We’ve all heard the warnings about teenagers texting and driving, but the reality is most of us are guilty of some form of distracted driving—and the consequences can be high. Both in term of our safety and our profession.

The FMCSA has recently updated their guidelines for distracted driving and placed strict consequences on those drivers who ignore them. These new guidelines particularly target texting and hand-held mobile phone usage.

What You Need to Know

These new guidelines state that while operating a commercial vehicle, drivers cannot:

  • Dial a phone or other mobile device by pressing more than a single button.
  • Text on a mobile phone or other electronic device.
  • Read incoming communications on a mobile phone or other electronic device.
  • Hold a phone in order to make a call.
  • Reach for a mobile device in a way that takes them out of the seated driving position or causes them to no longer be restrained by a seat belt.

Though these rules were largely created to prevent the use of mobile phones while driving, they apply to all electronic devices, including dispatching devices. The FMCSA specifically states that “texting on a dispatch device is indistinguishable from texting on another text-capable device.”

These rules do not ban the use of mobile phones completely. Using your phone with an earpiece or speaker phone, using hands-free dialing, and using your phone in hands-free mode are all acceptable and generally safe behaviors.

They also make a single exception to the hands-free rule. If you need to contact law enforcement or if you experience an emergency, use your phone in whatever way you can.

What It Could Cost You

The FMCSA has slapped some pretty severe penalties on distracted driving offenses in order to curb the behavior. On your first offense, you could face up to $2,750 in fines. If you do it again, you could lose your ability to drive for up to 120 days.

If that’s not enough of a reason to invest in a Bluetooth headset, consider this. Your employer may also be fined up to $11,000 if they knowingly allowed you to drive with a hand-held device. Any violations will also affect their Safety Measurement System rating. Chances are, they won’t be too happy with you if that happens!

Fortunately, there is an easy way to avoid these consequences, and make yourself and others on the road considerably safer. If you expect to take calls while driving, buy yourself an inexpensive headset and set your phone up for hands-free operation. If you need to text, wait until you can pull over and do so safely.

For more information on how to keep your drivers safe, contact the experts at Contracted Driver Services, a leading CDL-driver placement firm in Phoenix.