Ruling bans handheld phones for truckers Jan. 3

Jill Dunn | December 02, 2011

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has released a final rule that will allow commercial drivers to continue hands-free cell phone use, but will bar operating handheld cell phones while driving.

The new rule still will permit truck and bus drivers to use handheld cells after they have moved their vehicles to the side of or off of a highway or have stopped where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration joint rule will become effective Jan. 3.

Violators will face a maximum civil penalty of $2,750 for each offense. CDL holders will be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for multiple offenses and states will suspend CDLs after two or more serious traffic violations.

Truck and bus companies that allow drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving will face a maximum penalty of $11,000.

FMCSA research shows using a handheld cell phone while driving requires “several risky steps” beyond what is required for a hands-free mobile phone. Dialing a hand-held cell phone increases the crash-risk for commercial drivers six-fold, it stated.

Last year, the agency issued a final rule banning commercial drivers from text messaging while operating trucks or buses. Earlier this year, the PHMSA published a companion final rule barring texting by intrastate hazardous materials drivers.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association had asked the agency why other risky activities contributing to driver distraction were not addressed in the rule. The FMCSA noted it is considering an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to seek public comment on the extent further regulatory is needed to address other in-cab electronic devices that may result in distracted driving.

However, the agency disagreed with OOIDA’s assertion that the new regulation constituted a “search” or “seizure” to which the Fourth Amendment protection applies.

The American Trucking Associations has supported the handheld ban, while strongly opposing barring on hands-free devices. The ATA supports barring texting and handheld cell use for all motorists to reduce distracted driving.

The association had asked that the word “knowingly” be inserted after “no motor carrier shall” and before “allow or require its drivers to use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving a CMV.”


The FMCSA acknowledges that some drivers will violate company policy, but stated the carrier remains “responsible for the actions of its drivers.”


  • Frank Holder

    If Ray LaHood would ride with a truck driver for just ONE day, he MIGHT realize that it’s not merely handhelds that cause most of the crashes, but the idiots in the four wheelers that don’t respect ANYONE, let alone truck drivers that cause most of the accidents and deaths. I suppose the next step is to take away the CB radios and then not allow us to speak to our wives in the cab as long as the truck is moving. Think not?

  • jason keddington

    lets take the computer monitors out of the police cruisers while we’re at it. How much attention does that take from the road when your reading updates from head quarters?

  • Lannie Martin

    If an accident happens involving a commercial vehicle its the commercial vehicles fault always, right?

  • http://overdriveonline.com/channel19 tdills

    We like to think not, of course, but sadly it’s often the case, Lannie, if erroneously, from the inspector’s (and lawyer’s) point of view.

  • Patrick Finney

    Another fix for something that wasn’t a problem. I agree with the others, what is next the am/fm, straps to keep our heads from turning of course the cb has to go

  • Dick Williams

    I have only one problem with the ruling, I think it should apply to ALL drivers from motorcycles up to big rigs. The Houston news aired a clip of a motorcycle officer texting while driving down the highway in traffic. I’ve been using a hands free device for years and dont understand why anyone wouldn’t

  • Webb Kline

    Folks, this isn’t about safety any more than EOBR’s are about safety. This is Big Trucking lobbyists bribing the hand of politicians to do all they can to eliminate competition from small trucking businesses. Big companies have satellites, small companies don’t. Is it any safer running down the road texting on a Qualcomm? Of course not. It’s more dangerous. Is someone who drives for a living and who talks on a cell phone less dangerous than a 16 year old driving down the road texting away? Of course not. Of course you can use a hands free device, but you still have to make the phone call. Personally, I think all texting should be disabled when all vehicles are in motion, via GPS. THey could do that, but Verizon would lose money if they did that. I had a Verizon Wireless sales person meet with us and try to sell us EOBR’s, saying they’ll be mandatory and we may as well get on board now. According to FMCSA website stats, there are approximately .0046 deaths per 100 million miles of vehicle travel as a result of tired truck drivers. Out of that .0046 deaths, about 1/6th of them involved a tired trucker who was in HOS violation. And that’s good reason to force putting $5200 EOBR’s in every truck, yet allow kids to continue down the highway texting away? Do the math. We’re being eliminated by Big Trucking interests. This isn’t even remotely about safety.

  • Webb Kline

    Forgot to mention that you can find all of those stats on one page of the FMCSA site, but if you put all of their numbers together, you will see that even they know that their safety claims about tired truckers and cell phone-using truckers is totally bogus.

  • Jim Reul

    This is not about safety but job creation. They do everything they can to force everybody to spend money. Wouldn’t you like to have stock in companies that make headsets now? Then they will create a bunch of Gov’t jobs for education and enforcement.

