Minnesota has joined other states in instituting a hand-held cell phone ban — but laws for commercial drivers are different.

With over 90% of U.S. adults owning a cellular phone, mobile phones have become a part of everyday life. However, research has shown that cell phones play a huge role in driver distraction — and that means an increased potential for fines and costly accidents. U.S. states have taken action, and as of August 1, Minnesota joined 20 other states in instituting a hand-held cell phone ban for drivers. But do these laws apply to commercial drivers?


In a word, no. In 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a rule that restricted the use of all hand-held mobile devices by drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). This stemmed from research commissioned by the FMCSA that showed that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (i.e. a crash, near-crash or lane deviation) were six times greater for CMV drivers who engaged in hand-held cell phone use. In fact, drivers took their eyes off the roadway for an average of 3.8 seconds to use their phones — at 55 mph, this could equate to traveling 306 feet (the approximate length of a football field) without looking at the roadway.     


Given the potential for costly fines, penalties and accidents, what can a fleet manager or owner do to help protect both their drivers and their fleet?


Know the Law

The easiest way to stay compliant is to know the law. For example, the hand-held mobile ban includes any time the vehicle is in motion and when a vehicle is stationary because of traffic, traffic control devices or other momentary delays. 

The FMCSA defines the use of a hand-held mobile telephone as:

  • Using at least one hand to hold the mobile phone to make a call.
  • Dialing a mobile phone by pressing more than a single button.
  • Reaching for a mobile phone in a manner that requires a driver to maneuver so that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position restrained by a seat belt. 

So what is within compliance? A mounted phone is acceptable to use as long as it is mounted close enough to the driver where they can start, answer or terminate a call by touching a single button, or use the voice-activated, hands-free functionality. 


Train Your Drivers

Regularly training your drivers on both new (and not so new) laws is an important part of ensuring their safety and compliance on the road. A few ways you can remind them of important issues such as cell phone use are:

  • Post reminders at your depot where drivers are sure to see them.
  • Hold quarterly training sessions to ensure your drivers are up-to-date with the latest information they need to know. 
  • Develop a policy on cell phone use for your company, including possible ramifications if a driver is caught or fined.


Invest in Video Telematics

Keeping your drivers up-to-date with the best safety practices is crucial for your business — but how can you know exactly what’s going on when your fleet is on the road? Video telematics can give you a view of what your driver sees, as well as a look at what’s going on in the cab. Not only can this help to analyze your driver’s behaviors, but you can also detect training needs and incentivize good driving behaviors and practices. Some of the benefits of a video telematics system can include:

  • Distracted driver alerts
  • Advanced driver behavior analysis and reporting
  • Incident alerts (such as hard braking, speeding or an accident)
  • Get your driver’s point-of-view, as well as an in-cab view 


Are you concerned about your driver’s mobile phone usage on the road? Get social with us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook and tell us what you’re doing to increase the best safety practices of your drivers.