Home > All Mercertown Blog Posts > DOT BANS HAND-HELD CELL PHONE USE

DOT BANS HAND-HELD CELL PHONE USE

As most of you are probably aware, the Department of Transportation recently issued a final rule that bans hand-held cell phone use by drivers of buses and large trucks. The rule is slated to go into effect December 30, 2011. Studies have shown that commercial drivers were at an increased risk of being involved in a safety critical event such as a crash, a near-crash or an unintended lane departure due to being distracted when using a hand-held mobile phone.

This rule defines using a hand-held mobile telephone device as:
1) using at least one hand to hold a mobile telephone to conduct voice communication;
2) dialing or answering a mobile telephone by pressing more than a single button; or
3) reaching for a mobile telephone in a manner that requires a driver to maneuver so that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position and restrained by a seat belt.

Under this criteria, it seems to many observers that if the driver is speaking on his or her cell phone through a Blue Tooth ear piece, the phone is in a shirt pocket, and the call can be terminated by touching a single button, then the driver would not be in violation of the new rule. The same appears to be true with dialing with the use of a single button. However, a problem, ie violation, would appear to occur if a driver looked at caller ID before answering the phone or scrolled through the speed dial memory before placing a call. This will become clearer after the rule goes into effect and we see how the law enforcement community deals with it. We expect pretty robust enforcement due to the high priority placed upon it by the DOT.

Violations will have severe consequences for a commercial driver. Drivers convicted of violating this new rule face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense. In addition, motor carriers that allow their drivers to violate this rule will face a maximum penalty of $11,000. Mercer drivers who read Mercer’s Safety Policy know that Mercer has prohibited both texting and hand-held cell phone use since April, 2009.

An important change to note is that the new rule also now includes a hand held cell phone violation as a serious traffic violation. As most drivers know, two serious violation convictions in three years results in a 60 day CDL disqualification. Three serious violation convictions in three years results in a 120 day CDL disqualification. Mercer drivers know that a serious violation conviction at Mercer is a 100 point problem on our scoring system. Mercer drivers cannot have two serious violation convictions and remain at Mercer.

All drivers need to understand that a violation of this new rule is serious business. It will not be in Mercer’s or any other motor carrier’s best business interests to retain a driver who could potentially cost them an $11,000 fine for this violation. If in doubt, let it go to voice mail. Be safe.

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  1. Ron Baqker
    December 3, 2011 at 7:43 am

    It’s always about the money not safety. If it was about safety the rule would include people driving cars.

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