Cell Phone Use While Driving a Semi Tractor Trailer

Cell Phone Use While Driving

Among the forms of distracted driving is cell phone use.

Drivers of all kinds of vehicles, including semi tractor trailers, have been known to do this.

It’s a shame that one state through which Mike drove some time back felt compelled to tell drivers the obvious: “Don’t drive distracted”.

Some trucking companies have their own policies about using cell phones while driving.

A rule has been issued that professional truck and bus drivers are not supposed to text while driving.

But what about talking on the phone while driving?(1)

On December 17, 2010, the U.S. DOT proposed another rule to ban hand-held cell phone use for commercial truck and bus drivers.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was quoted as saying,

Road sign proclaming: Don't Drive Distracted.“Every time a commercial truck or bus driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cell phone, even for a few seconds, the driver places everyone around them at risk.”(2)

Yes, we agree.

But isn’t it the case that every time any driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cell phone, even for a few seconds, that driver also places everyone around them at risk?

Of course.

From a money saving perspective, professional truck drivers should be aware that distracted driving can lead to accidents.

Professional truck driver on his cell phone.If you didn’t know the full story, you would think that this professional truck driver was talking on his cell phone while driving down the road.

Professional truck driver on his cell phone in his parked truck.But he isn’t. He’s sitting perfectly still in his parked truck with the hood of his truck up.

Vicki once saw a sight that alarmed her. It was a situation that we’ve seen more than once. But just this once, she was able to capture it with photos.

A professional truck driver is backing his rig into a dock on our right hand side.A professional truck driver is backing his rig into a dock on our right hand side. His left arm is positioned perfectly to hold a phone to his ear.

A professional truck driver backs into a dock while talking on his cell phone.Even though he had plenty of room, he had to pull up again.

As he gets closer, even through the glare, you can tell that it appears that he’s on his cell phone.

Surely not!

As he gets closer, it appears he's on his cell phone.Yep! He’s talking on his cell phone while backing into the dock!

Now what could be so important that he couldn’t hang up and then back in?

According to an article on TruckingInfo.com:

The Governors Highway Safety Association declined to follow Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s lead and passed on an opportunity to call for an outright ban on cellphone use and test-messaging while driving.

Information on the GHSA’s website states:

Driver inattention is a leading factor in many crashes, and cell phone use and texting are some of the most common driver distractions. While more and more states and localities are banning specific distractions, GHSA’s message to all drivers is: don’t use cell phones or other electronic devices while driving, regardless of the current law. …

GHSA has not endorsed handheld cell phone bans because there is no clear indication that hands-free use is any safer than handheld. A Virginia Tech study indicated hands-free systems may be beneficial, while studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the University of Utah and Carnegie Mellon have reported that all cell phone use is distracting.



Mike Simons uses a BlueParrot headset in conjunction with his cell phone.We will be the first to admit that while one of Mike’s former trucking companies may have frowned on drivers’ cell phone use while driving, Mike’s driver manager felt free to either call Mike directly or send him a QualComm message asking Mike to call him.

Sometimes, it is just not convenient for the driver of a commercial motor vehicle to pull over and park in order to talk. And there may not be a rest area or truck stop for many miles.

However, Mike always used his BlueParrot headset to talk with his driver manager while traveling.

This particular headset allows the user to answer phone calls without even having to touch the phone. Just press a button on the side of the headset.

Making calls with the headset is also easy.

At left, Mike is pictured using the headset while being parked.

Wikipedia states in part:

A 2003 study by the University of Utah psychology department measured response time, following distance, and driving speed of a control group, subjects at the legal BAC limit of 0.08%, and subjects involved in cell phone conversations.

From the report: …

  • We performed an initial comparison of participants driving while using a handheld cell phone versus a hands-free cell phone. Both handheld and hands-free cell phone conversations impaired driving. However, there were no significant differences in the impairments caused by these two modes of cellular communication
  • Drivers in the cell-phone condition exhibited a sluggish behavior (i.e., slower reactions) which they attempted to compensate for by increasing their following distance. Drivers in the alcohol condition exhibited a more aggressive driving style, in which they followed closer, necessitating braking with greater force.

Based on this evidence, clearly, it is best that drivers avoid talking on a cell phone while driving, whether or not with a headset.

However, that evidence is not being experienced everywhere.

A four-wheeler using his cell phone.An L.A. Times article headline and summary headline say:

California’s hand-held cellphone ban hasn’t reduced crashes, study says

The accident rate before and after the law took effect has not significantly changed, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute. Some traffic safety experts say the report is far from conclusive.

latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2010-jan-30-la-me-cellphones30-2010jan30-story/ (no longer online)

Of course, this takes into account four-wheelers.

truck drivers money saving tip iconMoney saving tip: It is best to voluntarily refrain from cell phone use while driving any vehicle, especially commercial motor vehicles.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has compiled a table of cellphone use laws for the United States.

This table includes a column on texting. Be aware of how some states name the offenses.

You do not want to be caught by any camera on a cell phone when you’re not supposed to be.

If your company’s policy says no cell phone use while driving, make sure your family members and friends know.

Arrange in advance a special signal so that they might let you know of an actual (not perceived) emergency.

As for us, we would have felt more comfortable if the driver who was backing in on our right hand side had not been talking on his cell phone at the same time. Surely, he could not concentrate on doing both things well at the same time.

As a reminder, a Courier-Journal article(3) stated,

“The Alabama truck driver who slammed into a van on March 26 [2010] on Interstate 65 near Munfordville, Ky., killing 10 people and himself, was talking on a cell phone and may have been speeding, according to a state police accident report.

“The report, obtained this week by The Courier-Journal through an open-records request, says the truck’s driver, Kenneth E. Laymon, was distracted and did not have his tractor-trailer under control when it crossed the median and rammed a van carrying Mennonites traveling to an Iowa wedding.”

Don’t risk getting a ticket, or worse, causing an accident because of cell phone use.

Return from Cell Phone Use While Driving a Semi Tractor Trailer to our Telephone Services page or our Truck Drivers Money Saving Tips home page.


1. www.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/news/news-releases/2010/Ban-Texting-for-Truck-and-Bus-Drivers.aspx (no longer online)

Replaced with: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/newsroom/us-transportation-secretary-ray-lahood-announces-federal-ban-texting-commercial-truck

2. www.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/news/news-releases/2010/Rule-to-Ban-Hand-Held-Cell-Phone.aspx (no longer online)

Replaced with: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/driver-safety/distracted-driving/no-texting-rule-fact-sheet

3. www.courier-journal.com/article/20100505/NEWS01/5060309/Report-Trucker-in-I-65-crash-that-killed-11-was-on-cell-phone-speeding (no longer online)