Office of Public Affairs
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Friday, December 17, 2010
Contact: Candice Tolliver
Tel: 202-366-9999 or 202-306-4580
U.S. DOT Proposes Rule to Ban Hand-Held Cell Phone Use for Commercial Truck and Bus Drivers
WASHINGTON -As part of its campaign to put an end to the practice of distracted driving, the U.S. Department of Transportation today proposed a new safety regulation that would specifically prohibit interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
"Every time a commercial truck or bus driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cell phone, even for a few seconds, the driver places everyone around them at risk," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "This proposed rule will go a long way toward keeping a driver's full attention focused on the road."
The proposed Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule would prohibit commercial drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone while operating a CMV. Drivers who violate these restrictions would face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification of their commercial driver's license (CDL) for multiple offenses. Additionally, states would suspend a driver's CDL after two or more violations of any state law on hand-held cell phone use.
Motor carriers that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving would face a maximum penalty of $11,000. Approximately four million interstate commercial drivers would be affected by this proposal.
"We are committed to using every resource at our disposal to ensure commercial drivers and vehicles are operating safely at all times," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "Implementation of this proposal would help make our roads safer and target a leading cause of distracted driving."
FMCSA research shows that using a hand-held cell phone while driving requires a commercial driver to take several risky steps. In particular, commercial drivers reaching for an object, such as a cell phone, while driving are three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event. Drivers dialing a hand-held cell phone while driving increase their risk by six times. Many of the largest carriers, such as UPS, Covenant Transport, and Wal-Mart, already have company policies in place banning their drivers from using hand-held phones. In September 2010, FMCSA issued a regulation banning text messaging while operating a commercial motor vehicle.
Nearly 5,500 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009. Distraction-related fatalities represented 16 percent of overall traffic fatalities in 2009, according to National Highway Traffic SafetyAdministration (NHTSA) research.
FMCSA is providing 60 days for the public to comment on this rule making. The comment period begins once the proposed rule is published in the FederalRegister. The proposal and information about how to submit comments is here.
To learn more about the U.S. Department of Transportation's efforts to stop distracted driving, please visit www.distraction.gov
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposes to restrict the use of hand-held mobile telephones by drivers of commercial motor vehicles(CMVs) while operating in interstate commerce. The Agency proposes new driver disqualification sanctions for interstate drivers of CMVs who incur multiple violations of this Federal restriction and new driver disqualification sanctions for commercial driverʼs license (CDL) holders who have multiple convictions for violating a State traffic law that restricts the use of hand-held mobile telephones. Additionally, interstate motor carriers would be prohibited from requiring or allowing drivers of CMVs to engage in the use of a hand-held mobile telephone while operating in interstate commerce. This rule making would improve safety on the Nationʼs highways by reducing the prevalence of distracted driving-related crashes, fatalities, and injuries involving drivers of CMVs.
What does FMCSAʼs proposed rule do?
Answer: FMCSAʼs proposed rule would prohibit a CMV driver from reaching for, holding, or dialing a mobile telephone in order to conduct a voice communication while driving. CMV drivers would be allowed to use mobile telephones equipped or configured for hands-free operation. The proposed rule provides for driver disqualification penalties for interstate drivers convicted of multiple violations of the Federal restriction within a three-year period. FMCSA may assess federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense against drivers violating the proposed rule and may also assess federal civil penalties of up to $11,000 against employers who require or allow drivers to violate the rule. In addition, the proposed rule provides for driver disqualification penalties for commercial driverʼs license (CDL) drivers who are convicted, within a three-year period, of multiple violations of applicable State traffic laws concerning use of a mobile telephone while driving.
How many truck and bus drivers would be covered by the rule?
Answer: FMCSAʼs proposed rule would cover interstate truck and bus drivers subject to the Agencyʼs Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which include approximately 4 million interstate drivers. The addition of the mobile phone restriction to the list of CDL disqualifying offenses would apply to all CMV drivers, including Federal, State, and local government employees (including school bus drivers) who are required to hold CDLs. That means the proposed rule would also affect a few million intrastate CDL drivers if they are convicted of multiple violations of State or local traffic laws concerning mobile telephone use. What is FMCSAʼs definition of mobile telephone and using a hand-held mobile telephone?
Answer: Mobile telephone means a mobile communication device that falls under or uses any commercial mobile radio service, as defined in regulations of the Federal Communications Commission, 47 CFR 20.3.
FMCSAʼs proposed rule defines using a hand-held mobile telephone as using at least one hand to reach for, dial or hold a mobile telephone to conduct a voice communication.
Does this proposed rule affect the use of citizens band radios?
Answer: No, it does not include citizens band radios.
Does this proposed rule affect the texting regulation?
Answer: Yes, it would remove the dialing exception from the definition of texting.
Are States required to adopt mobile telephone rules?
Answer: States that receive Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) grants from FMCSA are required to adopt and enforce compatible rules applicable to both interstate and intrastate CMV drivers. The MCSAP is a grant program authorized by Congress to encourage the States to adopt and enforce motor carrier safety and hazardous materials safety regulations compatible with those issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation. One of the eligibility requirements is for the States to adopt compatible rules within 3 years of FMCSA issuing a final rule. Therefore, States would be required to adopt compatible rules within 3 years of the publication of a final rule.With regard to the CDL provision of the proposed rule, States are NOT required to adopt new traffic laws
How long is the comment period for this proposed rule?
FMCSA will be accepting both initial comments and reply comments in response to this Notice of Proposed Rule making (NPRM). Send your initial comments on or before 60 days after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register. Initial comments may address any issue raised in the NPRM and the back ground documents in the docket (e.g., regulatory evaluation, studies, environmental assessment, etc.). In order to allow sufficient opportunity for interested parties to prepare and submit any reply comments, late-filed initial comments will not be considered. Reply comments must be made on or before 90 days after theNPRM is published in the Federal Register. They must address only matters raised in initial comments and must not be used to present new arguments,contentions, or factual materials that are not responsive to th