FMCSA Issues Final Rule For Texting By Interstate Commercial Drivers

FMCSA Issues Final Rule for Texting by Interstate Commercial Drivers

In a final rule making, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) prohibited texting by commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers operating in interstate commerce and they imposed sanctions, including civil penalties and disqualification from operating CMVs in interstate commerce, for drivers who fail to comply with this rule.

The FMCSA also amended its commercial driver's license (CDL) regulations to add to the list of disqualifying offenses a conviction under State or local traffic laws or ordinances that prohibit texting by CDL drivers while operating a CMV, including school bus drivers.

This rulemaking was the latest final rule promulgated by the FMSCA, but there are additional proposed rulemakings in the works for commercial drivers regulating cell phone use, texting and cell phone use for hazmat haulers in intrastate.

The Department of Transportation, through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued a safety advisory notice to remind carriers of hazardous materials of the risks associated with the use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) by individuals operating motor vehicles that contain hazardous materials.

In addition to the safety advisory in August, they followed it up at the end of September with the proposed rulemaking to prohibit texting on electronic devices by drivers during the operation of a motor vehicle containing hazardous materials.

These rules and proposed rules are part of the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT) large-scale effort to end the dangerous practice of distracted driving on the nation's roadways and for other modes of transportation. DOT defines driver distraction as the voluntary or involuntary diversion of attention from the primary driving tasks due to an object, event, or person that shifts the attention away from the fundamental driving task.

Like Driving the Distance of a Football Field with Your Eyes Closed

One of the studies the FMCSA relied on in developing the recent rules spelled out the heightened risk texting creates. The study found the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event are 23.2 times greater for drivers who text message while driving than for those who do not. Texting drivers take their eyes off the forward roadway for an average of 4.6 seconds during the 6-second interval surrounding a safety-critical event.

This means that at 55 mph (or 80.7 feet per second), it equates to a driver traveling 371 feet, the approximate length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the roadway.

At 65 mph it's even worse (or 95.3 feet per second), the driver would have traveled approximately 439 feet without looking at the roadway. When this is an 80,000 lb. tractor trailer or other commercial motor vehicle, the risk is breathtaking.

If you have been in an accident involving a distracted commercial driver or any kind of accident, speak with an attorney experienced with investigating these types of accidents. Crashes involving trucks or commercial motor vehicles are always complex, with multiple responsible parties, so you want to speak with an attorney who can provide knowledgeable advice based on your facts.