Truckers: Why no public cell ban?

The federal government says truck drivers can’t talk on handheld cell phones. Fair enough, the pros say — but what about the “four wheelers” who cause most of the wrecks involving trucks?

A week after that federal ban on handheld cell phone use went into effect, the trucking industry seems to have the issue in its rear-view mirror. But some truckers still want to know why professional drivers are being singled out.

“I am so tired of hearing, ‘The feds can’t do anything with four-wheelers,'” one pro wrote in an industry forum. “If they’re gonna travel the same roads I do, they can follow the same laws.”

Lyndon Finney, editor of the industry publication the Trucker, told Hands Free Info: “Truckers are concerned, of course, about the use of cell phones by passenger vehicle drivers since data show that about 75 percent of truck-related accidents are caused by the action of the passenger vehicle driver.”

Another forum complaint went: “There needs to be a ban on everyone to ensure fair and equal treatment and application of the law. Come on, lawsuits.”

And: “This is the stuff shutdowns are made of.”

Cell phone use by the public remains legal in most of the U.S., but nine states have banned handheld use. In California, for instance, a motorist who was a first offender would be fined $20 (plus fees). Interstate commercial truck drivers now face fines of up to $2,750 for each offense. “(That) puts me in bankruptcy,” one trucker said.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which made the trucking rule, does not have officers out writing tickets, so enforcement will be dependent on state and local authorities, who may or may not have local laws against cell phone use. A few states such as Missouri gave notice that they would be enforcing the federal trucking law.

The ruling does not apply to all commercial drivers. The regulation targets drivers of large commercial vehicles involved in interstate commerce, and those hauling dangerous materials. A small-business delivery vehicle, for example, wouldn’t be included. (Read the commercial trucking cell phone rules.)

“When drivers of large trucks, buses and hazardous materials take their eyes off the road for even a few seconds, the outcome can be deadly,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. He said he hopes the rule will result in drivers being “laser-focused on safety at all times while behind the wheel.” 

For most of the industry, though, it was business as usual when the federal rule went into effect with the new year.

The American Trucking Association, for instance, supports the federal action.

“The trucking industry in general favors the ban on use of hand-held cell phones while the truck is in motion, and probably is divided equally on the issue of a ban of the use of hands-free devices,” industry journalist Finney said.

Many large commercial companies already have policies against cell phone use by their drivers, including UPS and Wal-Mart.

“It’s a regulation, in an industry full of regulations,” one trucker shrugged.

Driver Ray Nickels of Marshfield, Mo., said: “Were an altogether different species. It’s just something we have to learn to live with. We will be treated differently than anybody else because we are professionals and we are under a microscope all the time because we are the biggest ones out there. When something goes wrong, we are usually the ones there whether we did anything or not, we are the ones who get seen.”

Some drivers brought up the use of CB radios, which have not been restricted: “The CB is way more distracting/annoying than a cell phone,” one pro wrote.

Another trucker noted: “Plenty of accidents have been caused by drivers using the CB. There is no ‘record’ of use during an accident so any feel-good legislation simply doesn’t have the same bang for the buck as cell phone laws do.”

The hands-free question will be moot soon enough, Finney predicted: “There is little doubt that the day is not too far away that in-dash electronic technology will become common and allow a driver to make and receive voice-activated cell phone calls without taking his or her hands off the steering wheel.”

Safety seemed to be the bottom line for some of the pros:

“Talking on a cell phone while driving is nothing but a distraction,” said Charles Isaacs of
South Carolina. “I don’t do it. I tried it and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t keep my mind focused on what I was doing. I don’t see how other people do it.”

Another pro wrote during a forum debate: “IMO, this should have been addressed a long time ago. We are the professionals and should know better.”

And: “I don’t care if you are driving a CMV (commercial motor vehicle), a car, a bike, a horse & buggy — if you feel the need to talk while you’re driving get a hands-free device.”


