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What the Federal Rules Say About Distracted Driving and CMV Drivers

While most of us want to point the finger for distracted driving squarely at our fellow motorists, meaning the sedans, pickup trucks, SUVs and other passenger vehicles with which we share the road, the fact remains that commercial truck drivers are also guilty of the practice.

Indeed, the issue has become so problematic that both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration issued joint rules in the spring expressly prohibiting interstate truckers, bus drivers and drivers transporting hazardous materials from texting or talking on a handheld device while behind the wheel.

This makes sense when you consider the following statistics about distracted driving and commercial vehicles drivers:

  • CMV drivers who text while driving are 23.2 times more likely to get into a so-called safety-critical event (truck accident, near miss, etc.).
  • CMV drivers who dial a cellphone while driving are six times more likely to get into a so-called safety-critical event (truck accident, near miss, etc.).
  • CMV drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds while texting, which at 55 miles-per-hour equates to the length of a football field.

As we discussed at length in an article found on our website, texting while driving is expressly prohibited in Tennessee and a majority of the other states, and consists of more than just sending a text.

So, what kinds of texting-related activities do the joint rules promulgated by the FMCSA and the PHMSA prohibit?

CMV drivers are expressly prohibited from not just sending/receiving texts, but also instant messaging, sending emails, accessing the Internet and even “pressing more than a single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication using a mobile phone.”

It’s encouraging to see these federal agencies take action against distracted driving by CMV drivers — threatening them with fines, license suspension and other severe penalties. To learn more about the prohibitions against and punishments for distracted driving here in Tennessee, please read our article entitled “Texting and Driving Law in Tennessee.”

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “What you need to know: New texting and mobile phone restrictions for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers,” March 28, 2014