The Penalties and Risks of Distracted Driving as a Truck Driver

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It is not just average motorists that are banned from texting and driving. There are federal laws that prohibit the use of cellphones while operating a semi-truck or tractor trailer. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created new rules that restrict drivers from texting or using hand-held mobile devices while operating a bus or truck or any classified commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

According to the FMCA’s research, the odds of being involved in a crash, near-crash, lane deviation or other safety-critical event increase 23.2 times more for CMV drivers that text while driving than those who do not. Texting operators take their eyes away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. When traveling at 55 miles per hour, this equates to 371 feet – the length of a football field – without ever looking at the roadway.

What Drivers Need to Know

  • The FMCSA regulations prohibit all texting and use of hand-held mobile phones while operating a commercial vehicle that is used in any form of interstate commerce.
  • Any driver caught texting or using such device will be subject to fines, disqualifications of their license and may be put out of service.
  • The FMCSA rules do not apply to dispatch devices – as long as they are being used as part of fleet management and not for texting purposes.
  • CMV drivers disabling mobile phones are also six times less likely to be involved in a safety-critical event.
  • Drivers are permitted to use hands-free devices while operating a commercial vehicle.
  • State rules do apply first, but if there are no state rules in place for commercial drivers, federal rules do take over and govern the use of mobile devices – regardless of what state the commercial vehicle is in or passing through.

The FMCSA’s Definition of Distracted Driving

The FMCSA has an interest in public safety and they have determined that the following must be prohibited in order for their commercial drivers to avoid distracted driving:

  • Reading
  • Texting
  • Reaching
  • Holding
  • Dialing

FMCSA’s Separate Rules to Note

Texting under the new regulations is defined as manually entering any text into or reading from an electronic device – including tablets. They have issued separate rules that define the use of a mobile device, which include using at least one hand to hold such device, dialing by pressing more than a single button or reaching for the mobile phone in a way that requires the driver to maneuver away from a safe driving position or to remove their seatbelt.

Drivers caught violating any of the regulations on mobile phone devices can result in an immediate disqualification. Also, penalties can be up to $2750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for employers that allow or even require their drivers to use a mobile device while operating a commercial vehicle.

What if You Are Injured by a Texting Truck Driver?

Because of the federal regulations and the gross negligence required to use a mobile device while operating a commercial vehicle, those that are injured because of such negligence may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. If you have been injured by a distracted truck driver, contact attorney Douglas Horn at 816-795-7500 or fill out an online contact form.