Have you ever passed a tractor-trailer or bus and seen its driver talking on a hand-held cell phone?  Have you ever seen a tractor-trailer or bus in your rearview mirror whose driver was talking on a hand-held cell phone?  I have and I doubt that my experience is unique.

In September 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a regulation banning text messaging while operating a commercial truck or bus, but this regulation did not go far enough to curb the distracted driving epidemic affecting commercial drivers.  The new rule takes the necessary steps to further address the epidemic and bans commercial truck and bus drivers from using a hand-held mobile telephone while operating their vehicles.

Thankfully, the new rule comes with strong penalties for violators and their employers.  Commercial drivers who violate the rule will face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for multiple offenses.  Equally significant, the new rule imposes penalties of up to $11,000 on commercial truck and bus companies who allow their drivers to use hand-held mobile telephones.

If the extraordinary danger of operating a commercial vehicle while using a hand-held cell phone was not enough to deter drivers, with the consent of their employers, from engaging in this behavior, perhaps the new penalties will.