Federal Trucking Laws for Texting and Driving

All types of people can be guilty of texting while driving. Although it’s dangerous under any circumstance, certain types of drivers pose an especially harmful risk. Imagine someone behind the wheel of a semi-truck that weighs several thousand pounds not paying attention to the road because he or she is distracted with reading or sending a text message.

Although state laws may apply to texting and driving, truck drivers must also adhere to federal texting and driving laws that prohibit the action behind the wheel. Read on to learn more about the law and the impact it could have on a truck accident case.

Overview of Federal Trucking Laws Regarding Texting and Driving

Under no circumstance is a truck driver allowed to text while operating a commercial motor vehicle. These laws also apply to trucking companies who employ their drivers. They cannot mandate or allow their drivers to text.

The ban also applies to brief moments of delay, such as when stuck in traffic or waiting for a light to change. The only time a driver can text is when the truck is pulled safely off to the side of the road or off the road completely. There is an exception when communicating with law enforcement or other emergency officials.

The ban on texting can include not only the reading and sending of messages in the usual format, but other means of communication: 

  • emails;
  • instant messaging; and
  • accessing a website. 

In fact, federal law prohibits truck drivers from even using a handheld mobile device at all. So it’s not just they can’t text, they can’t use a cell phone to place or receive calls either. The only mobile device they can use is a hands-free device that requires no more than one push of a button.

Violations could lead to significant fines for the driver and/or trucking company. Drivers may face fines of $2,750 and companies may face $11,000 fines. The driver could also be suspended from operating a truck for a certain period of time when there are multiple violations.

Impact of Texting and Driving Laws on an Accident Case

In addition to the legal implications of texting while driving, violations could certainly affect a truck accident case. If the truck driver is found guilty and law enforcement issues a citation, this will likely be noted in the police report. It could then help establish fault for the crash.

Even if texting wasn’t the direct reason for the accident, it would certainly weigh against the truck driver. Of course, in many situations it is the leading (if not sole) cause of an accident. Having evidence that the driver was cited for texting can help build a strong case.

Distracted driving could be blamed for a variety of collisions. Let’s say the truck driver rear-ended a passenger car. Texting could have certainly caused the trucker to not realize the vehicle up ahead had slowed down or stopped. Since trucks take much longer to brake, the ability to react quickly can certainly be hindered when not paying attention to the road.

Another example would be a head-on collision, in which a truck driver veers into an oncoming lane because of the distraction. It could also lead to a side impact crash if the truck driver’s texting causes him to drift into the next lane.

Importance of Talking to an Attorney

Unless there is concrete evidence (such as the driver admitting to it or someone else witnessing it), texting can be difficult to prove. In certain cases – for instance, a fatal accident – it may be possible to obtain cell phone records to establish if the driver had been texting at the time of the crash.

Get help from an attorney if you know or suspect a truck driver was texting at the time, or was otherwise negligent. Contact Gacovino, Lake & Associates for legal consultation – call us at 800-550-0000 or fill out our contact form.

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