On November 23, 2011, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced the finalization of an important new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule prohibiting commercial truck and bus drivers from any handheld mobile phone use while driving.
This is a huge development for the entire trucking industry for three main reasons:
1. The rule is crystal clear with regard to employer liability, stating that carriers are responsible for the actions of its employees and will generally be held accountable (fines up to $11,000 per incident) for violations that occur when drivers are carrying out company business or otherwise acting on the employer’s behalf.
2. The rule is silent with regard to recommended enforcement methods, choosing instead to clarify that an employer having a written policy in place is not sufficient enforcement, and if a violation occurs, the employer will still be held accountable for the employee’s actions.
3. Rule violations count against carriers’ BASICS scores under the “Unsafe Driving” category.
For trucking companies, however, the new rule is a complicated and sharp double-edged sword.
On one hand, the rule imposes significant financial penalties (up to $11,000 per incident) upon commercial fleets that turn a blind eye toward the 60% of truckers who admit to using cell phones while on the road.
On the other hand, the rule, like similar state laws, is inherently difficult to enforce as drivers are not inclined to put their phones down just because they are told to. Indeed, without tools to actively enforce compliance with cell phone use regulations, the FMCSA and the entire trucking industry should temper their expectations as to how many drivers will voluntarily comply.
The bottom line is that this seemingly simple rule is actually quite complex. However, there is good news for regulators and industry stakeholders: industry leaders such as XATA Turnpike have developed simple and affordable compliance solutions that actively or passively promote safe and legal use of cell phones while driving on the job.
To see a compliance solution in action, contact us for a free demo of FleetSafer Vision.
For further analysis of what this rule means for trucking firms, check out this post by XATA’s Ryan Barnett.
FleetSafer Vision and FleetSafer Mobile are tools designed to give trucking companies a simple and affordable way to promote safe and legal use of cell phones while driving on the job.