The US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a final rule that restricts the use of hand-held mobile telephones by interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers (CMV) and interstate hazmat drivers beginning January 3, 2012. The rule does not restrict or prohibit the use of hands free devices. The rule does not currently apply to CMV drivers that do not cross state lines; however, states are required to adopt the requirements within three years as a condition for continuing to receive Federal Motor Carrier Safety Assistance grants.
The final rule prohibits CMV drivers from holding, dialing, or reaching for a hand-held cellular phone, including push to talk functions. The definition of dialing allows the driver to initiate, answer, or terminate a call by touching a single button on a mobile telephone or on a headset. The definition of reaching requires that the hands free device be in “close proximity” to the driver.
CMV drivers who are convicted of a hand-held cell violation twice within a three year period will be disqualified from driving for 60 days. Drivers convicted of a third violation within three years, will be disqualified from driving for 120 days. Violations are also subject federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 per violation. Motor carriers (employers) that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while operating a CMV face a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 per violation. Employers are responsible for the action of their drivers regardless of whether or not such actions are sanctioned.
Here is a link to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about this new federal rule.