As of January 3, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations prohibit covered drivers from using hand-held mobile devices while operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). CMV drivers are prohibited from making phone calls, texting, web surfing, or any other electronic text retrieval or entry on a cell phone while driving. Drivers are even prohibited from reaching for a mobile device in a way that takes them out of a seated driving position. These rules apply not only while driving, but also while idling in traffic or at a stoplight. However, if the driver moves the vehicle to a place where it can safely remain stopped, a hand-held mobile device can be used. An exception to the rule exists for contacting law enforcement or other emergency services. The regulations also do not apply to use of a GPS. And, drivers can use a hands-free device to dial someone or to answer a phone call if that can be done by pressing a single button.
Both the driver and the driver’s employer can be assessed substantial civil penalties for violations. Employers with CMV drivers should familiarize themselves with the new rule and enact policies and train drivers on the restrictions. The full text of the final rule and answers to frequently asked questions can be found here.