Employment: DOT Implements Regulations Banning Texting by Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers


Last month we told you about the recently announced partnership between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Transportation to combat "distracted driving" on the job. This month there is more to report. On October 27, the DOT implemented regulations prohibiting texting while driving commercial motor vehicles (CMV). The regulations also prohibit motor carriers from requiring or allowing their drivers to engage in texting while driving. According to the Department of Transportation, the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event, such as a crash, near-crash, or unintentional lane deviation, is 23 times greater for CMV drivers who text while driving than for those who do not.

CMVs are "any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle

(1) has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,563 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater; or

(2) is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation; or

(3) is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation; or

(4) is used in transporting [hazardous material as defined by regulations]."

The regulations define "texting" as manually entering alpha-numeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device, including emailing, instant messaging, internet searches, and any other form of electronic text retrieval or entry.

For the purpose of the regulations, "driving" means operating a commercial motor vehicle, with the engine running, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, such as a stoplight or stop sign, or any other momentary delays.

Employers and drivers caught violating the rule may face sanctions such as civil penalties and disqualification from operating CMVs in interstate commerce.

The regulations do not affect a driver's ability to use a cell phone for phone calls, use a GPS or navigation system, or electronic dispatching tools or fleet management technology.

If you employ drivers of CMVs, you will want to ensure that your drivers are aware of the ban. You may want to consider implementing company policies prohibiting your drivers of CMVs from texting on the job. Additionally, you should not require, encourage, or permit your drivers to text while driving.

If you do not employ drivers of CMVs, it might still be a good idea to heed this trend. You may want to consider prohibiting employees from texting if they are driving company vehicles or driving for company business. Thirty states and the District of Columbia prohibit texting while driving. While Oklahoma does not currently have any laws prohibiting texting while driving, the Oklahoma House and Senate have recently voted in favor of bills restricting drivers' use of cell phones. We will, of course, keep you updated on any new laws or regulations.

By Kenneth T. Short, kshort@dsda.com

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Justin B. Munn

Justin B. Munn

Justin represents clients throughout Oklahoma in family law, civil litigation, guardianships, adoptions, estate planning, trust and probate matters. 

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