Are There Laws Preventing Commercial Truckers From Driving Distracted?

Line of semi-trucks

Commercial truck drivers are not just expected to make their deliveries on time, they also have to complete a variety of non-driving activities to remain compliant with the law. Unfortunately, attempting to complete these actions while driving is a common form of distraction—especially if they involve cell phones or smartphones. Truckers may also attempt to pass the long hours behind the wheel by talking or texting, increasing the risk of an accident.

Laws Restricting Cell Phone Use for Commercial Truckers

Texting and talking on cell phones are a major source of distraction for drivers, including those hauling two-ton trailers. A truck driver who takes his eyes off the road for three seconds may not be able to stop to avoid a hazard, potentially leading to injuries and deaths to the passengers of smaller cars.

There are several laws in place that restrict cell phone use for truck drivers, including:

  • Federal laws. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has banned texting and driving for operators of commercial motor vehicles (CMV). The law covers a variety of distracting behaviors that require “manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device.” A trucker who is caught dialing a cell phone, entering text, reading messages, or even reaching for a phone can face a fine of up to $2,750 and suspension of his or her commercial driving license (CDL).
  • Illinois laws. Illinois law prohibits drivers of both commercial and passenger vehicles from reading, writing, or sending text messages from behind the wheel when the vehicle is in motion. Commercial vehicle drivers are only permitted to talk on the phone if they are using an acceptable hands-free device. If commercial drivers are caught breaking this law, they may be ordered to pay a penalty fee of up to $2,750. If a distracted driving crash results in great bodily harm, disfigurement, or permanent disability, then the driver can be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor. However, if the accident results in the death of one or more victims, a driver can be convicted of a Class 4 felony and face a fine of up to $25,000 and between one and three years in prison.
  • Missouri laws. Using a cell phone while driving is only illegal for Missouri bus drivers and drivers under the age of 21. However, commercial truckers are still bound by FMCSA laws restricting cell phone use even in states where electronic devices are permitted.

Even if the trucker’s specific actions were not illegal under state or federal laws, there are many driver distractions that can be seen as negligence. If the trucker was reading a paper map, typing directions into a navigation system, or watching a video on a portable device while driving, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and loss of income. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to schedule an appointment for a free consultation, or download your FREE copy of one of our books, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases, or The Missouri Car Crash Guide: Don't Wreck Your Car Crash Case!