Continued from our Monday blog…
As of January 3, 2012 the Department of Transportation (DOT) has banned the use of hand-held cell phones by commercial truck and bus drivers. The rule applies to all interstate commercial vehicle drivers as well as intrastate drivers who haul hazardous materials. Drivers who violate the ban could face civil fines up to $2,750 for each offence and drivers who have repeat offences could face disqualification. Under the new rules, companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones could face civil penalties up to $11,000.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Q: What about push-to-talk phones (Nextels)?
A: Yes. Provided the driver does not reach for, dial, or hold the actual mobile telephone in his/her hand while driving and the driver is able to touch the button needed to operate the push-to-talk feature from the normal seated position with the safety belt fastened. Generally, the use of this type of communications equipment does not require drivers to take their eyes off of the forward roadway because the button used to enable the driver to communicate can be operated from the normal seated position with the safety belt fastened. For example, if the mobile phone is mounted in a cradle or similar device near the driver, or there is a remote push-to-talk button near the vehicle controls to allow the driver to communicate without reaching for, dialing, or holding the actual mobile telephone in his/her hands while driving, the equipment may be used.
Q: Is dialing a phone number allowed under this rule?
A: No. Dialing a mobile telephone while operating a CMV is prohibited by the rule. A driver can initiate, answer, or terminate a call by touching a single button on a mobile telephone, earpiece, steering wheel, or instrument panel – comparable to using vehicle controls or instrument panel functions, such as the radio or climate control system.
Q: Are holders of a commercial driver’s license (CDL) subject to the regulation only when driving a CMV or any vehicle?
A: CDL holders are subject to the Federal rule only when driving a CMV.
Q: Can a driver reach for a mobile telephone even if he/she intends to use the hands-free function?
A: No. In order to comply with this rule, a driver must have his or her mobile telephone located where the driver is able to initiate, answer, or terminate a call by touching a single button while the driver is in the seated driving position and properly restrained by a seat belt. If the mobile telephone is not close to the driver and operable while the driver is restrained by properly installed and adjusted seat belts, then the driver is considered to be reaching for the mobile phone, which is prohibited by the rule.
Q: What is required of the employer in terms of company policy or training?
A: The rule does not require motor carriers to establish written policies in terms of company policy or training programs for their drivers. However, employers are prohibited from allowing or requiring their drivers to use hand-held mobile phones. The DOT has made it clear that the company is responsible for its drivers’ conduct. Therefore, It is strongly suggested that every company have a written policy prohibiting the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, and that they have each driver sign a copy of that policy.
Written by Mattei Insurance Services, Inc.