The current federal administration is making significant changes in employment law through its rulemaking and regulatory authority rather than seeking Acts of Congress.  Another example of this method of legislature-through-rulemaking is the new federal regulation taking effect on January 3, 2012 that prohibit all commercial motor vehicle drivers from using hand-held telephones while driving.  The new rules provide significant penalties for drivers and employers of drivers caught violating them.

In summary, the final rule provides as follows:

  • Restricts use of hand-held mobile telephone by drivers of commercial motor vehicles;
  • Prohibits employers of CMV drivers from requiring or allowing drivers to use hand-held mobile telephones while driving and provides a civil monetary penalty of up to $11,000 per violation;
  • Imposes new driver disqualification sanctions for drivers violating the rules, or state law equivalents, on multiple occasions;
  • Requires states, within three years, to implement the new rules regarding disqualifying CDL drivers for violating the new serious traffic violation of using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving a commercial motor vehicle;
  • Provides limited exceptions for communications to law enforcement personnel and emergency services;
  • Applies to school bus drivers and drivers of small, passenger-carrying vehicles (designed to transport 9-15 passengers), not for direct compensation that were otherwise exempt from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations;
  • Defines "use [of] a hand-held mobile telephone" to include holding, dialing and reaching in a proscribed manner to conduct voice communication;
  • Includes "push-to-talk" functions within definition of hand-held mobile telephone. 

If you are a CDL driver or employer of CDL drivers, you should review these regulations carefully and update your fleet management and employee handbook policies accordingly.  A full copy of the final regulation can be accessed here.

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