Cell Phone Restrictions for Truck Drivers

Truck crashes often lead to serious injuries and fatalities for those in smaller passenger vehicles. In fact, in 2014 alone, there were more than 88,000 trucks involved in injury accidents nationwide, reports the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Texting and other distractions are a major cause of all car accidents, and especially dangerous when the person using a cell phone is a trucker. For this reason, FMCSA created cell phone restrictions for truck drivers.

How dangerous is texting for truck drivers?

According to FMCSA, truck drivers are six times more likely to cause a safety-critical event such as a crash, near crash, or veering into another lane when dialing a cell phone. Truckers who text while driving are an astounding 23.2 times more likely to cause this type of accident than drivers who do not use a mobile device while driving.

In response to this research, FMCSA issued a set of regulations in 2014 in an attempt to curb distracted driving.

these rules outlaw texting and restrict the use of hand-held mobile phones by truck drivers while they are behind the wheel of a tractor trailer or other commercial motor vehicle.

What are the new FMCSA restrictions for truck drivers?

The FMCSA rules severely limit the use of any type of mobile device by truck drivers and other commercial drivers while they are behind the wheel.

Under the restrictions, commercial truck drivers cannot:

  • Read or send a text message, instant message, or email
  • Surf the web
  • Enter a location in a GPS
  • Use a hand-held device to make a call
  • Press more than one button to dial a number

Truck drivers can use hands-free devices that require only a single touch to operate, when the phone is located within an arm’s reach (if the trucker needs to “maneuver so that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position, restrained by a seat belt,” it is illegal).

What sanctions could truck drivers face for violations?

In addition to restricting the use of hand-held mobile devices, the FMCSA rules lay out the potential sanctions if a driver violates these restrictions.

Drivers can face penalties of up to $2,750 for a first offense. Multiple offenses for texting or using a hand-held phone while driving could result in the driver facing a license disqualification of up to 120 days.

Trucking companies can also receive sanctions if their drivers violate FMCSA restrictions. If the FMCSA believes the motor carrier is not doing enough to prohibit their drivers from using hand-held mobile devices on the road, the carrier could faces civil penalties up to $11,000. This is especially true if the trucking company requires its drivers to check in via mobile device or otherwise encourages their use. 

In addition, many states have similar laws in place that make it illegal to text and drive. This means that truck drivers who text while driving may face additional punishments under state law. This may include additional disqualifications.

What if a texting truck driver caused my accident?

Despite these potential sanctions under the new FMCSA rules, many truck drivers continue to use cell phones while driving. Accidents still happen due to distracted commercial drivers, and victims of these accidents often suffer severe, debilitating injuries.

If a trucker was texting or using a cell phone at the time of the wreck, he is most likely liable for your injuries. This means you can recover compensation from the driver for your medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, property damage and even pain and suffering.

However, in many cases, the trucking company is also liable. This is because of a legal concept known as vicarious liability. Under this doctrine, trucking companies are responsible for the actions of their employees at any time the employees are acting “in the scope of their employment.” This may be true even if the employer discouraged cell phone use.

This means that victims of distracted driving truck accidents can file suit against the trucking company directly in order to collect damages. While this can be a good thing because it generally means you are eligible to recover a bigger insurance payout, it also means that you will be going up against larger, knowledgeable legal teams.

How do I prove the driver was at fault for my accident?

As with any accident case, you need to prove that the driver’s negligent actions caused your accident. To do so, you need to gather evidence such as:

  • The police report (will include any citations issued, as well as statements from witnesses)
  • Eyewitness testimony (the witness can testify that she saw the driving texting or speaking on the phone just before your accident)
  • The driver’s personnel file (it may include any sanctions the driver has faced for cell phone use in the past)

Where can I get legal help if I was involved in a truck accident caused by a distracted trucker?

If you suffered serious injuries in a crash with a distracted truck driver, enlist the help of a Pennsylvania truck accident attorney as early in the process as possible. Cordisco & Saile LLC can go to work immediately to protect your rights against the trucking company and negligent driver, ensuring you get the medical care you need without having to worry about the financial implications.

Having successfully represented thousands of clients in truck accident cases, we understand the process. We will send the trucking company a spoliation letter to prevent it from destroying crucial evidence to support your case. We will gather this evidence and build a strong case against the motor carrier, getting you the maximum payout possible for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. Call Cordisco & Saile LLC today at 215-642-2335 to schedule a free case evaluation.