US DOT moves to ban cell phones for commercial truck, bus drivers

NE Couch bike box

A truck turns right over a bikeway on NE Couch.
(Photo © J. Maus)

On Friday, the US Department of Transportation proposed a new safety regulation that would ban hand-held cell phone use for commercial truck and bus drivers.

If the rule goes into effect (after a 60-day comment period), drivers in violation could be fined up to $2,750 and repeat offenders could lose their commercial driver’s license. Companies that allow drivers to use cell phones while driving could face a maximum fine of $11,000.

The US DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration say the new regulation is needed because distracted drivers were involved in nearly 5,500 fatal and 500,000 injury crashes in 2009.

In a statement about the proposed regulation, US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said,

“Every time a commercial truck or bus driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cell phone, even for a few seconds, the driver places everyone around them at risk. This proposed rule will go a long way toward keeping a driver’s full attention focused on the road.”

In Oregon, our cell phone law prohibits the use of “two-way mobile communication devices.” Unfortunately, the law has some gaping exceptions, which include using a cell phone, “in the scope of the person’s employment if operation of the motor vehicle is necessary for the person’s job.”

A 60-day comment period is now open on the proposed rule change. Visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website for more information and to learn how to make your comment.

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RyNO Dan
RyNO Dan
11 years ago

Assume that they are not actually banning cell phone use. Hands-free is OK, right ?
RIP CB radios ?

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
11 years ago
Reply to  RyNO Dan

No, hands-free is not OK. Yes, CB is still OK. Amateur radio tends to avoid a lot of the controversy phones do because of the nature of the beast. Radio operators tend to be rather understanding that you might not respond right away since most CB users and many HAMs are behind the wheel while they’re behind the microphone. People tend to get into the “living room couch” mindset and zone out of the task at hand when they’re on the phone.

Lyle
Lyle
11 years ago

Yay! Nothing terrifies me more than a cell phone distracted driver.

A few weeks ago I was riding along a rural road and a woman turned out of her driveway and didn’t see me at all because she had her cell phone on her right side.

If I hadn’t been paying attention….

jen
jen
11 years ago

while i’m not doubting that there are truck/bus drivers out there using cell phones and other communication devices in such a way that it endangers others, i think every truck and bus driver out there can tell you that the real problem is how other people drive around these large vehicles. my ex-girlfriend is a truck driver, and she tells me horror stories all the time about somebody that cut her off, just to get off at the next exit, or people who just aren’t paying attention because they’re on a cell phone. my own biking experience tells me that regular drivers are more of a hazard than trucks or busses.

this hand-held cell phone ban needs to be for all drivers, not just those who drive for their jobs. indeed, the statistics listed above don’t state whether the fatalities and injuries were from distracted truck and bus drivers, or drivers in general. i’d be curious to know the breakdown.

craig
craig
11 years ago

The wireless industry, insurance agencies, and the federal government know–and have **long** known–that handsfree devices are no safer than handheld. This fact has been generously lauded by the media again and again. So why do we keep hearing this same wrong refrain from lawmakers? Any ban that just addresses handheld devices only serves to sell more handsfree equipment for those vendors, and fails to address the safety risk of operating ANY wireless comm device while driving. This wikipedia article has links to external articles with those both old and new studies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phones_and_driving_safety#Handsfree_device

CaptainKarma
CaptainKarma
11 years ago
Reply to  craig

I too absolutely agree with Craig’s bit. I did my master’s thesis on divided attention and I know the bone-chilling facts of what happens when using a phone in a vehicle; I just keep thinking of the kid running out into the street randomly whilst the SUV driver is chatting about totally useless crap that could wait. And hands free makes VERY little difference. It’s all bad.

I once rode around with a realtor looking for a house to buy. She couldn’t stay off the @$@#$ cell phone and scared the snot out of me several times. I shoulda fired her. Next time, I will.

Same thing on a Greyhound bus; driver talking to girlfriend on cell phone, spilling his drink and driving a loaded bus @ 70 mph!

Sorry if a there’s a lot of negative energy in this comment.

Alex Reed
Alex Reed
11 years ago

I agree with the above comments, but let’s remember that this is a good first step – yay, USDOT!

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
11 years ago

I’m surprised Oregon’s worst traffic incident ever happened on I405 when a driver hauling a load of new cars talking on his phone leaned down to retrieve a cassette tape he dropped on the floor and slammed into stopped traffic without slowing down first. The resulting fire was so hot it destroyed the structural integrity of the concrete and southbound 405 was closed for days afterwards while they cleaned up the wreck and patched the pavement.

DDDeebo
DDDeebo
11 years ago

Who is making these laws? Its like they’re playing MadLibs to come up with these things. First they pass a law that makes cell phones illegal for everyone but only if you’re holding it with your hand. Numerous studies have shown that it is not the physical distraction of holding the phone but the mental distraction of the conversation that causes the problem. Now they actually do make it illegal to talk at all…but only for big trucks…cause they’re more scary. Enough half-measures already and just ban them. An ill-conceived, reactionary law that is not universally applicable is worse than no law at all.

Merckxrider
Merckxrider
11 years ago

What can you say but that it’s a good start.

John Landolfe
11 years ago

This is LONG overdue. Thanks current US DOT folks!

matt picio
matt picio
11 years ago

It’ll be interesting to see, if this becomes an official regulation, if the number of cases of commercial drivers falling asleep at the wheel goes up. I know a few truck drivers who drive at night, and talk to their spouse on a cellphone in order to stay awake – not easy to do on long stretches of straight highway in the great plains states. In those cases, this regulation might harm rather than help.

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
11 years ago
Reply to  matt picio

I’m going to guess zero, considering the strictly enforced rules regarding hours on the road and rest time.