Q. We have several employees who drive commercial motor vehicles. We have heard that there are rules about the use of cellphones by those drivers. How do those rules affect us?
A. In January 2012, a joint rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) took effect. The rule restricts commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers from holding a mobile telephone to conduct a voice communication, dialing a mobile telephone by pressing more than a single button or reaching for a mobile phone in an unacceptable and unsafe manner.
That means a CMV driver who wants to use a mobile phone while driving must use a compliant mobile telephone (such as a hands-free device) located close to the driver.
The rule provides stiff penalties for both drivers and companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held mobile telephones while driving. Violating the rule counts against the list of violations that can disqualify a driver from holding a commercial driver’s license. Six violations in a three-year period can result in license suspensions of six months, 12 months or even a lifetime.
Employers that allow drivers to use mobile telephones in violation of the rule face a maximum penalty of up to $11,000.