On August 1, 2019, the Hands-Free Bill will become law in Minnesota, requiring that drivers may only use their cellphones by voice command or single-touch activation. Drivers may not hold their phones in their hand. If your company has employees that use company or personal vehicles on company time, you may need to revise existing policies to ensure your employees are compliant with the new law.
Permitted Cellphone Use
Under the new law, drivers will only be allowed to text, make calls, use navigational applications, and listen to music if those activities are activated by voice command or single-touch activation without holding the phone. When using a navigational application, drivers must set their destination before driving.
Hand-held use is permitted only in the event of an emergency, or when in an authorized emergency vehicle while performing official duties.
Prohibited Cellphone Use
Drivers are prohibited from using a phone to make video calls, live-stream, use social media applications, game, view photos or videos, use non-navigation applications, and view texts or scroll/type on a phone.
GPS and other navigation systems that are built into a vehicle are exempt from the new law.
Federal Motor Carrier Act
Employers should also be aware of a similar hands-free rule that was recently passed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The rule requires a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver to only use a phone hands-free or by single-touch activation. Employers should note that using a hand-held phone while driving a CMV can result in driver disqualification. An employer that allows or requires a driver to use a hand-held phone may also be fined up to $11,000.
Next Steps for Employers
Employers should evaluate their compliance with the Hands-Free Bill as soon as practicable to ensure they are prepared by August 1. To comply, employers may decide to prohibit employee phone usage entirely while driving; or make clear that employees must adhere to the Hands-Free Bill. Employers may also wish to purchase Bluetooth technology, AUX adapters, or phone clips for company vehicles to help employee drivers use voice command or single-touch activation consistent with the new law. For questions or assistance regarding the requirements under this new law to help revise or draft cell phone policies, please feel free to contact us.