Handheld cellphone ban for truckers starts next week

2011-12-30T05:30:00Z 2011-12-30T07:49:46Z Handheld cellphone ban for truckers starts next weekEmilie Rusch Journal staff Rapid City Journal
December 30, 2011 5:30 am  • 

Commercial truck and bus drivers across the country could face stiff penalties starting next week if they are caught using a handheld cellphone behind the wheel.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's new ban on handheld cellphones for commercial drivers goes into effect Tuesday for all interstate travel, extending to holding, dialing and reaching for cellphones while driving. Hands-free devices will still be allowed.

Commercial drivers who violate the ban will face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and the loss of their commercial driver's license for multiple offenses. Trucking and bus companies that allow their drivers to use handheld cellphones could pay as much as $11,000 in fines.

Maj. Randy Hartley, assistant superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, said the handheld ban will not be enforced in South Dakota, though, until the change to the federal motor carrier code is adopted by the state Legislature. That likely will not happen until 2013.

"We have a bill that will go before the Legislature this year, but it's only for changes that were made in 2011. This one doesn't take effect until Jan. 3, 2012," Hartley said.

"It's a matter of timing."

Even with the delay, the South Dakota Trucking Association is already telling its members to make the switch now to wireless or wired headsets to avoid confusion as they cross state lines, president Myron Rau said.

"Most of the members of the South Dakota Trucking Association operate in 48 states," Rau said. "We're just going to comply, whether South Dakota has adopted it or not."

The group does not object to the ban, but Rau said they do object to commercial drivers being singled out for the restriction. According to Rau, about 75 percent of the accidents involving a truck were the fault of the other vehicle.

"If we want to put blame on distracted driving, we need to look at all motorists, not just commercial truck drivers," Rau said.

Local trucking company owners and drivers agreed.

Alton Palmer, owner of Alton Palmer Trucking in Rapid City, said his six company drivers and one owner-operator are instructed not to call back for information until they pull over in a safe place.

"I don't think anybody ought to use them," Palmer said. "I don't think it should just be the truckers."

Texting while driving is particularly troubling to the lifelong trucker, who has owned his own company since 1981.

"There are a lot of accidents created by texting," Palmer said. "I see that on the news every day where someone is running into somebody because they're texting."

Commercial drivers have not been allowed to text while driving since July in South Dakota, Hartley said, after the state Legislature adopted an earlier rule change during its 2011 session. The U.S. DOT and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration banned texting while driving a commercial vehicle in 2010.

In South Dakota, commercial drivers can either be pulled over if seen texting and cited or cited if texting is believed to have been a factor in an accident, Hartley said.

"There's kind of a thought out there that it's very difficult to enforce. If you think about it, everyone has seen someone who is texting. You can tell if someone is texting," Hartley said. "It's the same in a truck."

According to the DOT, many of the country's large truck and bus companies, including UPS, Covenant Transport, Walmart, Peter Pan and Greyhound, already have policies in place that ban their drivers from using handheld phones while driving.

The American Trucking Association, which represents 50 affiliated state trucking associations and related conferences and councils, also came out in support of the new restrictions.

"The trucking industry is very good about policing itself," Hartley said. "They identify problems, and they self-correct."

At the Pilot Travel Center on Deadwood Avenue, truckers had mixed feelings about the ban.

Charles Cortesio of Missoula, Mont., started driving a truck about four years ago as a second career and said he feels like the federal government is just singling out truck drivers to make money from the hefty fines.

"It's a joke," Cortesio said. "They're not going after the four-wheelers who I see talking all day long on their cellphones."

But he said he will abide by the new rules, because he can't risk his commercial driver's license.

"I'm not going to do anything to lose my truck," Cortesio said.

Kelly Taft of Spearfish drives for Trimac Transportation in Rapid City and said he should have no problem complying with the ban because he already uses a hands-free headset on his phone. So do most of the truckers he knows.

"It's our business. Our business is by cellphones," Taft said. "I never leave home without it."

That said, he agreed with Cortesio that it is really the cars that are the problem, not trucks.

"We're out there every day doing our job. You take the people who work in Rapid and live in Sturgis and the minute they hit the interstate they are on their cell phone," Taft said. "They're the ones who scare me."

Contact Emilie Rusch at 394-8453 or emilie.rusch@rapidcityjournal.com.


Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(18) Comments

  1. badhand
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    badhand - December 31, 2011 3:36 am
    If the state of South Dakota does not comply with this ban, federal highway funding should be taken from the state. Hand held cellphone use should be banned for anyone driving, not just truckers.
  2. Cody
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    Cody - December 31, 2011 2:05 am
    As a former OTR truck driver I do not believe the ban should be just for truck drivers. You look at all the hours and miles that a truck driver puts in in the course of their jobs and then compare safety records to that of a four wheeler and you will be astonished. Every driver should be subject to the same rules as truck drivers.
  3. dakyal
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    dakyal - December 30, 2011 11:13 pm
    This is just plain stupid! Nothing like going after the folks who deliver our everyday necessities. As far as in concerned it needs to be banned for everyone! I'll bet more accidents are caused by cellphone users in non commercial vehicles!
  4. MDK123
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    MDK123 - December 30, 2011 9:40 pm
    Before one single ticket is issued we need to get the police to stop typing on their computers while driving. Being a truck driver myself I am up high enough to see the cops working on their computers and driving all day long....
  5. tacollection
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    tacollection - December 30, 2011 8:30 pm
    As a PROFESSIONAL truckdriver for over 25yrs,something to think about is how the Govt regulates everything we do by logbooks and scales and now includeing cell phones.So the next time you see a NON professional driver driving more than 11 hrs on their vacation with their camper pulling a boat behind it(for a professional driver that requires doubles and triples endoresment)and a teenager texting while driving(also definitly not considered a professional driver)...thank a truckdriver again for giving up his rights to do a job no one else would consider doing,especially in bad weather.
    While wer'e on that long boreing interstate without our family around to talk to(other than by phone)I dont see any problem with multitasking as a PROFESSIONAL.In towns I agree with the ban,on the interstate in perfect driving conditions,will the next ban be on eating/drinking coffee while driving? Got my hands on a sandwhich/hands on the mug,whats the difference from being hands free on a phone.Ban in the city limits,but the wide open interstates...I dont agree with that,or start banning the double and triple campers and the long driving vacationers!
  6. Rickdm
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    Rickdm - December 30, 2011 7:39 pm
    I have to agree they are picking on the truckers stc. What is worse? A cell phone or all the computer stuff they have to look at in law vehicles !
  7. Oldhunter
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    Oldhunter - December 30, 2011 6:54 pm
    I remember when in the CB days , "Hey there East Bound, how is it going? Look out for the deer in the ditch about 5 miles back ! " That would make you more alert as you were going om your trip !

    If you are going to outlaw Cell Phone communications, maybe you should outlaw lipstick, coffee,, the AM/FM radio, CD player and kids and the mother-in-law in the back seat !

  8. 10rob53
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    10rob53 - December 30, 2011 4:29 pm
    Most don't spend as much time driving as truckers, their vehicles aren't as big and hard to maneuver and their vision is not as obstructed so their reaction times may be faster in case of an emergency. That is probably why truckers are first to be banned. Do I think all hand held cell phone (including texting) use should be banned while driving? You bet.
  9. sd observer
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    sd observer - December 30, 2011 3:10 pm
    I saw a Truck Driver reading a book one day cruizing down the interstate. What are they going to do about that!!!
  10. Common Sense
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    Common Sense - December 30, 2011 12:00 pm
    Truckers have been using CB radios, which require the use of one hand to operate, for 30+ years and get along fine. The real problem I believe, lies in texting while driving. Yes talking on the phone can be a distraction, but actually having to look at the phone and concentrate on wording takes your total attention. Therefore I believe that texting is the biggest contributor to distracted driving and offenders should lose their thumbs :)
  11. chrome
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    chrome - December 30, 2011 11:09 am
    Handheld or handsfree, there isn't a lot difference as far as attention to driving is concerned; the car is still on autopilot. Texting is of course the worst situation. If your mind is not on driving; Park It! The rest of us just want to get from point A to point B safely.
  12. Danger
    Report Abuse
    Danger - December 30, 2011 10:04 am
    Yeah, a PROFESSIONAL driver can't pick up a cell phone, but some ditzy teeny-bopper can sit there texting all day long without even looking at the road? What is wrong with this picture?
  13. Horned Biker
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    Horned Biker - December 30, 2011 9:52 am
    Funny how they are banning cell phones but the CB is still ok. OR do truckers not use the CB anymore. I agree with the rest tho shouldn't just be singling out truckers.
  14. delver1234
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    delver1234 - December 30, 2011 9:48 am
    hillshunter said: "They should be banning the high school girls texting each other about the new shoes they just bought! They are the danger!Trucks are not the problem!Ban one ban all!"

    I have to agree. It is worse than drunk driving.
  15. hillshunter
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    hillshunter - December 30, 2011 9:21 am
    They should be banning the high school girls texting each other about the new shoes they just bought! They are the danger!
    Trucks are not the problem!
    Ban one ban all!
  16. GIT-R-DONE
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    GIT-R-DONE - December 30, 2011 8:39 am
    To AmericanPatriot: The SDHP does not have the authority to enforce federal law unless that law is adopted by the State Legislature. Civil actions could possibly be a larger burden on the tax payers for enforcing this law without adoption. Seems like there are a lot of folks out there that would like a little coin off of a harassment suit. Personnally, I agree with the truckers, the ban should be for everyone.
  17. prairiemutt
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    prairiemutt - December 30, 2011 8:16 am
    I agree with the truckers, drivers of cars should also face stiff penalties if they're caught using, either talking or texting, a handheld cell phone while driving. And it should be the only reason a cop needs to pull the driver over. If a driver gets to many tickets, their license is revoked. A distracted driver is a hazard to all others on the road. If your call is so important, then pull off the road & take it. The fines should start at $500 and go up from there. The fine needs to be large enough to discourage drivers, otherwise it won't be very effective. And cops would need to strictly enforce the law. Drivers using their cell phones can be just as dangerous as a drunk driver on the road.
  18. AmericanPatriot
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    AmericanPatriot - December 30, 2011 6:40 am
    Maj. Randy Hartley, assistant superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, said the handheld ban will not be enforced in South Dakota, though, until the change to the federal motor carrier code is adopted by the state Legislature. That likely will not happen until 2013.


    By putting your name to the policy of the SDHP to refuse to enforce a federal law you have just let the motoring public know who along with the SDHP will be liable in the lawsuit for damages if/when an accident attributable to cell phone use while driving happens. You may want to ask your attorney what the term 'jointly and severally' means.

    2013 cannot arrive fast enough.
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