The Final Rule that prohibits texting while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) went into effect (October 27, 2010).
The penalties for breaking the new rule are tough. Under CSA2010, texting while driving carries a 10-point severity weight rating and counts against both the carrier and the driver.
Drivers who violate the rule face fines of up to $2,750, while their employers may be fined up to $11,000.
Texting behind the wheel is also a disqualifying offense for drivers.
The prohibition against texting is detailed in a new Subpart H to 49 CFR Part 392. This section explicitly states that drivers shall not engage in texting while driving and motor carriers shall not allow or require their drivers to engage in texting while driving.
To help clarify the new rule, two key definitions were added to 49 CFR 390.5.
Here’s a look at the two-part definition of texting:
1. Texting means manually enter¬ing alphanumeric text, or read¬ing text from an electronic de¬vice. This action includes, but is not limited to, short message ser¬vice, e-mailing, instant messag¬ing, a command or request to access a World Wide Web page, or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or elec¬tronic text entry for present or future communication.
2. Texting does not include:
• Reading, selecting, or en¬tering a telephone num¬ber, an extension num¬ber, or voicemail retrieval codes and commands into an electronic device for the purpose of initiating or receiving a phone call or using voice commands to initiate or receive a tele¬phone call;
• Inputting, selecting or reading information on a global positioning system or navigation system; or
• Using a device capable of performing multiple func¬tions (e.g. fleet manage¬ment systems, dispatch¬ing devices, smart phones, citizens band radios, music players, etc.) for a purpose that is not otherwise pro-hibited in part 392.
To further clarify, FMCSA added the following definition of electronic device: Electronic device includes, but is not limited to, a cellular telephone; personal digital assistant; pager; computer; or any other device used to input, write, send, receive, or read text.
If they haven’t already, carriers are encouraged to review the new rules with their drivers as soon as possible. This is also a good time to review your driver safety policy to be sure that the section on distracted driving/cell phone use mirrors the DOT’s texting ban.
In addition to the top CSA2010 severity weight and hefty fines, texting while driving is a disqualifying offense for repeat offenders. A driver who is convicted of violating the texting ban twice in a three-year period is disqualified for 60 days. Three or more violations in a three-year period, and the driver is benched for 120 days.