Hand-Held Phone Ban Proposed for Hazmat Drivers

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, part of DOT, issued the NPRM April 29 to expand on prohibitions already proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Federal limits continue to expand on commercial drivers' texting or calling while they drive. The latest Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published April 29 by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, part of DOT, and would bar drivers moving a quantity of hazardous materials that must be placarded under 49 CFR Part 172 or any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR Part 73 in intrastate commerce from using a hand-held mobile phone.

This would expand on prohibitions already proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (also part of DOT).

"The safety benefits associated with limiting the distractions caused by electronic devices, including cell phones, are equally applicable to drivers transporting covered hazardous materials via intrastate as they are to interstate commerce," PHMSA's proposed rule states. "The use of a hand-held mobile telephone while driving constitutes a safety risk to the motor vehicle driver, other motorists, and bystanders. As proposed in the FMCSA NPRM, the consequences of using hand-held mobile telephones while driving can include state and local sanctions, fines, and possible revocation of commercial driver's licenses.

"PHMSA has determined that the use of hand-held mobile phones presents a hazard equally, whether the motor carrier is involved in interstate or intrastate commerce. PHMSA estimates that there are approximately 1,490 intrastate motor carriers that could be affected by this rulemaking. Studies performed on behalf FMCSA have estimated that the cost of a property damage only crash is $17,000. Crashes involving a fatality are estimated to be approximately $6 million."

PHMSA concluded the cell phone ban would have to prevent just two property-damage-only crashes annually for its benefits to exceed its costs. The agency's economic evaluation considered these potential costs:

  • Loss in carrier productivity due to time spent while parking or pulling over to the side of the roadway to make cell phone calls
  • Increased fuel usage due to idling as well as exiting and entering the travel lanes of the roadway
  • Increased crash risk due to covered CMVs that are parked on the side of the roadway and exiting and entering the travel lanes of the roadway

PHMSA asked for comments by June 28; submit them by searching for docket number PHMSA-2010-0227 at www.regulations.gov.

FMCSA barred texting by commercial motor vehicle drivers in a September 2010 final rule. It proposed to restrict the use of hand-held mobile phones in a Dec. 21, 2010, NPRM (Docket FMCSA-2010-0096).

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