Federal ban on cell phone use for commercial drivers

December 29, 2011 – A federal ban on cellphones for commercial drivers will begin next week on January 3, 2012.  This ban, which spans across the country, means that commercial drivers will no longer be allowed to legally use cellphones while driving. They are however, allowed to use hands-free devices to talk on the phone.

This ban is a primary law which means police do not need any reason other than seeing a commercial driver with a phone in their hand while driving.

So what exactly defines a commercial driver?

A commercial driver is any driver who holds a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and operates a vehicle which requires this license. Federal standards require states to issue a CDL to drivers following this classification:

  • Class A – any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR), of 26,001 pounds or more if the vehicle being towed has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 10,000 pounds. This includes a:
    • tractor-trailer
    • truck and trailer combination
    • tractor-trailer buses
  • Class B – any single vehicle with a GVWR or 26,0001 pounds or more and any such vehicle towing another vehicle with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less. This includes:
    • straight trucks
    • large buses
    • segmented buses
    • trucks towing vehicles with GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less
  • Class C – Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that doesn’t meet the requirements of Class A or B, but is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, transporting hazardous materials.

Fatal Accidents

In 2010 a truck driver traveling on Interstate 65 in Kentucky crossed a median, went through a cable barrier, and hit an oncoming passenger van.  The truck driver died, along with 10 or the 12 people in the van. Investigators found that within the previous 24 hours the driver had used his phone 69 times while driving.  Four of those calls were made minutes before the accident.

A study done by the University of Utah, stated that “With respect to traffic safety, the data suggest that the impairment associated with cell phone drivers may be as great as those commonly observed with intoxicated drivers.”

All in all, accidents caused by cellphone distractions can be devastating.