Push-To-Talk Equipment Allowed Under Guidelines

Colonel Ron Replogle, superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, would like to inform the public of a revision to the recent U.S. Department of Transportation rule affecting interstate commercial truck and bus drivers.

Effective Jan. 24, commercial motor vehicle drivers will be allowed to use push-to-talk mobile communications equipment while driving under specific guidelines. i.e.: Using  push-to-talk mobile communications equipment is allowed provided the driver does not reach for, dial, or hold the actual mobile telephone in his/her hand while driving, and the driver is able to touch the button needed to operate the push-to-talk feature from the normal seated position with the safety belt fastened.

Generally, the use of this type of communications equipment does not require drivers to take their eyes off the forward roadway, because the button used to enable the driver to communicate can be operated from the normal, seated position with the safety belt fastened. For example, if the mobile phone is mounted in a cradle or similar device near the driver, or there is a remote push-to-talk button near the vehicle controls to allow the driver to communicate without reaching for, dialing, or holding the actual mobile telephone in his/her hands while driving, the equipment may be used.

This is a change to the USDOT rule effective January 3, 2012, which specifically prohibited interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from conducting voice communication using a hand-held mobile communicating device while driving their vehicles. The joint rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is the latest rule by the USDOT to address distracted driving.

The rule does NOT include CB radios. A mobile communication device that is not hands-free may be used in emergencies or to contact law enforcement to report crashes, intoxicated drivers, etc. The rule also places some restrictions on hands-free mobile communication devices. Hands-free devices must be able to be dialed by pressing a single button. Reaching for a mobile communication device in an unsafe manner (i.e., reaching for the mobile device on the passenger seat, under the driver’s seat, in a sleeper berth, or any area outside the driver’s reach) is prohibited.

This rule affects all commercial motor vehicles operated in interstate commerce with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more, a vehicle operated solely in intrastate commerce with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, or a vehicle transporting any amount of hazardous materials requiring a placard. The rule includes all contracted school bus operations and shuttle buses. All intrastate carriers who are exempted currently from the federal regulations by the state of Missouri will not be affected by the new rule. The final rule can be found on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

The state of Missouri adopts federal regulations such as this under RSMo. 307.400. The Missouri State Highway Patrol urges all drivers to pay attention when driving. If you need to make a phone call, please do so before you begin driving.