  1. I’ve read through these comments and see and understand everything BUT the comments saying that semi drivers are not professionals. I’m the wife of a driver, with a toddler. My husband spent so much time away just to get certified and now i see him about once every six weeks. He drives in snow in New England, hills of out west — until you are a driver and truly comprehend the dangers of driving, the horrors of braking, and shifting 13 gears down a snow covered mountain you have no room to talk.

    It is a very lonely life style, and CAN NOT be compared to passenger cars. I understand the dangers of talking on the phone in a truck, my family understands and we pay for it first hand. So please do not continue to bash these drivers.

    It is as dangerous for a passenger car to talk on the phone with other cars on the road. You have small children in your car’s, and spouses and loved one’s. And you make up the population of accidents that happen while talking on the phone. As a matter of fact it is the cars that cause the accidents with these semis usually.

    When you bash these men and women you are bashing their lifestyle, their careers and the way they feed their family’s. When in fact they take great pride in that, and sacrifice soooo much. Holidays, birthdays, ect. They put their own lives in danger to give you the things you need. I’m not excusing those truckers that drive poorly, I’m asking you to keep in mind the ones that don’t…

    • Clifford Akins says:

      My son has been a truck driver for over 20 years. He comes off the and talks about the four wheelers. How they cut him off and then brake. How every day he watches the road trying to read what these people are going to do. He says after 20 years he can tell what some people are going to do. We need better training of people who drive 4 Wheeler’s. 75 percent of accidents with trucks are the fault of the four wheeler. Sometimes they kill the truck driver who tries to avoid the accident. We need better training for all who are on the road.

      • Al Cinamon says:

        It’s always so easy to point the finger at the other guy. When drivers (including truckers) start pointing the finger at themselves, maybe, just maybe, then the roads will become safer.

        As I’ve stated in other posts, “professional” doesn’t mean skillful. It simply means the person drives for money instead of pleasure. Yet truckers love to boast about their “skills.” For instance, jack-knifing as soon as there’s a little rain on the road. Driving on parkways where they are prohibited and crashing into overpasses that are lower than the height of their truck. Tailgating, of course, takes great skill, also.

        Look at any photo of a multi-vehicle collision and you will see trucks involved. Professionals being skillful and safe is a myth.

  2. Al Cinamon says:

    I’ve just reviewed all the comments directed at me over the past few months and I stand by my arguments. Professional simply means you drive for money. It is not badge of honor since so many of you don’t respect our laws.

    It’s true that truckers provide an invaluable service. But that doesn’t put you above the law.

    Furthermore, I never said “four-wheelers” were better drivers. I said truckers are just as bad as them. There’s plenty of blame to go around when we see 40,000 people dying on our roads every year. It’s a damn shame!

  3. I have been driving since ’89. I have used my cell phone while driving but I do agree with handsfree, what I dont agree with is that truck drivers are singled out. It should be for everyone. I have seen people on a bicycle trying to use a cell phone. He was killed by a four wheeler. Lay off the truck drivers or you may not be eating or getting your clothes. I know at least one state does not allow walking and texting. Texting should not be allowed at all. Making new laws does not really stop people from doing something otherwise people would not be caught getting their 7th DUI. Truck drivers should have a way to stay in contact with family. CB’s are a lifeline for most when something bad happens in the middle of no where and also to just chat when boardom sets in and it does.

  4. John abney says:

    I agree with hands free use ny cell phones. Ive seen too many idiots in trucks with their head up their rear yapping on the phone. Most in a day cab. As for rhe cb it is not a distraction. Ive used it to warn other drivers of hazards on the road and on their truck. Too many punks in trucks

  5. Al cinnamon:
    Let me tel you this. I become a professional driver back in 1990 is about 22 years now.To become professional driver I had to pass a driving test way different than car drivers.

    you have to know all about you rig, nspections, amount and positions of traction chains (that varies on each state) you must know traffic laws. on each state (in my case I run 48) you must know how to log your hours of driving, what type of permits you need for every type of load, even the route you need to take. and a lot more things involved in transportation. in my 22 years I have traveled more than 2.8 million miles and I never have an traffic accident. I think that qualifies a driver to be a “professional driver” Don’t you think?

