phone, even for a few seconds, the driver places everyone around them at risk,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. “This proposed rule will go a long way toward keeping a driver’s full attention focused on the road.”
Drivers who violate the 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. About four million interstate commercial drivers would be affected by this proposal.
The ban would strengthen existing rules from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which banned texting while operating a commercial motor vehicle in September. The FMCSA is providing 60 days for the public to comment on the rulemaking. The comment period begins once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register.
Research from the FMCSA shows that commercial drivers reaching for an object like a cell phone while driving are three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event. Drivers dialing a hand-held cell phone while driving increase their risk by six times.
Many companies, including UPS, Covenant Transport, and Wal-Mart, already have company policies in place banning their drivers from using hand-held phones. In September 2010, FMCSA issued a regulation banning text messaging while operating a commercial motor vehicle.
Nearly 5,500 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver last year, and distraction-related fatalities represented 16 percent of overall traffic fatalities in 2009, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research.
Filed Under: Industry regulations