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Can motor carriers require drivers to use phones while driving?

Given all of the awareness raised recently about the dangers of distracted driving, you likely would not even dream of pulling out your phone to send a text or take a call while driving on the roads in Manassas. How unsettling must it be, then, to find yourself a passenger on a commercial vehicle whose driver is indeed using his or her phone while driving? You might ask him or her to stop, only to be answered with the assertion that his or her employer requires him or her to communicate with the company while on a route. Can a commercial carrier really require this of its drivers? 

The answer to that question is a resounding no. Under Section 392.80 of the Code of Federal Regulations, commercial vehicle drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, and the motor carriers that employ them cannot require them to do so. Furthermore, a commercial vehicle driver cannot send or receive text messages while operating his or her vehicle, even during temporary stops caused by traffic, traffic control devices or other delays. The only exception to this rule would be if the driver needed to communicate with law enforcement officials or first responders in an emergency situation. It should also be noted that if a commercial motor vehicle is stopped alongside a highway or roadway, the driver is not considered to be operating the vehicle (regardless of whether the engine is running or not). 

The same restrictions apply to commercial vehicle drivers taking calls on cell phones while driving. Motor carriers that need to communicate with drivers on routes need to do so by two-way radio or vehicle Bluetooth connections. 

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