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Final Rule Prohibits Hand-held Cell Phone Use by CDL Drivers

On Friday, December 2, 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Association (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a joint final rule prohibiting the use of hand-held cell phones by CMV interstate truck drivers and intrastate hazmat truck drivers. The final rule will take effect on January 3, 2012.

CDL drivers are prohibited from holding, dialing, or reaching for a hand-held cell phone – this includes all “push-to-talk” functions. The final rule does not restrict or prohibit the use of hands-free devices. The new rule permits truck and bus drivers to use handheld cells 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. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has created a summary of the final rule.

Violations of the rule qualify as “serious traffic violations” under FMCSA regulations. Drivers who violate the restriction will face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense. Additionally, states will suspend a driver's CDL after two or more serious traffic violations. Commercial truck and bus companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving will face a maximum penalty of $11,000.

This is the latest action by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to end distracted driving among commercial truck drivers - a major focus of the DOT since 2009. In September 2010, FMCSA issued a regulation banning text messaging while operating a commercial truck or bus.

“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 in a statement today announcing the final rule. “I hope that this rule will save lives by helping commercial drivers stay laser-focused on safety at all times while behind the wheel.”

To learn more about the DOT's efforts to stop distracted driving, please visit