On January 3rd, 2012 Massachusetts adopted a federal law prohibiting the use of hand-held mobile telephones while operating a commercial vehicle. This does not prohibit drivers from using a mounted cell phone where a call can be answered with the push of a single button from the driver’s seat, such as Bluetooth or an earpiece. Push-to-Talk devices are also prohibited as they still require the driver to use at least one hand to operate the device. This law also does not apply to two-way radio or Citizen Band (CB) Radio usage.
According to a Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA) bulletin, the regulation defines commercial vehicles as follows:
(1) 540 CMR 14.00 applies to:
(a) motor carriers operating commercial motor vehicles and persons who drive commercial motor vehicles as, for, or on behalf of motor carriers, upon the ways of the Commonwealth.
(b) all motor carriers and shippers transporting hazardous materials, under the Hazardous Materials Regulations of the United States Department of Transportation, Parts 171 through 179 of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, by motor vehicles upon the ways of the Commonwealth.
(c) common and contract carriers by motor vehicle, and private carriers of property and passengers by motor vehicle.
(2) (a) As used in 540 CMR 14.00, “commercial motor vehicle” shall mean:
1. a motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more used for the transportation of property, or
2. a motor vehicle designed to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, or
3. a motor vehicle used in the transportation of hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placarding under the Federal Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. App.1801-1813).
(b) It is the intent that the term “commercial motor vehicle” as used in 540 CMR 14.00 shall have the same meaning as in Part 390.5 of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, as it may be amended, and to the extent there is a conflict between the two at any time, the definition in 49 CFR Part 390.5 shall control.
The penalty for being caught using a mobile phone while operating a commercial vehicle is a fine for each offense up to $2,750. Companies who allow the usage of hand-held cell phones will face fines of up to $11,000. If two offenses occur within a three-year period, the driver loses his or her ability to drive a commercial vehicle for 60 days. Every subsequent offense within that three-year period will result in the loss of ability to drive a commercial vehicle for 120 days.
Although the details are a little unclear at this time, police are enforcing this law IMMEDIATELY. Please do not make any calls or answer any calls while operating a commercial vehicle. We will do our best to keep you updated on this new law as more details become available. For more information you can visit the Department of Transportation website at www.massdot.gov.