Cell phones are practically indispensable to today's truck drivers. The days of stopping at a truckstop just to find a payphone and call your dispatcher or your family are long gone. When was the last time you used a payphone? Cell phone convenience is a big time saver, and in trucking, time is money.
But these days, truckers have to know how and when to use cellphones when out on the road. Check below for ESSENTIAL INFORMATION FOR TRUCKERS ABOUT THE NEW CELL PHONE BAN!
New Cell Phone Rules for Truckers
Starting January 3rd, 2012, commercial motor vehicle drivers are banned from using hand-held mobile phones and push-to-talk cell phones while driving.
The new federal rule prohibits drivers from reaching, holding or dialing cell phones while driving. This new rule was announced on November 23rd, 2011 by the Department of Transportation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Fines will be steep:
- $2750 for interstate truckers for each offense.
- Multiple offenses result in disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle.
- State suspension for 2 or more violations.
And this new rule doesn't just apply to drivers. A whopping $11,000 maximum fine is administered to motor carriers who "allow drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving".
No-Contract Phones for Truckers
No-contract phones may be a no-brainer these days. You are not locked into service with one carrier and can change at any time. Check out these no-contract options below.
Cell Phone Essentials for Truckers
If you have good credit, there are many companies who'll give you a free or discounted phone with cellular service activation. If you don't have good credit, you can pay a one-time deposit (could be $300 to $500, typically refundable after 1 year). This is why no-contract phones are such a good idea.Number Portability
As of May 24, 2004, the FCC passed a mandate which requires all cell phone carriers to allow "Wireless Local Number Portability". This allows cell phone users to keep their existing cell phone numbers while switching to another carrier. Remember, this only applies to switching to another carrier in the same local area.
About Unlocked and GSM Cell Phones
A GSM Phone is a mobile phone which uses the Global System for Mobile Communications for sending and receiving phone calls. It's also considered a "world phone" and is the most common network world-wide.
The GSM phone uses a SIM card, or "Subscriber Identification Module". This is a chip which you insert into the back of a GSM phone. It provides all of the user's personal info...identification, contacts, calender info, etc. This enables you to remove the SIM card, insert it into a new phone, and receive calls to the same phone number as before. Also, you won't have to re-enter your personal information again.
GSM carriers have roaming contracts with other GSM carriers, enabling them to cover more rural areas without additional roaming charges. This is obviously an advantage to the over-the-road trucker. The only GSM carriers in the U.S. are Cingular/AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile U.S.A. Verizon, Sprint and Nextel operate on the CDMA and iDEN networks, which do not use SIM cards. All phones through these networks are only available from their carriers/service providers.What is an Unlocked Cell Phone?
Carriers, like Verizon or Sprint, "lock" cell phones to keep phones (and customers) "loyal" to one carrier. A locked phone will only accept and recognize a SIM card from a particular carrier. When you upgrade and activate a new cell phone, the old locked phone becomes useless.
If the cell phone is unlocked, it will recognize a SIM card from any carrier (as mentioned above, this is only possible with a GSM phone). You can just go ahead and purchase any unlocked GSM phone, then choose a carrier/service plan, who provides you with a SIM card to insert into your new phone.
To get an "unlocked" cell phone, you'll have to purchase one from a third-party vendor (see below for phones). There are many advantages to having an unlocked phone, but you'll have to pay more because the phone won't be subsidized by a carrier (carriers subsidize - or discount the price of a phone - in order to secure you as one of their monthly paying customers, and therefore won't allow you to use that phone with another carrier). However, an unlocked phone in good condition can still be sold for a good price, where a locked (non-GSM) phone, as previously mentioned, is useless (locked GSM phones can be unlocked).
Commentary about Hands-Free Devices
This section was originally posted in 2007 and I am leaving up as it was. It still is applicable to drivers especially in light of the new (Jan. 3rd, 2012) Cell Phone Ban. But now a trucker's paycheck and livelihood is at stake in a big way!
Talking on the phone while you're driving is more than a distraction issue. There is a lot of controversy today over the use of cell phones while driving. Yes, talking on the cell phone while you're driving can be a distraction. But if distraction is the main issue, then you shouldn't be able to talk to anyone who's in your vehicle or listen to your radio while you're driving. So obviously, since most people seem to be doing OK with those distractions, then it must be more of a hands-free issue. This is why we suggest that all truckers (ALL drivers, for that matter) get a hands-free device for their cell phone, and use it. Drivers, especially truck drivers, need to be able to keep their hands on the wheel and on the gearshift.
Many drivers seem reluctant to go hands-free. They may feel that it's too expensive, or too much of a hassle to put on each time they need to use it. Some drivers just like to be seen using the cell phone... it's become a status symbol. But it's only a matter of time before more people catch on, and switch to hands-free devices.
A small earpiece/microphone, or bluetooth enabled device is comfortable, easy to put on and off, and relatively inexpensive. See below for more information and any special offers.
Bluetooth is the standard which enables different types of electronics (like computers, keyboards, stereos, cellphones, and headsets)to communicate with each other wirelessly.
So, a cell phone with Bluetooth technology can interact with a bluetooth headset. All you need is to have your cell phone nearby in the truck or on your belt, and a bluetooth headset comfortably on your ear (or a bluetooth headset). No more wires to worry about as you're drinking coffee, shifting gears, or eating food in the truckstop. It's a whole new world with Bluetooth.
Check out these Bluetooth Headsets for Truckers