Can Commercial Truck Drivers Use Cell Phones While Driving?

In Florida, texting and driving are strictly prohibited. However, drivers can use their phones for calls so long as they’re not in a school or construction zone. Otherwise, they are not only breaking the law, they risk causing serious accidents. So how do these laws apply to commercial truck drivers?

Commercial drivers have different rules that they must follow under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). According to these laws, commercial motor vehicle drivers of all types – not just truck drivers – must not use handheld devices while driving.

This means that a commercial driver cannot talk on a cell phone unless using hands-free technology. That hands-free technology must enable them to initiate and end the calls without ever touching the handheld device.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the laws for commercial drivers and the common causes of commercial truck accidents to better understand your rights as a motorist and how to protect yourself should you be involved in truck accidents.

Truck Driver Safety Precautions for Handheld Devices

Truck drivers cross state lines regularly in their business – so do many other commercial drivers, like bus drivers. Because of their interstate responsibilities, federal law governs their safety measures as they travel from state to state.

For handheld devices, federal law outlines the following truck driver safety regulations.

  • No texting while driving. The law outlines texting as “entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device.” This includes emails, instant messages, commands, or web browsing. Anything more than pushing one button to initiate voice communication is considered texting while driving and is strictly prohibited.
  • Drivers cannot hold a mobile phone for voice communication or to dial or press buttons to initiate voice communication outside of a single button. These drivers must use hands-free devices if making calls and these calls must be initiated by voice commands. The device should be within a safe reach to avoid distracted driving.
  • Use an earpiece or speakerphone for voice calls. Once the driver uses voice commands to initiate a call, they must use an earpiece or speakerphone to continue the calls. They cannot then lift the phone out of its resting place to continue the call.

Drivers who violate these rules can face penalties of fines up to $2,750 for initial offenses. After multiple offenses, commercial drivers run the risk of losing their commercial license and paying much larger fines.

Truck Driving Accidents and Distracted Driving

Federal law sets forth such strict rules for commercial drivers because studies prove that distracted driving makes commercial drivers 23.2 times more likely to be in a safety-critical event.

Commercial vehicles tend to be much larger, meaning they can inflict enormous harm in a matter of seconds. In fact, research shows that commercial drivers who read or send messages take their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, on average. When traveling at 55 miles per hour, that equates to traveling 100 yards, or an entire football field while not looking where they are going.

An action as simple as reaching for an object makes commercial truck drivers three times more likely to be involved in an accident. That’s why the FMCSA has such strict rules about the communication device being within reach to initiate voice commands.

Other Common Causes of Commercial Trucking Accidents

Commercial truck drivers have a huge responsibility when behind the wheel. Because 18-wheelers are so large, they can inflict great harm. But the trucking company also has some responsibility in protecting other motorists by following guidelines and maintenance schedules.

Here’s a look at some other common causes of commercial trucking accidents in addition to distracted driving.

  • Poor weather conditions
  • Driver fatigue
  • Faulty or defective parts
  • Improper maintenance routines
  • An overloaded trailer
  • Unbalanced load that throws the truck off balance
  • Blind spots

What to Do When Involved in an Accident With a Commercial Driver

The shock and surprise of being involved in an accident with a commercial driver can leave you feeling disconnected and numb at first. Take a moment to collect yourself before following the next steps.

  1.   Get to a safe place. You’re likely not on the side of the road if you’ve been in a trucking accident so get out of the middle of the road and to safety if you’re physically able.
  2.   Call 911 to get emergency personnel on the scene. You’ll need them to help clear the accident scene and make that area of the roadway safe while you work through the details.
  3.   Exchange information with the truck driver. Be sure to get the driver’s commercial information, including who the driver works for and their commercial license information. Also, take down the truck number and license plate information.
  4.   See a doctor. It’s rare for victims of truck driving accidents to come out of such an experience without any injuries. You can even travel to the hospital via ambulance from the accident if you aren’t feeling well. But if you don’t go in the ambulance, be sure to see your doctor immediately to get checked out.
  5.   Contact a truck accident attorney. Discuss the details of the accident with an attorney before filing an insurance claim with the truck driver’s commercial insurance policy. This will help you protect your rights, so you don’t say anything wrong during your conversation with the insurance company.

Goldman and Daszkal offers a team of experienced injury attorneys who know the ins and outs of truck accidents in Florida. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, schedule a free consultation with us today.