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New Cell Phone Ban for Commercial Truck Drivers

The Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, has decided to ban the use of hand-held cell-phones for commercial vehicle drivers. The ban is the latest effort to reduce serious truck accidents caused by distracted driving. In 2010, the DOT passed a rule banning text messaging by bus and truck drivers. This measure is more controversial, as the benefits of hands-free devices are not clear.

When the ban takes effect, commercial vehicle drivers will face stiff fines and potential loss of their commercial driver's license if they are caught using a cell phone without a hands-free device. The fines vary from $2,750 for the individual driver, to $11,000 for the commercial carrier. The carrier penalty is meant to ensure that bus and trucking companies take steps to help their drivers comply. In the past, truck drivers have expressed concerns over the many tasks required by their employers which contribute to distracted driving.

Many states have passed bans on text messaging while driving. The prohibition may soon spread nationwide as countless studies have linked text messaging to increased accident rates. While any behavior that splits the attention of the driver poses a hazard, it is not clear that hands-free devices resolve the problem. After one trucking group raised concerns, the rule was changed to specifically allow drivers to reach for the hands-free cell-phone as long as it could be reached while wearing a seat belt and in a normal seated position.

The rule shows that the U.S. Department of Transportation is taking distracted driving seriously. A commercial truck poses a tremendous danger when operated carelessly or negligently. Even a moment of distraction can cause serious personal injury or even death. Any measure intended to make the roads safer for all of us should be applauded.

Source: Land Line, "DOT bans hand-held cellphones for commercial drivers," David Tanner, 23 November 2011

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