eTrends - US DOT Bans Texting While Driving CMVs

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued guidance that texting while driving a commercial motor vehicle is prohibited.  The guidance, which was effective January 27, 2010, applies to all interstate drivers of CMVs and serves as an interim measure until current safety regulations can be amended. Vehicles that are covered as CMVs are listed in 49 CFR 390.5 (namely gvw of 10,001 pounds, designed for 8 (including driver) for compensation or 15 (including driver) for no compensation, or transporting hazardous materials requiring placard).

Texting is defined as the review of, or preparation and transmission of, typed messages through any handheld or other electronic or wireless device or the engagement in any form of electronic data retrieval or electronic data communication through any such device.

The guidance was the result of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s recently completed, Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations study.  The study found that the odds of being involved in a safety critical event was 23.2 times greater for drivers who are text messaging on a cell phone than for those not texting. 

The guidance does not prohibit cell phone usage other than text messaging.  And, although the guidance falls short of prohibiting typing or reading messages on fleet management and electronic dispatching devices, the FMCSA stated that it believes that safety conscious employers would “neither allow or require drivers to type or read messages while driving.” Employers who nonetheless require such behaviors can expect the agency to pursue “appropriate regulatory action to address the safety problem.”

Please contact Kim Korando with any questions.

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  • Alicia A. Gilleskie
  • Frederick R. Zufelt

Smith Anderson publishes eTrends periodically as a service to clients and friends. The purpose of this eTrends is to provide general information about a significant legal development in the field of employment law. Readers should be aware that the facts may vary from one situation to another, so the conclusions stated herein may not be applicable to the reader’s particular circumstances.

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