  • Craig Hansen

    Just another case of being treated as second class Americans. A 16 year old with no appreciable driving experience can talk, text, and surf the internet while driving. But with my 32 years of experience as a professional driver I have somehow lost the ability to drive safely when using a cell phone. Since I run my entire business by cell phone and have no dispatcher etc, I will now be forced to go with the “airport ground control” headset or pull over. Boy doesn’t that invoke safety, a big rig pulling off the shoulder onto a major highway ! The F*$cking idiots who came up with this cure to a non exisitent problem need to find better ways to spend their time or perhaps get a real job driving a big rig before forcing their infinite wisdom upon those of us who actually drive for a living!
    I am so sick of the big, wise, know it all office types who wear their neck ties so tight that it stops the flow of blood to the brain telling me how I can or cannot run my business. I have an good safety record because I have common sense and know how to keep myself from going postal on all the damn fools in the four wheelers for all the stunt dring within 10 feet of my front bumper. It is a proven FACT that we (professional drivers) are much safer and more attentive than the average driver of a four wheeler yet the laws always come down on us alone. I think it about time that all drivers (yes, even four wheelers) get retested every 5 years,(if Granny can’t go over 30 MPH on the highway she needs a taxi) have all the same laws apply to all of us, and most of all reward common courtesy instead of calling each other number 1 with a middle finger. Do you really think the schmuck who pushed this law will live by it, it only applies to us second class citizens with a CDL. Thanks for letting me rant since my efforts fall on deaf ears with my Congressman(guess I don’t have enough PAC money)

  • Craig Hansen

    PS The interstate highways were originally built to haul freight in case of war by then President Dwight Eisenhower, so yes that restricted hammer lane really in reality is for me and my big rig. Folks I want to be kind to all and drive with courtesy but you must return a little courtesy to me too. So far all I see is more choking regulations on both me and my truck. I can be the nicest guy in the world, but it sure is tough when common sense and common courtesy have all but been declred dead and buried. BE GOOD TO EACH OTHER OUT THERE.

  • keith kincaid

    They dont want to fix any problems,in reality it is just another way to pander to the people calling for safer highways,kinda like trying to put out a house fire by planting a bush in the yard!

  • Gerald Peters

    I don’t have any problem with the ruling except it should apply to every motor vehicle – including police vehicles. Hands free talking is the way to go.

  • Thomas Duncan

    H0W CAN THE GOVT. CONTINUE TO PASS LAWS THAT ONLY APPLY TO CERTAIN GROUPS AND NOT TO EVERYONE AND STILL CALL IT CONSTITUTIONAL?LAWS DO NOT STOP THIS,EDUCATION DOES.
    THEY HAVE GOT EVERYONE TAUGHT THAT EVERYONE WHO DRINKS ARE DRUNK DRIVERS.THERE HAS NOT BEEN ONE LAW THAT ACTUALLY STOPS DRUNKS FROM DRIVING AND NO LAW WILL STOP PEOPLE FROM TEXTING OR BEING STUPID

  • Joe Martin

    Hello- It’s called discrimination!!!

  • Vicki Pardee

    I too have used a hands free device since I purchased my first cell phone. I started using it before it was a law. Many states already have the ruling for non-commercial drivers. NYS has had it for cars since the early 1990’s. I don’t think ANY driver should be talking on a hand held phone while driving. What makes me wonder is why people are so offended by it? It is safer, more comfortable and it’s fun to be looked at like you are talking to yourself in a store (well maybe not that part). People will spend over $300 for a phone and balk at a $99 noise cancelling Plantronics device that I just bought from Flying J…..

  • http://overdriveonline.com/channel19 Todd Dills

    Thanks for all the thoughts here, everyone. And Vicki, I don’t think the headset devices themselves are what most object to, if they object to the law, eh? More the principle of it all, in the end. Just check out some of the comments here for evidence, eh?

  • mike mccay

    Dont be caught scratching your ear the officer may say you were holding a phone. Then all you will have to do is take off from work to go to court with your phone records and still pay court costs. REVENUE

  • Don Shipley

    Cannot use a telephone however the idots with Comdata Boards will still run with the board on sterring wheel cord wraped around thier legs. Just reading directions they say in the middle of he interstate.
    Plus thier dispatchers message them wanting an immediate answer. No one wants to mention most of these drivers are the ones with the least experance!!

  • Don Shipley

    Good point they have the computer beside them one page is on police bussiness the other page is on internet Explorer running and thier minds on it. Above that is the reflection on the glass at night. yes we all have seen from the truck set what they are really looking at.

  • wayne leverton

    In Washington State, on hwy 512, east bound, I had a Washington State Patrol car coming up from behind on my left side. On a clear & sunny day, I could see the officer holding his phone to his ear, yakking away, NOT hands free, as he very slowly passed me, he was at my drivers door for about 1 1/2 miles, while directly beside my window I could see the mounted laptop computer thru his side window, for this 1 1/2 miles he was along side me, HE WAS TYPING ON THE LAPTOP WITH BOTH HANDS !! …. FOR MORE THAN A 1 1/4 MILES …. WITH NO HANDS ON THE STEERING WHEEL !! … Okay, the road was flat and straight, and I could have let go of my wheel too, but this is just not RIGHT !!! …. AND HOW DOES THIS LAW EFFECT EVERYONE WITH NEXTEL DIRECT CONNECT ??? … AS THEY ARE NO MORE DIFFICULT TO USE THAN A CB RADIO MIKE ??

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