DOT Issues the Final Ruling: Banning Cell Phone Use

DOT Issues a Final Ruling Banning Cell Phone Use

This past January, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) issued a final ruling restricting the use of mobile telephones by interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers. Under the new set of regulations, drivers are not permitted to reach for, dial or answer a mobile phone while on the road. The new ruling, while greatly restricting mobile phone use, does not affect the use of hands free devices. Tools like CB Radios, GPS and Fleet Management systems are also being excluded from the ban.

The FMCSA’s ruling allows drivers to either answer or terminate a call by pushing the button on a hands-free headset or mobile phone.  These actions are permissible under FMCSA guidelines, as long as they do not take the driver’s attention from the road.  Emergency calls made by drivers, such as those to the police and fire departments are exempt from being governed by FMCSA regulations.

If a driver is found to be in violation of these rules twice within a three-year period, a 60 day CDL disqualification will follow. If a third violation is recorded during the same three- year period, the penalty doubles to a 120 day suspension of a driver’s CDL. Civil penalties and fines of up to $3,000 will be assessed to repeat offenders along with a CDL suspension.

Motor Carrier companies are also held liable within these new guidelines, meaning that a driver’s actions can now be attributed directly to his or her employer. The new ruling disregards whether or not a company permits certain actions on the part of its drivers, and is concerned instead with whether or not a violation occurred while company business was being carried out. If so, the motor carrier company found to be in violation of the rule could face up to $11,000 in penalties.

Approximately 4 million drivers nationwide will be impacted by the final FMCSA ruling. While many large carrier companies nationwide have similar regulations in place, this new set of rules seeks to create a greater sense of awareness for all commercial vehicle drivers.