A ban on truck driver cell phone use while driving took effect January, 2012, with stiff penalties for violation. Commercial Motor Vehicle interstate truck drivers and intrastate hazmat truck drivers are prohibited from holding, dialing, or reaching for a hand-held cell, although they may use hands-free devices. The rule permits truck and bus drivers to use handheld cells only after they have moved their vehicles to the side of or off of a highway or have stopped where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.

Violation of the rule is considered a “serious traffic violation” under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, with stiff federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense, and suspension of a driver’s Commercial Driver’s License after two or more serious traffic violations. Commercial truck and bus companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving also face a maximum penalty of $11,000.

“When drivers of large trucks, buses and hazardous materials take their eyes off the road for even a few seconds, the outcome can be deadly,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “I hope that this rule will save lives by helping commercial drivers stay laser-focused on safety at all times while behind the wheel.”