Texting and using a cell phone while driving (commonly referred to as “distracted driving”) has become a hot-button issue. From educational campaigns, to laws banning certain cell phone use while driving, and stories of terrible crashes, distracted driving is in the news almost daily.
Several states have adopted strict distracted driving laws, prohibiting texting while driving. In fact, many states also have adopted laws banning talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving. These rules, however, do not apply in all states, and the variations in state laws can be confusing.
But, when it comes to truck and bus drivers, the laws are clear. Since September 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA) has banned texting while driving for all commercial motor vehicle drivers, regardless of the state where they are driving. And, since November 2011, the FMCSA has banned all hand-held cell phone use. These restrictions apply truckers who drive a tractor trailer (also called an “18-wheeler,” “semi-truck,” or “big rig”), bus, or other large trucks like tanker trucks, dump trucks, flatbed trucks and box trucks.
This FMCSA rule means that truck drivers are prohibited from doing any of the following while driving:
- Manually entering or reading text messages, emails or instant messages;
- Manually entering or reading text to access a webpage;
- Dialing a cell phone using more than one keystroke;
- Answering or ending a phone call using more than one keystroke;
- Holding a cell phone for the purpose of making a phone call; and
- Reaching for a cell phone to make a call, or to read or write a text message.
Truck drivers who are caught texting or making calls without a hands-free device while driving are subject to strict penalties, such as fines up to $2,750. In fact, truck drivers risk losing their privileges to drive a commercial vehicle if convicted of multiple distracted driving offenses.
Distracted driving is an important safety issue that impacts everyone on the road. The problem is especially critical when it comes to large trucks and buses. Research has shown that truck drivers who text or use a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving are 23.2 times more likely to crash, nearly crash, or unintentionally deviate from their lane. This creates a serious risk for others on the road.
In addition, because of their weight and size, it generally takes several hundred feet to stop a large truck or bus. Distracted truck drivers can cause severe damage simply due to the size of their vehicles. Any additional seconds spent texting or dialing on a cell phone can mean the difference between life and death for other drivers, passengers and pedestrians.