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Federal trucking regulations and truck texting ban

Florida drivers may not be aware that per rules issued jointly by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, interstate operators of buses and semi-trucks, along with other drivers that essentially institute a truck texting ban. The rules say that trucks transporting certain amounts of hazardous substances may not text or use cellphones while driving. If drivers violate this truck texting ban they could be subject to driver disqualification. They could also be fined as much as $2,750, and such a violation will have an effect on the driver’s Safety Measurement System results. If a motor carrier requires drivers to text or use a handheld cellphone while operating their vehicles, they may be fined as much as $11,000.

What, in these circumstances, constitutes texting while driving? Texting means to send a text or read a text from a cellphone or other electronic device. This also includes sending emails, accessing the Internet, instant messaging or pressing more than one button to begin or end a voice communication on a cellphone. In fact, commercial motor vehicle drivers may not reach for or even hold a cellphone, or press more than one button. Commercial motor vehicle drivers may use a nearby hands-free cellphone. They may also use their cellphone’s speaker function or an earpiece. They can also use a one-button command or voice activation to begin or end a call.

The risks of using a cellphone while driving are well documented. Commercial motor vehicle operators are over 23 times more likely to be involved in a near-accident, semi-truck accident or unintentional lane change than those who are not using cellphones. Drivers who engage in texting while driving take their attention away from the road for approximately 4.6 seconds. If driving at highway speeds, this means the driver is essentially crossing 100 yards with their eyes closed — that’s as long as a football field.

As this shows, there are many good reasons for a truck texting ban. Accidents involving commercial motor vehicles or those carrying hazardous materials can be especially catastrophic and cause serious injuries, due to the nature of the vehicle’s size, weight and loads. With all that is at stake, why take the risk? Avoid texting while driving.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Distracted Driving: What You Need to Know,” Dec. 18, 2014

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