  6. When truck drivers spend every week driving 3 to 4,000 miles on the road and do not have any other way to communicate with there families, I think it is absolutely stupid to think they will be ok with the government running their lives. What is it that you people don’t understand about getting the governemtn out of our lives. This is critical that truck drivers have a way to communicate with their children, wives and the rest of their family. The goverment needs to get a life or if you agree with them, maybe you need to get a life. Just because a few of you say you can’t drive and talk on the phone at the same time, well, not everyone is that uncoordinated. If I were a truck driver, I would be furious over this ignorant decision.

  7. hey al u must be a blue collar worker i have been in the trucking industry for 31 years and for u to speak about professionals were out there buddy we deliver the food you eat we deliver the gas you use we as drivers are singled out due to adiots like you that cause us grief if were involved in an accident we get tested do you in your 4 wheeler accident no we cant help you cant chew gum and think at the same time its all about money drivers the tax paid by every truck out there then to get into our pockets very sad there again some people havent a clue of what we go through in cities on the road in the snow as far as the jack knife u wrote about you probably caused it while trying to learn how to use your cell phone stay away from us proffessionals were not out there to hurt you but give us room

  8. R bighamm says:

    U SURE TOLD HIM OFF!! Your right with these morons who tailgate a trucker and cut them off

  9. Al Cinnamon or anyone who thinks it does not require special skills or a different life style to drive a truck! I’m a PROFESSIONAL flatbed driver since May of 2003. I offer this challenge to you come ride along for one week, I’m sure your opinion would change. Changes I face every day are a lot of the little things. Like operating in the legal time limits allowed by, and following FMCA rules then loading and secure freight, every cop, general public and truck stop & hobo seems to think we have money to burn. Then there is getting the load delivered on time. Ever four wheeler on the planet thinks trucks are in the way and doesn’t understand the dynamics of stopping,turning, or excelerating in a 80,000 lb 70 foot long Simi. I live in a 8ftx8ftx5ft box that has no restroom,sink of shower. Then comes the fact that I see my wife and kids about once every three to four weeks for two to three days then gone again. Now that’s only a few of the issues we face out here and the average pay is about 500-750 a week. And these are just a few things we face daily. So again I offer this challenge to anyone that thinks trucking is easy or doesn’t take some skills, COME TRY IT FOR YOURSELF!

  10. Well as far as Truckdriving goes why are they picked out of the crowed? If you see an elephant in an aunt farm what are you going to see.I agree There are good ,Bad and really bad drivers.What you dont look at THIS IS THERE JOB the food on the table there way of life.If a Comercial truck gets a ticket for speeding they pay more for the fine even double so there goes a weeks pay he or she just worked for nothing.Go home and give the ticket to you spouse!!! Cell phones and CB radios are a way of comunacation to an destenation.What about GPS,RADIOS,Ajusting your mirrows my list could go on and on i have seen cars get so close to the back of a semi to pick up the wind to save gas.The 30 car pill up I didnt see a semi,The last one was a car the driver was texting and ran under the semi.When you see a truck going by get out of the hammer lane it for passing not stopping.Unless you have drove a semi spent 16 hours on the road or maybe got stuck out over night and cant make it home.I suggest you give it a try CDL`s Dont come cheep but ignurance comes free

  11. Al Cinamon says:

    I have to laugh when commercial truck drivers boast that they are professionals, implying that they have better skills and expertise. Nonsense! They are just as bad or worse than some little old operators of four-wheelers. The word “professional” simply means they drive for money whereas others drive for pleasure. “Professional” has nothing to do with their knowledge, skill or attitude.

    When I see a trucker tailgating another truck or car I have to wonder what kind of training he/she received. When I see them passing me at speeds way above the speed limit, I have to wonder what kind of training they received.

    And if truckers are so skillful why do they jack-knife when the first few drops of water hit the road? Look at any multiple vehicle pile-up and you will see trucks all well represented. Why would they get involved if they’re so skillful? Because it’s a myth to think that truckers know how to drive. Most, like four-wheel operators are movers, not drivers!

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