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.


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




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  1. Mark Halverson

    I am a HAM radio operator; it is my understanding that Vehicle Code Section 23123 does NOT apply to TWO-WAY radios.

    It specifically ONLY applies to WIRELESS TELEPHONES – two-way radios are NOT wireless telephones.

    23123. (a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone…..

    September 12th, 2013 1:34 pm

  2. Road.Warrior

    Thanks for the question, Mark. Officer Walker says the law only applies to the kinds of cellphones that can be used like two-way radios, with push-to-talk features. Real two-way radios are still good to go.

    September 12th, 2013 1:43 pm

  3. DaveR

    Once again proving how pointless the law on cellphones is. If I have a CB radio, I can hold it to my face and talk all I want. If it’s a phone, I get a ticket. Same distraction, different rules.

    Now I wonder, if I get a CB radio app for my phone…..

    September 12th, 2013 2:18 pm

  4. dbaker

    “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.”

    This is just not true. The fact is the police are not subject to many of the same traffic codes that rule our non commercial travel. The police can use cell phones, operate their laptop, speed, even their license plate is special and exempt from the registration tax extorted out of non commercial and commercial vehicles alike. You commute down 101 for work and take notice of the traffic slowing you down to the speeds better suited for residential neighborhoods, while wondering at the insane cost paid to upgrade the freeway and the near constant work that has been devoted to it over the last 20 years and on, maybe you find yourself puzzled by the empty carpool lane that is off limits to those driving to work. Never fear, the lanes are being used by the super citizen privateers. Who just like Capt. Kidd and others collect their wages from the captured booty they seize and the trading of slaves they have captured.

    So no, the codes do not equally apply to all who exercise their natural born right to travel and to use one’s own property to move efficiently. This fact is nothing new to those of us who live in reality. The police, lots of the time, drive aggressively and without much regard for the use of turn signals and other mundane details that are not always necessary but since rules don’t provide for user discretion as to when to obey, they can be the trigger that leads to being 20 minutes late for work and maybe even working the day for free since the extortion price for any ticket today is hundreds of dollars.

    So if I can be so bold as to question the “authority” who has had bestowed upon them the immunity and exemption of, not just rules colored with law that function as extortion and taxation rackets, but even the laws of right and wrong that apply to all people and are universally known to be unjust and unacceptable. (kidnapping, assault, theft, murder, etc.) My question, Mr Walker is to the benefits enjoyed by the public in assigning a certain class of people (politicians and their enforcers) a classification that takes them out of the reach of the law? If it makes remedy sought by non cops against cops increasingly difficult. Where now the police are basically expected to govern themselves and answer to only the institution they are apart of. Could this attitude be why the police seem to be over focused on “officer safety” (Municipal cops are not officers they don’t hold any office or enjoy the honor of being elected by anyone they claim authority over) to the point that it has clouded their judgement and helped justify a shoot first ask questions later policy?

    For instance, today it is common practice nation wide to shoot barking dogs for fear of their safety. Dogs are not humans and I don’t consider their lives to be worth that of a person, but my dog and the dogs I’ve had growing up are part of the family. They are just as emotional as people displaying most of the same signs for affection, sadness, embarrassment, and anger. The german shepherd we have now would trade its life for mine in a second and if I saw some hooded thug callously shoot her because she was reacting to the illegal and immoral paramilitary home invasion. I gotta say I would be hard pressed to maintain a submissive and childlike obedience to the soulless killer who regarded his safety too high to risk using pepper spray a taser, or just putting the dog outside or in a room while informing the person that they are due for court.

    As for officer safety let me tell you where it stacks up for me. If the officer is behaving like a peace keeper concerned with the well being of the community and also for his own integrity. If he’s not perfect and makes human mistakes that are not criminal in nature but honest. If he takes seriously his oath to defend and support the Constitutions of both California and the united states of America from all its enemies regardless of their status. Then I’d say the value of a cop is right where mine is. A couple tiers down from women children the old and the dependent.

    If the cop is none of the above and operates as a state sanctioned criminal with disdain for the Bill of Rights and the common law, believes that policy set by some unelected corporate police agency trumps the law of the land, that guns carried loaded with ammunition that is designed to inflict massive internal trauma and probable death if used, make cops safe but if I am armed as is my right to be it is unsafe. By the way throughout the last couple thousand years it was logically understood that if you were barred from carrying a weapon it was due to you being the property of someone else. Maybe you’re unfamiliar with old English and American concepts of freedom, so I’ll enlighten you. It’s offensive and I would say criminal for the civilian police who exercise the same citizen arrest powers available to all of us and unless I’ve missed something amazing you’ve not been granted any divine right by God or aliens that distinguishes you from anyone else, then there should be no difference, in the eyes of the law, between what you cary for protection and what is available to every other free man woman and to the parents discretion, child.

    You see, I and all my fellows have the legal right and the moral obligation to resist unlawful and violent behavior when it is threatening my safety, freedom, or property. The SCOTUS has ruled consistently that if you act in a way that is outside the law you are no longer acting as a sworn peace officer, your acting as a criminal in a costume impersonating a sworn peace officer and regardless of what fate befalls the proud and dignified victim of oppression for standing on his rights if the threat of great bodily harm exists deadly force is justified. Do you think I’d make it to court? That cop in LA, Dorner I think his name was, he didn’t make it because the cops that it better to just burn him up gangland style.

    September 14th, 2013 7:14 pm

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