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Federal law prohibits texting by semi-truck drivers

Most traffic laws are crafted on a state-by-state basis. There are different top speeds on interstates in different jurisdictions. Some states have very strict rules against U-turns, and others permit them. Distracted driving is largely criminalized on a state level.

Although the majority of states have implemented a ban on the manual use of mobile phones while driving, there are no federal traffic laws addressing this behavior, nor are there federal regulations that apply to state transportation departments as there are with alcohol laws.

The exception applies to those with commercial licenses. A professional with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) has to abide by state traffic laws as they perform their jobs and also adhere to the federal traffic rules established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). One of those federal rules is the no-text rule. Despite the clear prohibition on handling digital devices while in control of a commercial vehicle, many drivers still do so.

Why is texting so tempting for those with a CDL?

Commercial transportation work is very demanding and often forces people to accept very long shifts. They may be on the road for half of the day when they work, and they may end their shift several states away from their family.

Their phones provide them with a source of connection to preserve their closest relationships during their days away from home. A phone can also be a way for a driver to keep themselves engaged so they don’t fall victim to highway hypnosis or fatigue. In some cases, they may even want to call a client or their employer to communicate about weather or traffic conditions and how that may impact their ability to deliver the load before they must stop work due to the hours of service rules.

Whatever the reason, a commercial driver is not allowed to dial their phone, type in a text message, read from their phone or otherwise manually navigate on a digital device while in control of a commercial vehicle. Those that get caught could end up cited and could be at risk of losing their CDLs.

Some commercial drivers may even cause crashes while distracted by mobile technology.

What happens after a distraction-related wreck?

Pedestrians, cyclists and people in smaller vehicles injured by a commercial truck operated by a distracted driver typically have rights. It may be possible for them to file an insurance claim, and in some cases, a personal injury lawsuit could also be an option. Demanding appropriate compensation for injuries and lost wages is a reasonable response when a distracted commercial driver causes a crash.