DOT Proposes Ban on Truckers’ Handheld Phones

Rule Would Set Stiff Penalties on Drivers, Carriers

The Department of Transportation Friday proposed banning interstate truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle, and sets stiff fines for violators.

Drivers could face fines of up to $2,750 per violation — and loss of their commercial driver’s license for multiple offenses — while carriers’ fines could be as high as $11,000, DOT said.

The proposal would affect about 4 million drivers, DOT said, adding that the proposal is part of its campaign to end distracted driving.

“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 Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has consistently spoken out against distracted driving practices.

“This proposed rule will go a long way toward keeping a driver’s full attention focused on the road,” he said in statement.

The proposed rule, to be released by DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, would prohibit commercial drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone while operating a commercial vehicle.

Drivers who violate these restrictions would face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and could face disqualification of their commercial driver’s license for multiple offenses.

States could also suspend CDLs after two or more violations of any state law on hand-held cell phone use, DOT said.

Motor carriers that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving would face a maximum penalty of $11,000.

FMCSA will allow 60 days for public comments on the rule, once it is published in the Federal Register, though it did not say when that would be.

Click here for more information on the proposal and instructions on how to submit comments once the rule is released. (DOT website; PDF link.)