Department of Transportation Issues Guidance on Texting by Commercial Drivers

Gus J. Bourgeois, III

March 8, 2012

U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced federal guidance to expressly prohibit texting by drivers of commercial vehicles last month.  The prohibition became effective immediately. Truck drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.

Given the pervasive nature of texting as a means of communication, and the distinctions made in the rules regarding what is and what isn’t considered texting, motor carriers should take steps to ensure that their drivers are aware of the rules and confirm such awareness in writing.

Here are the relevant portions of new rules for commercial motor drivers to consider:

Prohibitions against Texting

  • No commercial driver shall engage in texting while driving.
  • No motor carrier shall allow or require its drivers to engage in texting while driving.
  • Texting while driving is permissible by drivers of commercial motor vehicles when necessary to communicate with law enforcement officials or other emergency services.



  • Includes: Operating a commercial motor vehicle, with the motor running, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays.
  • Does Not Include: Operating a commercial motor vehicle with or without the motor running when the driver moved the vehicle to the side of, or off, a highway, and halted in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.


  • Includes: Manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device. This action includes, but is not limited to, short message service, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a World Wide Web page, or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or electronic text entry for present or future communication.
  • Does Not Include: Reading, selecting, or entering a telephone number, an extension number, or voicemail retrieval codes and commands into an electronic device for the purpose of initiating or receiving a phone call or using voice commands to initiate or receive a telephone call; inputting, selecting or reading information on a global positioning system or navigation system; or using a device capable of performing multiple functions (e.g., fleet management systems, dispatching devices, smart phones, citizens band radios, music players, etc.) for a purpose that is not otherwise prohibited in “Prohibitions Against Texting” above.

Electronic Devices

(includes, but is not limited to):

  • Cellular telephone
  • Personal digital assistant
  • Pager
  • Computer
  • Any other device used to input, write, send, receive or read text.