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Texting and Mobile Phone Restrictions for Commercial Vehicle Drivers

Most commercial motor vehicle drivers rely heavily on their cell phones for communication with family, dispatchers and everyone else. Most drivers know that talking on the phone while driving is illegal unless you have a hands-free device. It’s also important to note that CMV drivers are prohibited from texting while they are behind the wheel. Truck drivers who talk or text while holding their handsets face serious financial consequences, and some companies even fire drivers immediately if they are caught talking on their phone or sending text messages. Many companies don’t even allow their drivers to talk on their phone using a hands-free device, so make sure you understand your company’s policy as well as the laws regarding mobile phone use.

The Rules

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration worked with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to generate and publish a set of rules that specifically prohibit bus drivers and truck drivers who haul hazardous materials in placarded quantities from using hand-held cell phones to talk or text while driving. These rules are in addition to other measures taken by the United States Department of Transportation in an effort to eliminate distracted driving. Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers who violate the rules will be subject to hefty fines and may have their license suspended. The violation will also affect both the company’s and the driver’s results in the federal Safety Measurement System.


Most CMV drivers are aware that sending a text message qualifies, but may not be aware that entering information into their mobile phone while driving is also a violation. Reading a text on the cell phone is a violation too. Pressing a single button on the phone to begin or end a call is allowed as long as the driver doesn’t hold the phone in their hand while they are talking on it. Email, looking at websites, SMS and instant messaging is not allowed.

Cell Phone Use

Commercial motor vehicle drivers are prohibited from holding their mobile phone while they are communicating by voice. They are also not allowed to reach for their phone while they are driving. Drivers who need to make a call while they are driving are permitted to use a hands-free device if it is close to them. Most drivers choose handsets that stay on their ear so that they can easily make a call without taking their eyes off the road or reaching unsafely. Company drivers should ask their supervisor or read their company policy is regard to cell phone use, as many companies only approve certain hands-free devices.

How Can Drivers Use Their Phone Without Breaking the Rules?

Drivers should place their phone in a holder either on their person or close to them in the truck so that they can easily reach it while they are wearing their seat belt properly. Utilizing the speaker function on the phone is permissible, as is using an earpiece that fits securely over the ear. Most phones are equipped with voice-activated dialing options or one-button calling options that drivers should use to answer, initiate or terminate a phone call.

Consequences of Using a Phone Improperly While Driving

Heavy sanctions will be imposed on drivers who are caught breaking these rules. They include a monetary fine of up to $2,750 and possible drivers license disqualification. The laws also prohibit carriers from allowing or encouraging their drivers to use their cell phones improperly while driving. Companies who violate the rules face fines of up to $11,000.

The Risks

The penalties that drivers and companies face for violating cell phone restrictions are very strict because studies have shown that truck drivers who text while they are driving are approximately 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or other critically unsafe event than drivers who don’t text while they drive. Drivers who were tested in the studies stopped looking at the road for about 4.5 seconds, which is about the distance across a football field at 55 miles per hour. In addition, drivers who dial their phone while they are driving and hold their phone while talking are about six times more likely to be involved in a critically unsafe event. Losing a few minutes by pulling over is well worth the risk of losing your license, facing hefty fines or possibly dying in a preventable crash.

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