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Do regular rules of the road apply to people who drive semis, garbage trucks, bulldozers, earthmovers, cherry pickers, tractors or any other big commercial vehicle?

If they’re on a public roadway, absolutely, says Officer B. Walker of the Petaluma Police Department. Here’s a question from Ned of Santa Rosa, and Officer Walker’s answer.

Question: I work off Airport Blvd and travel the construction zone daily. Just yesterday at about 7 a.m., a large earth mover (extra large backhoe) and bulldozer were coming east on Airport over the overpass. The earth mover was moving slowly and with the sun shining on the driver, it was plain as day that he was typing on his cell phone, then holding it up to his ear, then typing on it again. Yes a lot of people do it and shouldn’t, but if  your are driving a earth mover maybe you should pocket your phone.

What are the rules/laws for construction drivers and cell phone use? I have also seen garbage truck drivers talking on their phone. The perception of many of my coworkers is that the Airport Overpass work is an accident waiting to happen, I try to get to work early and drive as slow as possible.

Answer:  If any of those vehicles is being driven on public roadways, their drivers are subject to the same rules that apply to any other motorist, Walker said.

It hasn’t always been that way. Until July 2011, commercial vehicle drivers got an exception if they were communicating on cellphones with push-to-talk features. Now they get a pass only if they’re on private property or are operating the push-to-talk cellphones with hands-free devices. They are still allowed to use CB radios.

Either way, the texting or dialing Ned observed is against the law and fair game for any police officer who spots it.

“I’ve stopped truck drivers before and have given them citations,” Walker said. And one Petaluma garbage company manager even encouraged Walker to pull over and ticket any of his employees caught using a cellphone while on the job.

Still want more? This comes from the CHP website’s most frequently asked questions about cellphone use:

Q: What if my phone has a push-to-talk feature, can I use that?

A: No. As of July 1, 2011, the previously provided exception expired for those operating a commercial motor truck or truck tractor (excluding pickups), implements of husbandry, farm vehicle or tow truck, to use a two-way radio operated by a “push-to-talk” feature. However, a push-to-talk feature attached to a hands-free ear piece or other hands-free device is acceptable.

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Send questions for the Road Warrior to Linda.Castrone@pressdemocrat.com.

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