Overdrive Staff | January 01, 2012

Cell phone ban began Jan. 3

A final rule that bars commercial drivers from operating handheld cell phones while driving took effect Jan. 3. Using hands-free phones is still allowed.

The new rule will permit truck and bus drivers to use handheld cells after they have stopped their vehicles.

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.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration research shows using a handheld cell phone while driving requires “risky steps.” Dialing a hand-held cell phone raises the crash risk for commercial drivers six-fold.

Last year, the agency issued a final rule banning commercial drivers from text messaging while operating trucks or buses.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association had asked the agency why other risky activities contributing to driver distraction were not addressed in the rule. FMCSA noted it is considering an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to seek public comment on the extent further regulatory action is needed to address the distraction of other in-cab electronic devices. 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 a ban on hands-free devices. ATA supports barring texting and handheld cell use for all motorists to reduce distracted driving.

— Jill Dunn

Senate bill would mandate EOBRs

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee approved legislation Dec. 14 that would require truck electronic on-board recorders and authorize the federal transportation department to assess driver safety fitness. The bill, S.1950, moves on to the full Senate.

A senate bill would ratchet up federal regulation of trucking by mandating an electronic onboard recorder for every truck.

Sen. Frank Lautenburg, (D-N.J.), introduced the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act that reauthorizes the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

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