DOT Safety Regulation Update Fast-Fax™
Week of March 21, 2011
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A new rule issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration expands FMCSA’s earlier rule prohibiting texting while operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle.
At the end of February, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a final rule that prohibits texting on electronic devices while transporting hazardous materials requiring placarding. PHMSA’s texting ban, which expands the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) earlier rule banning texting while driving a commercial motor vehicle, goes into effect next Wednesday (March 30, 2011).
The rule adds the following paragraph to Section 177.804, Compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, to the Hazardous Materials and Oil Transportation Regulations:
(b) Prohibition against texting. In accordance with Sec. 392.80 of the FMCSRs a person transporting a quantity of hazardous materials requiring placarding under 49 CFR part 172 or any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR part 73 may not engage in, allow, or require texting while driving.
More simply, all Hazmat carriers, even those who do not cross state lines, are now prohibited from texting while driving a commercial motor vehicle laden with hazardous materials.
FMCSA Texting Ban
FMCSA’s earlier texting ban — and the associated penalties — went into effect on October 27, 2010. The penalties outlined by FMCSA are tough. Under the Compliance, Safety Aucountablity (CSA) system, texting while driving carries a 10-point severity weight rating and counts against both the carrier and the driver. Drivers who violate the rule face fines of up to $2,750, while their employers may be fined up to $11,000. Texting behind the wheel has also been identified as a disqualifying offense for FMCSA-regulated drivers. PHMSA’s rule did not specifically address fines and penalties for hazmat carriers and drivers who break the agency’s texting ban.
Details of FMCSA’s prohibition against texting are outlined in the newly created Subpart H to 49 CFR part 392 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. This section explicitly states that drivers shall not engage in texting while driving and motor carriers shall not allow or require their drivers to engage in texting while driving.
To help clarify FMCSA’s rule, two key definitions were added to 49 CFR Part 390.5.
First, the two-part definition of texting:
(1) Texting means manually entering alphanumeric text, or reading text from an electronic device. This action includes, but is not limited to, short message service, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a World Wide Web page, or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or electronic text entry for present or future communication.
(2) Texting does not include:
- Reading, selecting, or entering a telephone number, an extension number, or voicemail retrieval codes and commands into an electronic device for the purpose of initiating or receiving a phone call or using voice commands to initiate or receive a telephone call;
- Inputting, selecting or reading information on a global positioning system or navigation system; or
- Using a device capable of performing multiple functions (e.g. fleet management systems, dispatching devices, smart phones, citizens band radios, music players, etc.) for a purpose that is not otherwise prohibited in part 392.
To further clarify, FMCSA added the following definition of electronic device: Electronic device includes, but is not limited to, a cellular telephone; personal digital assistant; pager; computer; or any other device used to input, write, send, receive, or read text.
What Should Carriers Do to Ensure Compliance?
If they haven’t already, carriers are encouraged to review the texting ban regulations with their drivers as soon as possible. This is also a good time to review your driver safety policy to be sure that the section on distracted driving/cell phone use mirrors the DOT’s texting ban.
In addition to the top CSA severity weight and hefty fines, texting while driving is a disqualifying offense for repeat offenders. A driver who is convicted of violating the texting ban twice in a three-year period is disqualified for 60 days. Three or more violations in a three-year period, and the driver is benched for 120 days.
NYSDOT Targets Unsafe Carriers. In the wake of two deadly crashes earlier this month, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is cracking down on unsafe buses operating in the state. NYSDOT recently conducted a safety inspection blitz that resulted with dozens of buses and drivers being pulled from the road.
A total of 164 buses were inspected at 13 checkpoints throughout the state. In a released statement, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said the inspections proved that many of the drivers and vehicles “had no business” being on the road. Cuomo urged all carriers to heed the warning, get into compliance and abide by the law.
In total, 41 drivers and/or buses were placed out-of-service for serious violations during the recent roadside inspections. Even more buses and drivers were cited for minor vehicle infractions
and moving violations.
Editor: Roxanne Swidrak, Vice President, Operations • 1-800-253-5506 • www.FoleyServices.com • Vol. 111, No. 679 • © Foley Carrier Services, LLC. 2011