Starting on Jan. 3, drivers of commercial vehicles will face fines of $2,750 for using their cell phones while driving, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced. The final rule, which officially prohibits interstate truck drivers from using cell phones during the operation of their vehicles, comes from both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) divisions and is the latest attempt by the DOT to end distracted driving.

The rule encompasses both truck and bus drivers and, along with individual drivers, will punish companies that allow drivers to use cell phones while driving 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," said FMCSA administrator Anne S. Ferro. "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 eighteen 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 which banned text messaging by intrastate hazardous materials drivers.

"When drivers of large trucks, buses, and hazardous materials take their eyes off the road for even a few seconds, the outcome can be deadly," said DOT secretary Ray LaHood. "I hope that this rule will save lives by helping commercial drivers stay laser-focused on safety at all times while behind the wheel."