Know The Law: Cell Phone Restrictions with Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers

May 16, 2012


This question was answered by Katie Kiernan Marble of the McLane Law Firm

Q:My company employs commercial motor vehicle drivers and I want to restrict their use of cell phones.  Is that permissible under the law?

A.Not only is this permissible, but in most circumstances it is actually required.  As of January 3, 2012, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration adopted a rule restricting commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers’ use of mobile phones and devices. Under this rule, CMV drivers may only use a mobile device where each of the three following exist: (1) the driver can operate the mobile device with the push of a single button; (2) the device is within the driver’s reach; and (3) the device is not held in the driver’s hand.

This means that for use of a mobile device to be allowed, it must be either mounted or securely within the driver’s reach. Even the passenger seat is considered out of reach. Drivers cannot even reach for a device with the intent of using the speaker phone function. Further, the device itself must have a speaker phone, wireless ear piece, or other means to allow the driver to use the device without holding it.

Because the driver must be able to use the device with a single push of the button, certain types of mobile devices cannot be used. Mobile phones cannot be used because the driver would be required to type in a phone number. Additionally, mobile devices equipped with the push-to-talk feature, which have previously been used by CMV drivers, is prohibited under this rule because the push-to-talk feature requires the driver to push a button more than once.  However, this new rule does not address, and therefore does not prohibit, CB or two-way radios.

Although this new regulation does not require a formal written policy or training program, employers who utilize CMV drivers should implement a policy consistent with this regulation and train their drivers accordingly.  The policy should explicitly state what types of phones are not allowed under this rule, consequences for failure to comply, and indicate a specific person (or position) which the drivers can contact with questions. Under the rule, drivers themselves can be fined $2,750 per violation and employers can be fined from $11,000.

These actions will not only keep your business in compliance with the law, but also keep your drivers safe while on the road.

Katie Kiernan Marble can be reached at

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by The McLane Law Firm.
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