Distracted Driving: Dangerous and Illegal for Truck Drivers

Published on: 01/6/17 9:00 AM

Truck on the roadDistracted driving is the number one cause of accidents on today’s roads. This is true for drivers who operate passenger vehicles and those who drive trucks for a living. If you spend your days behind the wheel of a semi, distracted driving is both dangerous and illegal. The FMCSA keeps its views on distracted driving concise. Here’s what you need to know.

Distracted Driving Defined

When it comes to cell phones, the FMCSA tells truckers not to:

  • Reach
  • Hold
  • Dial
  • Text
  • Read

The use of mobile devices behind the wheel is a top cause of distraction. New FMCSA regulations include hitting just a single button on your phone in their definition of “texting.” For example:

Your phone is on the dashboard where you can easily see it. You receive an alert. You reach out for your phone, hold it at such an angle that you can see it, tap your messages icon, read the text and reply. You have just violated every new rule set forth by the FMCSA except dialing. Further, the association defines “using” a mobile device as making a call with at least one hand, dialing the phone and reaching for the phone in such a way that you have to move out of your seat, even slightly.

Note that the government is not telling you that you can’t take a picture with your phone. Is it a good idea? Absolutely not. While you may see an amazing photo op on the side of the road as you are driving past, taking a picture would most likely still require that you hold your phone and tap a few buttons, thus violating the laws in at least one manner.

Penalties for Distracted Driving

If you are cited and ultimately convicted for distracted driving, you will face fines of up to $2,750. If you are convicted of repeat violations, you may be suspended from service for up to 120 days. Employers who require their drivers to use handheld devices behind the wheel can be fined up to $11,000 if their drivers are cited for distracted driving.

Consider that whatever violations the courts dish out are in addition to any punishment you will face from your employer. Some employers will take you off of the road for a specific period of time, while other employers have a no violation policy and will kindly ask you to not return to work should you be convicted of using a cell phone behind the wheel. Many employers will show their drivers the door rather than face large fines from the court.

It is estimated that dialing a phone or sending a text takes your attention off the road long enough for you to have covered the distance of a football field or more. Imagine all that could happen in that distance. If you are tasked with driving such a powerful machine for a living, do so with yours and everyone’s safety in mind.

One of the reasons truckers make use of their cell phones in the cab is to contact roadside assistance. Make sure that your commercial roadside assistance plan is up to date. If you need a new policy, reach out to a reputable company like Encore Protection. Contact us today to learn more.