Throwing Truckers under the Bus - An Evaluation of the Federal Ban on Hand-Held Mobile Telephone Use by Operators of Commercial Motor Vehicles

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Transportation Law Journal


Technology moves faster than law. The past decade has seen a proliferation in the use of hand-held mobile telephones while driving. One commentator has referred to the phenomenon as potentially a new WMD - driving with mobile device. According to the federal government, and many States, the use of hand-held mobile telephones distracts drivers and causes accidents. The use of these devices can take a driver's eyes and mind off the road, and hands off the wheel. Recent laws responding to the danger posed by driving while using a hand-held mobile telephone will alter habits, and shape the development of technology. It is unclear, however, whether these laws will work, and whether they are appropriately tailored and directed. Despite the fact that perhaps 75% of all accidents involving trucks were caused by the negligence of drivers of cars, recent federal regulations have banned certain truck drivers from using hand-held mobile telephones while driving commercial motor vehicles. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration lacks statutory authority to regulate non- CMV drivers. Drivers, and their motor carriers, who violate these regulations are subject to draconian penalties. Drivers and motor carriers should take drastic steps to ensure compliance with the regulations. Section II of this article will discuss the recent federal regulations that prohibit drivers of commercial motor vehicles from using hand-held mobile telephones. Section II will list prohibited and permitted activities. Section II will also list the penalties for violations. Section III will present an evaluation of the regulations. Section IV will offer recommendations to drivers of commercial motor vehicles, and to motor carriers.

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