The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in conjunction with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued a final rule specifically prohibiting interstate truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating their vehicles.

The final rule prohibits commercial drivers from using a hand-held mobile telephone while operating a commercial truck or bus.  Drivers who violate the restriction will face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle for multiple offenses. Individual states will also suspend a driver’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) after two or more serious traffic violations.

Nearly 5474 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009.  Distraction-related fatalities represented 16% of overall traffic fatalities in 2009, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research.

Many motor carriers already have company policies in place banning their drivers from using hand-held phones, but, this new rule puts into law the prohibition.