Bus driver cell-phone ban finalized

November 25, 2011

UTU Bus Department logoWASHINGTON – A Final Rule has been issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) prohibiting bus (including school bus) drivers and truck drivers, operating in interstate commerce, from using hand-held cell phone while operating their vehicles.

Also inncluded in the ban are drivers of small passenger vehicles designed to transport between nine-and-15 passengers.

The final rule will become effective in late December, and violation subjects drivers to stiff fines and loss of their commercial driver’s license.

An exemption permits the use of a hand-held device for communicating with law enforcement or other emergency services while the vehicle is in operation.

The ban exempts the use of hands-free devices located in close proximity to the driver where the driver need only press a single button. The FMCSA said stops can be avoided “by using hands-free” devices with a speakerphone function or a wired or wireless earphone.

In 2010, the FMCSA banned text messaging by bus (including school bus) and truck drivers while operating their vehicles in interstate commerce.

“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 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.”

Drivers who violate the restriction will face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

Additionally, states will suspend a commercial driver’s license (CDL) after two or more serious traffic violations. Commercial bus and truck companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving will face a maximum penalty of $11,000.

The FMCSA said that “using a hand-held cell phone while driving requires a commercial driver to take several risky steps beyond what is required for using a hands-free mobile phone, including searching and reaching for the phone. Commercial drivers reaching for an object, such as a cell phone, are three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event.

“Dialing a hand-held cell phone makes it six times more likely that commercial drivers will be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event,” said the agency.

In 2010, the FMCSA banned text messaging while operating a bus or truck in interstate commerce.

To read the Final Rule on the cell-phone ban, click here.