U.S. DOT Bans Use of Hand-Held Cell Phones for CMV Drivers

The FMCSA and the PHMSA issued a final rule restricting the use of hand-held mobile telephones by interstate commercial motor vehicle drives (CMV) and intrastate hazmat drivers.  The rule does not prohibit the use of hand-free devices. The final rule will take effect on January 2, 2012.

The rule prohibits CMV drivers from holding, dialing, or reaching for a hand-held cellular phone.  This includes all push-to-talk functions, but hands-free use of a cellular phone is allowed.  The ban does not prohibit or restrict the use of Citizen Band Radios, GPS, or fleet management systems.


A driver is allowed to initiate, answer, or terminate a call by touching a single button on a mobile telephone or on a handset.  This action should not require the driver to take his or her eyes off the road.


A driver is not permitted to reach for a cellular phone or hands-free device that is done in “an unacceptable and unsafe manner.” Examples of this behavior would be reaching for a cellular phone on the passenger seat, under the driver’s seat, or into the sleeper berth.  To be in compliance with the rule, a driver must have a cellular phone and/or hands-free device within “close proximity” to his or her person.

Driver and Motor Carrier Penalties

CMV drivers who are convicted of a hand-held cell violation twice within a three year period will be disqualified for 60 days.  If convicted of a third violation within three years the driver will be disqualified for 120 days.  They will also be subject to federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.  Motor carriers that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle face a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 per violation.

Employer Liability

The rule states that “no motor carrier shall allow or require its drivers to use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving a CMV.” In the preamble, FMCSA interprets the regulatory language to mean that motor carriers are responsible for the actions of its drivers, regardless of whether or not such actions are sanctioned by the motor carrier, FMCSA will hold employers accountable if the employee was doing his or her job, carrying out company business, or otherwise acting on employer’s behalf when a violation occurs.

State Requirement

States are required to adopt the regulations within three years of enactment.  Once states adopt the federal regulatory language, the rule will become applicable to intrastate non-hazmat CMV drivers.


The proposal also allows hand-held cell phone use by drivers for emergency purposes and contacting law enforcement.


For more information concerning the new CMV Driver laws, contact Boyd B. Newton PC, an expert CMV Accident Attorney in Atlanta.