Distracted Driving and Commercial Motor Vehicles

Topics: Loss Control

Summary: Distracted driving is responsible for thousands of vehicle accidents and fatalities every year. Commercial motor vehicles are no exception. Learn more about the FMCSA’s rules about driver safety and distracted driving, and why your organization should create a company distracted driving policy to help employees avoid vehicle accidents.

The Danger of Driving Distracted in Commercial Motor Vehicles

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of work-related fatalities in the U.S. annually. Distracted driving causes many of these deaths, which occur when a driver’s attention is on anything other than driving.

Chief among the distractions is the use of electronic devices, such as cell phones used to talk, listen, text, etc. Even reaching for a cell phone or using a hands-free device takes a driver’s focus off the road.

Distracted driving has become an epidemic in the U.S. It is a threat to your workers, their families, your business and the public. It also places your workers’ compensation and liability policies at risk. Legislatures across the country have taken significant steps to create distracted driving laws to restrict cellular device usage while operating motor vehicles, including the following:
  • Handheld cell phone use ban: 28 states and Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.
  • All cell phone ban: No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 36 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice or teen drivers. Eighteen states and D.C. prohibit any cell phone use by school bus drivers.
  • Text messaging ban: 48 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. Missouri prohibits text messaging by drivers 21 years old or younger.
Other states also prohibit handheld cell phones or all cell phone use by all or certain drivers in certain zones.

For commercial motor vehicle drivers, distracted driving is responsible for around 28% of all trucks involved in crashes. When drivers are inattentive, distracted by something inside or outside of the vehicle, or are otherwise unable to respond to a situation adequately, they can easily lose control and end up in an accident that could be deadly. According to the NHTSA, distracted driving took the lives of over 3,500 individuals in 2021.

FMCSA Policy on Distracted Driving

distracted driving affects CMVs
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published rules restricting texting and using hand-held mobile phones by truck and bus drivers while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). All CMV drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, which means these drivers may not text into or read from any electronic device while behind the wheel. “Texting” is defined as entering a short message, emailing, instant messaging, accessing the internet, or pressing more than one button to initiate or terminate a voice communication on a mobile phone.

Research commissioned by FMCSA shows that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) are 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who text while driving than those who do not. A CMV weighs more than 10,000 pounds and crosses a state line for business purposes or any vehicle that weighs over 26,000 pounds. A driver who violates this law faces steep fines and the possible loss of their commercial operator’s license. A company that is caught allowing its drivers to use handheld cell phones can be fined up to $11,000.

OSHA’s Stance on Distracted Driving

Additionally, OSHA has an enforcement program in place that involves investigations of motor vehicle accidents and the cellphone records of companies with employees involved. Fines can be issued if an accident involves texting while driving or when work is structured so that texting is a practical necessity, even if not a formal requirement. Employers must make it clear that their organization does not condone texting while driving and that workers should focus on the road and avoid electronic distractions.

Create Your Company Distracted Driving Policy

AmTrust supports the efforts of the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the National Safety Council, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), OSHA and many other organizations that are on a mission to stop distracted driving to prevent injuries and save lives.

CMV drivers are at risk for distracted driving every time they get behind the wheel. It’s imperative that your company creates a distracted driving policy that restricts cell phone use for all employees who drive as part of their daily duties.

AmTrust Loss Control Resources to Keep Your CMV Drivers Safe

The AmTrust Loss Control department helps businesses take a proactive approach to reducing workplace accidents, identifying specific hazards and offering solutions that fit the organization’s specific needs. We know driving can be a universal hazard, and motor vehicle accidents can have a devastating impact on an organization. We offer a variety of transportation safety resources, including streaming commercial driver safety videos to ensure your CMV drivers are well-trained in safe driving practices. To learn more about our loss control services, please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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