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Heads up, Phones Down

Earlier this week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) passed a final rule regarding the use of hand-held cellular phones while operating commercial motor vehicles.  This rule had been long in the making, and was full of controversy.  To read the full rule, please click HERE.  This new federal regulation goes into effect on January 1st, 2012, and unfortunately will be open to wide interpretation and enforcement methods.

In 2009, Illinois began bracing itself for the implementation of CSA 2010 (Compliance, Safety, Accountability).  The trucking industry did a fine job of completely frightening truck drivers that all tickets from local Illinois police officers would tank their CSA score.  Some law enforcement trainers mistakenly taught police officers the same thing.  The point of this blog post is not to comment on the merits of CSA 2010, but to emphasize one point: in Illinois, the new cell phone regulation, just like CSA 2010, is under the sole enforcement authority of the Illinois State Police.  Citations to truck drivers from local police in Illinois have zero effect on CSA scores because local police officers have no input access to the database.  This may not be the case in other states, but it is in Illinois.  Bad information spreads like wildfire, so the goal here is to get some good information out early.

The Illinois Vehicle Code, in section 625 ILCS 5/18b-105 adopts certain parts of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).  A little further down in 18b-109, the statute says “only the Illinois State Police shall enforce the rules and regulations under this Chapter“.  The language is simple…a federal law adopted by Illinois statute can only be enforced by the Illinois State Police.  There may be a day when the Illinois General Assembly deems it necessary to create a state law to perform the same function, but until that day comes, local police officers have no authority to enforce the new regulation.  However, Illinois has given enforcement authority to local police officers for cell phone use in construction and school zones (625 ILCS 5/12-610.1), including truck drivers.  For those readers that are members of the ITEA, please log into the forum to read SOP 2010-05 regarding federal regulation enforcement by local police.

Many questions were addressed during the rule making process, and the FMCSA did a good job explaining them in the final rule.  Such things as hands-free devices, dialing phones, bluetooth, 2-way radios, CD radios, and other communication scenarios are described…all too lengthy to list here!  The ITEA recommends you read the rule (as boring as it may be) to understand the parameters of the new law.  If you have any questions about it, please comment on this post or email us, and we will get you authoritative answers.

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