WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal final rule announced on Wednesday prohibits interstate truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating their vehicles.
A U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesperson confirmed to SBF that for school buses, the rule only applies to private operators that transport students on interstate trips. But the rulemaking notes that 19 states and the District of Columbia prohibit the use of all mobile telephones while driving a school bus.
The joint rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is the latest action by the DOT aimed at curbing distracted driving.
“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,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “I hope that this rule will save lives by helping commercial drivers stay laser-focused on safety at all times while behind the wheel.”
Drivers who violate the new restriction will face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle for multiple offenses. Additionally, states will suspend a driver's CDL after two or more serious traffic violations.
Commercial truck and bus companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving will face a maximum penalty of $11,000. Approximately 4 million commercial drivers would be affected by the final rule.
“This final rule represents a giant leap for safety,” FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said. “It’s just too dangerous for drivers to use a hand-held cell phone while operating a commercial vehicle. … Lives are at stake.”
In September 2010, FMCSA issued a regulation banning text messaging while operating a commercial truck or bus.
The new final rule follows a proposed rulemaking that was issued last December and drew about 300 comments. FMCSA said that most commenters supported the proposal.
The final hand-held cell phone ban rule can be accessed here.