FMCSA Implements New Rules to Combat Distracted Driving

According to a new research study by The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event, including crash, near-crash or lane deviation, are 23.2 times greater for Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) drivers who text while driving. The study showed that while texting, drivers took their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. The FMCSA says, “At 55 mph, this equates to a driver traveling the approximate length of a football field—without looking at the road!” For CMV drivers who dial a mobile phone to make a call while driving are six times more likely to be involved in an accident or near accident than those who do not.

The FMCSA and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) have implemented new rules to combat such destructive behavior. These provisions specifically prohibit interstate truck and bus drivers from texting or using hand-held mobile phones while operating Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV). These new restrictions are part of the FMCSA’s initiative to prevent distracted driving and improve the safety of our nation’s highways. The hope is to significantly reduce the prevalence of preventable crashes, injuries and fatalities due to distracted driving involving CMV drivers.

The FMCSA breaks down the new rule as simply “no reaching, no holding, no dialing, no texting and no reading” while operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle. Violation of these regulations could lead to civil penalties of up to $2,750 and even driver disqualification for multiple offenses. Trucking companies are also prohibited from requiring or allowing their drivers to text or use a hand-held mobile phone while driving and may be subject to civil penalties up to $11,000.

If a CMV driver is caught with a violation, it will severely impact their SMS results. The SMS is the Safety Measurement System which effectively grades the safety or motor carriers and their drivers and again, could lead to disqualification.

However, there are safe and legal ways to utilize a mobile phone while operating a CMV or any vehicle for that matter. Drivers are permitted to utilize hands-free mobile phone use such as an ear piece or the speaker function. They are also allowed to use voice-activated or one-bottom touch features to call out, answer or end a phone call.

A collision with a large motor vehicle such as a large bus or truck can lead to catastrophic damages and injury. The FMCSA recognizes the truly devastating risk of distracted drivers and is committed to preventing avoidable accidents and safe-guarding our nation’s drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.