On November 23, 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration recently issued a joint rule prohibiting interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from using handheld cell phones while operating their vehicles. Violation of this rule can result in federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and, in cases where there are multiple violations, possible disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle. In addition, states will suspend a commercial driver's license after the driver has committed two or more serious traffic violations. Employers of interstate commercial truck and bus drivers can be penalized up to $11,000 if they allow their drivers to use handheld cell phones while driving.
To view the final rule, go to www.regulations.gov; the docket numbers are FMCSA–2010-0096 and PHMSA-2010-0227.
My Two Cents: Although this new rule applies only to interstate commercial truck and bus drivers, all employers should have rules against distracted driving. Having such a rule and enforcing same can provide employers, at least to some extent, protection from liability and also provide a valuable defense in the realm of workers’ compensation. In Alabama, indemnity benefits can be denied if a workers’ compensation accident/injury results from an employee’s failure to follow a safety rule.