It's no secret that hand-held cell phone use is a common contributor
to car accidents in Missouri and throughout the United States. As our
personal injury lawyers know, numerous studies have indicated that cell
phone use has a detrimental effect on a driver's performance. The
Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates that driver distraction plays a role in 15 to 20% of
all crashes at all levels, from those that result in minor property damages
to those that cause serious, life-threatening injury. And when the distracted
driver is operating a large, heavy semi-truck, the potential for damage
is even greater. In fact, the odds of being involved in a "safety-critical
event" are 23.2 times higher for truckers who text while driving.
In January 2012, the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA) passed new cell phone
and text message restrictions that apply to drivers of commercial vehicles. Notably, the rules completely
prohibit semi-truck drivers from texting when they're behind the wheel.
Texting is defined as "manually entering alphanumeric text into,
or reading text from, an electronic device. This includes, but is not
limited to, short message service, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command
or request to access a Web page, or pressing more than a single button
to initiate or terminate a voice communication using a mobile phone."
The rules do permit truckers to talk on their cell phones under certain
circumstances, provided they're in compliance with the terms of the
Frequently asked questions about distracted driving rules and commercial
Under FCMSA guidelines, is there an acceptable way for semi-truck drivers
to use cell phones when they're behind the wheel?
Drivers may use cell phones to conduct a vocal conversation, provided
they meet the following criteria:
• The phone must be located so that the driver can access it while
wearing a seat belt.
• The driver must use a headset or a speaker phone feature to conduct calls.
• The driver must use a single-touch button or voice-activated dialing
to initiate calls.
Are truck drivers permitted to hold cell phones or dial numbers?
No. Holding a cell phone or dialing a phone number constitutes a violation
of FMCSA rules. In fact, just reaching for a phone - even if the driver
intends to use a hands-free feature - is prohibited.