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Hand-Held Cell Phone Ban for Truckers Now In Effect


Update: The DOT’s revised ruling on hand-held cell phone use for commercial carriers went into effect this week. CDL Life encourages you to contact your fleet’s logistics management for details regarding violation parameters and fine structures. The basic fine structure is outlined below if you wish to review it. Otherwise, you can download the FMCSA’s original press release about the ruling here. It’s in PDF format, so make sure you have the plugin to open it through your browser or mobile phone.

Why Did the DOT Create and Pass a Hand Held Cell Phone Ban?

State and federal office holders began realizing how serious cell phones were in contributing to driver distraction after reading a series of 2010 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports (NHTSA) that compiled some unsettling statistics.

  • More than 500,000 commuters were injured in accidents caused by distracted drivers in 2009.
  • Nearly 6,000 drivers died from an incident involving a distracted driver.
  •  Drivers are 23 times as likely to cause an incident (including impacts) while texting
  • Driving while using a mobile device reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%.

Because of statistics like these, the DOT signed a final rule on hand-held cell phone use for commercial truckers into law in November 2011.  It will go into effect January 3, 2012.

FMCSA Fine Structure for 75 FR 80014

  • Commercial truck drivers violating restrictions in the hand-held cell phone ruling will incur a maximum federal penalty of up to $2,750 for each offense.
  • After a truck driver’s second offense, the FMCSA has the right to order a disqualification or suspension of the driver’s CDL.
  • Transportation companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving will face a maximum penalty of $11,000.
  • The DOT estimates that 4 million commercial truckers will be affected by this final ruling.

How does the DOT and the FMCSA propose to enforce this ruling?

While the hand-held cell phone ban is a federal program uniting interstate regulations for the transportation industry, it’s up to local and state authorities to enforce the ruling. While there have been some successful pilot programs completed in states like Connecticut and New York, each state has varying levels of resources to put toward enforcement.

Proponents direct commercial carriers to review results of high visibility enforcement programs. These initial programs are similar in nature to federal safety belt laws, where officers of the law visually observe compliance and make decisions based on whether the violation is primary or secondary. A primary violation classification allow officers to detain drivers and issue tickets based on the violation alone. If they see you using a hand-held device while driving, they can issue a ticket. A secondary violation classification allows officers to issue tickets in addition to a detainable offense. If they pull you over for a primary violation, but notice you also using a hand-held device, they can issue a second ticket.

The high visibility enforcement programs directed at commuters proved statistically significant. This was especially apparent when combined with public service announcements and media campaigns.
What were the results of these pilot programs?

  • Once enacted in conjunction with public awareness media, hand-held cell phone use by drivers decreased 32% in the New York program.
  •  Within a similar amount of time and public awareness efforts, hand-held mobile device use in moving vehicles decreased 57% in Connecticut.

The conclusion? The performance of law enforcement agencies in both pilot programs exceeded all expectations. The reduction rates in cell-phone use by drivers also satisfied the research teams. These demonstration programs led the NHTSA to conclude that the high-visibility enforcement model can be effectively applied to distracted driving enforcement and that various law enforcement strategies can be used to observe and ticket cell phone and texting violations.

You can find out more about what the laws are from state to state, and some of the research behind these new laws here. We will try and follow up this article with another review outlining exceptions to specifics, such as emergency calls, the differences in regulations for long haul truckers and local route drivers, and more.

 CDL Life would like to hear any thoughts on the final ruling of the hand-held cell phone ban before it goes into effect January 3rd, 2012. Does it make you feel safer on the road? Is it just more regulatory annoyance? Speak your mind.

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