By Michael Lillis
June 2016

If you are ever unfortunately involved in a wreck with a large truck, understanding the process for getting your medical bills and vehicle repairs paid for can be overwhelming and confusing.

On January 1, 2000, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation Administration (FMSCA) was formed within The United States Department of Transportation to improve motor carrier safety.  In particular, these regulations establish standards for commercial drivers and operators that, when followed, create safer roads for everyone.

Recently, the FMCSA passed prohibitions against drivers texting and using cell phones while operating a commercial vehicle.  For example, § 392.80 states that no commercial driver shall engage in texting while driving.  This prohibits drivers from texting at any time when the commercial vehicle’s motor is running, including when the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic signal, or any other momentary delay.  The only time it is acceptable for a commercial driver to text while the engine is running is when the vehicle has been moved to the side of a highway and halted in a location where it can safely remain stationary or if there is an emergency which requires law enforcement or emergency services to be contacted.  Additionally, for the purposes of this section, commercial drivers are not allowed to send email or check the internet via their phone while the engine is running.

Research commissioned by FMCSA shows the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) are 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who text while driving than for those who do not. Texting drivers took their eyes off the forward roadway for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, this equates to a driver traveling 371 feet, or the approximate length of a football field (including the end zones)—without looking at the roadway.

Similarly, the FMCSA has passed limitations concerning the manner commercial drivers use cell phones while operating their large trucks.  In particular, § 392.82 prohibits a commercial driver from using a hand-held cell phone while driving under the same circumstances outlined for texting above.   Using a hand-held cell phone is defined as: using at least one hand to hold a cell phone to make a call, dialing a cell phone by pressing more than a single button, or reaching for a cell phone in a manner that requires the driver to maneuver so they are no longer in a seated position, restrained by a seat belt.

The New Orleans- based Sangisetty Law Firm has experience investigating and navigating claims involving commercial vehicles.  We encourage you to contact our office with any questions you may have.