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A federal law that aims to reduce number of truck and commercial vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving has recently gone into effect. The law, which took effect on January 3, affects about 4 million truck and bus drivers, plus millions of other commercial drivers for businesses both large and small.

The recently passed law prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from using hand-held cellphones while the vehicle is in motion. The ban applies to operators of commercial vehicles- vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds and crosses state lines for business purposes or any other vehicle weighing more than 26,000 pounds-which includes all sorts of vehicles from tractor-trailers to delivery trucks.

The ban imposes stiff fines for drivers who violate the law. For each offense, violators face a civil penalty of up to $2,750. If a driver is a repeat offender, he or she can lose their commercial operator’s license. Specifically, drivers who commit two serious violations within a three-year period will lose their driving privileges for at least 60 days. If there are three or more violations within three years, the penalty is a suspended license for 120 days.

Drivers are not the only ones who can be penalized under the new law; companies can be punished as well. Any company that allows or requires their employees to use hand-held cellphones while driving the company or other work-related vehicle can be fined up to $11,000. To comply with the law, many companies and organizations are scrambling to implement internal policies prohibiting cellphone use while on company business.

Source: USA Today, “Companies weigh risks of distracted driving,” Larry Copeland, April 16,