The U.S Department of Transportation announced a new federal law Jan. 26 that prohibits commercial drivers from text-messaging while driving.

Truckers who text while driving may be subject to fines of up to $2,750, the department said in a news release.

“Our regulations will help prevent unsafe activity within the cab,” Anne Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Washington, D.C., said in the release.

According to the Department of Transportation, drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than undistracted drivers.

“For the sake of safety, it’s something that needed to happen,” said Chuck Nelson, president of Chuck’s Transport Inc., New Braunfels, Texas. “It shouldn’t just be 18 wheelers.”

Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., already ban text messaging for all drivers, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Governors Highway Safety Administration.

Nelson said the new federal law shouldn’t be a big obstacle to communicating with truck drivers.

“It’s a lot different from the old days when drivers had to park their trucks, get off their butts and get to a pay phone,” Nelson said. “Because of the cell phone technology we have now, we can address concerns we have in a lot timelier manner.”

Cell phone use, however, also is facing increased scrutiny. According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, all drivers are prohibited from using hand-held cell phones in six states: California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington.

“We talk to drivers all the time,” said Kenny Lund, vice president of support operations for truck broker Allen Lund Co., La Canada, Calif. Most of the communication is via phone calls, and we hope they’re using a head set or hands-free device.”

Lund said the company also can send faxes to drivers at truck stops or send e-mail that drivers can check during stops.

Rob Kurtz, vice president and general manager of Sunrise Logistics Inc., Ephrata, Pa., agreed drivers shouldn’t text on the road.

“We ask them to pull over and take a phone call,” he said, “or do it while they’re parked.”