A staggering number of people text or otherwise use their smartphones while they drive. Many states, including Illinois, have penalties in place for those who get caught texting while driving. Most drivers will face fines and potentially get points against their licenses. Drivers with commercial driver's licenses (CDLs), however, face more serious consequences.
In many ways, commercial drivers get held to higher standards than other drivers on the road. This is likely the result of the potential risk big trucks pose for severe accidents resulting in injuries or even deaths. For commercial drivers who text while valid driving, there could be a host of consequences, including the loss of their ability to hold valid CDLs.
Federal law prohibits texting by working commercial drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is in charge of creating and enforcing the rules that govern the commercial transportation industry. The FMCSA also analyzes crash data to discover trends and determine what policies could have practical impacts on roadway safety.
When the FMCSA looked at research about safety-critical events in commercial vehicles, they found that drivers who text at the wheel have a risk level that is more than 23 times higher than a driver focusing solely on the road. In order to address this significant risk, the FMCSA banned all texting by commercial drivers while they are in control of a commercial vehicle.
Texting doesn't just mean sending text messages
The FMCSA recognizes that smartphones are a significant source of dangerous distractions. However, SMS text messages are not the only potential risks. The FMCSA's definition of texting includes emails, instant messages, typing in a web address or even making a phone call. Any form of manual data entry that involves pushing more than one button is a form of texting under this rule.
Those who violate this rule could face very serious consequences. In addition to a ticket from the state where you get caught, you will also have penalties from the FMCSA to consider. You could face a fine for up to $2,750, while your employer may have to pay as much as $11,000 in fines. If you repeatedly end up convicted on texting while driving offenses, you could end up disqualified to drive commercially by the FMCSA.
Disqualified drivers may have to wait 120 days to regain their commercial driving licenses. It's much simpler and safer to avoid texting behind the wheel. For those facing allegations of texting while, a defense may be necessary to avoid the loss of their CDL. A disqualification could affect not only your ability to get work, but also the caliber and pay of jobs when you're able to return to work.