The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is making it clear to the drivers of commercial vehicles: Hang up or pay up.

Starting Jan. 3, commercial vehicle drivers now face fines of $2,750 for using their cell phones while driving. The rule comes from the DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) divisions in an effort to prevent distracted driving.

The rule encompasses both truck and bus drivers and, along with individual drivers, punishes companies that allow drivers to use cell phones while operating commercial vehicles with a maximum fine of $11,000. States also have the ability to suspend a driver's commercial driver's license after two or more violations.

"This final rule represents a giant leap for safety," FMCSA administrator Anne S. Ferro says. "It's just too dangerous for drivers to use a hand-held cell phone while operating a commercial vehicle. Drivers must keep their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and head in the game when operating on our roads."

This is one of many rules regarding the use of cell phones by commercial vehicle drivers passed by the DOT and its divisions over the past 18 months. In September 2010, the FMCSA issued a regulation banning commercial vehicle drivers from text messaging while operating their vehicles. Last February, PHMSA announced a similar regulation that banned text messaging by intrastate hazardous materials drivers.