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Federal texting and cellphone rules for commercial truckers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is a regulatory agency with the goal of reducing large truck and bus crashes. Commercial vehicle drivers and their employers face penalties for violations of federal trucking regulations. These parties also may be held accountable in New York civil courts, when driver or company negligence causes serious injuries or fatalities in a truck accident.

Under FMCSA rules, interstate commercial vehicles drivers may not text or use handheld mobile phones while driving. The texting rule includes reading texts as well as typing them. Hands-free mobile phones are permitted, but holding or reaching for a cellphone and using more than one button to dial are against regulations.

Transportation officials impose civil fines upon drivers as high as $2,750, and for several violations, strip operators of their commercial licenses. Safety ratings determined by the FMCSA for drivers and motor carriers also can be negatively affected. Trucking companies who encourage or allow these prohibited driver behaviors can be fined up to $11,000.

Safety violation penalties for professional drivers are harsh because the consequences of distracted driving are severe. Commercial vehicle drivers distracted by dialing a cellphone are six times more likely than other drivers to be involved in a crash or other "safety-critical event." Texting while driving a commercial vehicle increases the chances of a dangerous event by over 23 times.

Distracted driving accidents and the injuries, deaths and grief they cause are preventable. Drivers and companies don't have to depend upon texts or handheld phones to do business. FMCSA regulations allow commercial truck drivers and trucking companies to use alternate means of communication.

Truckers and the companies who employ them can be named in liability lawsuits filed by victims of bus or truck accidents, or in cases of wrongful death, by victims' families. Defendants can be ordered to compensate plaintiffs for accident-related medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, "Distracted Driving," accessed April. 30, 2015

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