Highways are becoming more and more crowded, turning rush hour into more of a slow crawl. You’re sitting in your car, waiting to get home, when you glance over and see the semi driver next to you holding his hand up. His eyes are on the road, but only one hand is on the wheel—and the other is holding a cell phone. Is it legal for truckers to talk and drive, or could the trucker be putting everyone around him at risk of a tragic truck accident?
Federal Cellphone and Texting Laws for Truckers
In order to prevent unnecessary distractions, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a rule prohibiting the use of hand-held cell phones for all commercial truck drivers. A closer look at the new regulations can help you understand whether or not the trucker who caused your accident was in violation of the law:
- Who is affected? All interstate truck drivers and intrastate hazmat truck drivers with commercial driver’s licenses (CDL).
- What is the law? As of 2012, CDL drivers are not allowed to hold, dial, or even reach for a hand-held cell phone. Drivers are also prohibited from using “push-to-talk” functions, such as dictating a text or using speech commands. Truck and bus drivers may only use handheld cell phones if their vehicle is on the side of the road or highway and the vehicle remains stationary throughout the use of the phone.
- What about texting? All CDL drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. This includes reading texts, sending messages, sending or receiving e-mails, using an instant messaging service, accessing a web page, opening or operating mobile applications, or any manual entering of letters and numbers into an electronic device.
- What are the penalties? FMCSA regulations allow both the driver and the trucking company to be held liable for violations of the cellphone use rule. Truckers can face federal civil penalties up to $2,700 for each violation, and may have their CDL suspended after two or more traffic violations. Any commercial transportation company that permits drivers to use hand-held cell phones can face penalties up to $11,000.
- What are truckers allowed to do? A trucker is permitted to locate a mobile phone (as long as he remains properly restrained by a safety belt) while driving. He may also talk on the phone using the speaker function or by using an earpiece or similar hands-free device. However, drivers cannot press more than a single button to begin or end a call (even if they are using a hands-free device).
While the current rules do not include smaller trucks (such as delivery vehicles), any driver of a commercial vehicle who is distracted behind the wheel is a potential danger to others. If you suspect that the truck driver who was involved in your truck accident was on his cellphone, our experienced truck crash attorneys can help you get the justice and compensation you deserve. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111.
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