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undefinedThe FMCSA has strict rules on commercial cell phone use. In fact, the FMCSA considers using a cell phone while driving a “serious offense.”

These rules aim to keep our roads safe by minimizing driver distractions. Let's break down some key legal points from the FMCSA's Commercial Cell Phone Use Fact Sheet, focusing on how these rules intersect with CA Vehicle Code (VC) 23123.5, Driving Offense, and its 1 July 2021 amendment (AB-47), Distracted Driving, which mandates the DMV assess 1.5 Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) for commercial drivers and notify the FMCSA.

A Second Commercial Cell Phone Use Conviction Can Lead to Driver Disqualification

California's Distracted Driving law (AB-47) strengthened penalties for cell phone use violations. 

A second conviction or paid fine for commercial cell phone use while driving is assessed 1.5 NOTS points on a commercial driver's license (CDL), and notification of the FMCSA will result in a mark on the driver’s Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) record for three years.

This seemingly small point increase significantly impacts commercial drivers, as it is now a moving violation. The FMCSA considers a commercial cell phone use conviction a serious offense and a second conviction within three years of the first will result in a 60-day disqualification from driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

Understanding Cell Phone Use Restrictions

In CA, it's illegal for anyone to hold a cell phone in their hand while operating a motor vehicle, even while stuck in traffic or at a red-light. This law applies to commercial drivers as well. 

The FMCSA agrees with whatever the state law is. However, to comply with both state and federal regulations, a commercial driver's cell phone must be mounted within easy reach and operated hands-free with a single swipe or voice activation. Using a phone that's part of the vehicle's built-in communication system is also acceptable.

“A new FMCSA rule restricts the use of all hand-held mobile devices by drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). This rulemaking restricts a CMV driver from holding a mobile device to make a call or dialing by pressing more than a single button. CMV drivers who use a mobile phone while driving can only use a hands-free phone located in close proximity.”--The FMCSA Mobile Phone Use Fact Sheet.

Although we have rarely seen it applied, the FMCSA WARNS:

“Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving a CMV can result in driver disqualification. Penalties can be up to $2,750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for employers who allow or require drivers to use a hand-held communications device while driving.” --The FMCSA Mobile Phone Use Fact Sheet.

Regardless of what you think of the traffic code or the FMCSA’s rigid enforcement, your best defense is prevention. Only use a hands-free device while driving, and if you get ticketed, consult a CA traffic attorney.

Staying Safe on the Road

By following these regulations, commercial drivers can avoid costly fines, license point penalties, and the risk of disqualification. 

We recommend familiarizing yourself with AB-47 and the FMCSA's Commercial Cell Phone Use rules. If you have any questions or face potential consequences from a commercial cell phone use violation, consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced traffic attorney who practices traffic law in Fresno County is essential.

Consult Bigger & Harman, APC, about a Commercial Cell Phone Use Ticket

Commercial drivers must be proactive to protect their driving career and livelihood. Don’t take the chance and pay the fine for a first commercial cell phone use ticket; contact us for advice you can count on. The first ticket might be easier to defend than the second.

Call us at (661) 349-9300. Likewise, you can use the convenient contact form or email

Download our e-book, Protecting Your Commercial Driver License.

Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.


The FMCSA Commercial Mobile Phone Restrictions Fact Sheet.pdf.

The DMV Portal CA Commercial Driver Handbook.
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