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What’s the FMCSA’s Stance on Texting Truckers?

As unsettling as the idea of a speeding and texting car, pickup or sport utility vehicle driver is, consider the prospect of a speeding and texting semi driver. Indeed, it’s truly terrifying to imagine the idea of a vehicle weighing upwards of 40 tons barreling down the highway at speeds of over 60 miles-per-hour with essentially no one minding the wheel for several seconds at a time.

While we would perhaps like to think that semi drivers would recognize just how dangerous this practice is and do their best to avoid it, the reality is that it takes place far more often than we know. Indeed, a basic internet search of distracted truck driving will likely generate a disturbing number of results.

The good news in all this, however, is that state and even federal officials are now doing their best to crack down on texting and driving by truckers. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration now has a rule expressly prohibiting those operating a commercial motor vehicle from texting while driving.

What exactly does this rule state?

The FMCSA’s rule prohibits CMV drivers from manually entering text into or reading text from an electronic device. This includes not just short message services and emails, but also instant messaging, commands/requests to access the Internet, pressing more than one button for calls, and “any other form of electronic text retrieval or entry, for present or future communication.”

What spurred the FMCSA to take this action?

More than likely, the statistics showing the marked increases in injuries and fatalities attributable to texting while driving, and the growing body of research demonstrating just how dangerous this practice is spurred this action.

In fact, the FMCSA conducted its own research into this topic, finding that not only are CMV drivers who text while driving 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a critical safety event — lane departures, near-crashes, crashes, etc. — but that they took their eyes off the road for a full 4.6 seconds. At 55 miles-per-hour, this is the functional equivalent of traveling the length of a whole football field with your eyes closed.

What happens if CMV drivers are caught breaking this rule?

The FMCSA dictates that CMV drivers caught texting while driving can face fines of up to $2,750, while their employers can face fines of up to $11,000 if it’s determined that they allow — or require — drivers to use devices to text. If the CMV driver is caught multiple times, driver disqualification becomes an option.

If you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a truck accident caused by the recklessness of a trucker or trucking company, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options.