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PHMSA Restricts Hand-Held Mobile Phone Use for Commercial Drivers

Posted on 12/2/2011 by James Griffin

Today, December, 2, 2011, two agencies under the Department of Transportation amended their rules to restrict the use of hand-held mobile telephones by drivers of commercial motor vehicles.
Promulgated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), this rule modifies the current rules found in the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).
The goal of the rule change, effective on January 3, 2012, is to prevent distracted driving that can lead to crashes, fatalities, and injuries involving interstate trucks and buses.
“When drivers of large trucks, buses, and hazardous materials take their eyes off the road for even a few seconds, the outcome can be deadly,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “I hope that this rule will save lives by helping commercial drivers stay laser-focused on safety at all times while behind the wheel.”
Under the HMR, the rule amends Part 177 (“Carriage by Public Highway”), specifically 49 CFR 177.804(c), which relates to compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
Should a driver be caught using a hand-held mobile phone, he or she will face Federal civil penalties up to $2,750 per offense. Drivers with multiple offenses may also face disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle.
States will also have the ability to suspend a driver’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) after two or more serious traffic violations.
The new rule is part of a greater initiative to keep drivers alert and safe. In February 2011, PHMSA already published a rule banning texting by intrastate hazardous materials drivers.
“This final rule represents a giant leap for safety,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “It’s just too dangerous for drivers to use a hand-held cell phone while operating a commercial vehicle. Drivers must keep their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and head in the game when operating on our roads. Lives are at stake.”
On a related note, motor carriers would also now be prohibited from requiring or allowing their drivers to use hand-held mobile devices.
The new regulation does not prohibit hands-free devices.

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