A commercial driver’s license (CDL) allows you to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). Some offenses can disqualify you from holding a CDL for a certain length of time. Before you start your trucking career, it’s important to be aware of these CDL disqualifications.
Anyone who uses a CMV to commit a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance will be disqualified for life from holding a CDL. There is no possibility of reinstatement.
Major CDL Disqualification
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) outlines several major offenses that result in longer lengths of disqualification.
For these offenses, the disqualification will last one year for the first offense. If you were transporting hazardous materials (hazmat) in a CMV at the time, it would last three years. After a second offense, it is a lifetime disqualification with the possibility of reinstatement after 10 years. If there is a third offense after a reinstatement, the CDL cannot be reinstated.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Commercial drivers have a legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04. The limit for non-commercial vehicles varies in different states. In Arizona, impairment is assumed if BC is over 0.08, although someone can get a DUI with a lower BAC if there is evidence they are “impaired to the slightest degree.” Controlled substances can also result in DUI charges. The disqualification applies whether the DUI occurs while operating a CMV or while driving a personal vehicle.
Refusal to Test During a DUI Stop
If you refuse a BAC test during a DUI stop, you will face a CDL suspension. There may be additional legal consequences depending on the state where the stop occurs.
Leaving the Scene
You are legally obligated to remain at the scene of an accident, whether you were at fault or not, until you have provided all necessary information to law enforcement officers. If you fail to do so, you will face a CDL suspension as well as other possible legal consequences.
Using a CMV for a Felony
Using a CMV to commit a felony results in the disqualification period described above. This applies for felonies that do not involve the manufacture, distribution, or dispensation of a controlled substance. In those cases, as mentioned previously, there will be a lifetime disqualification with no possibility of reinstatement.
Driving with a Disqualified CDL
If you drive with a disqualified commercial license, it will extend your suspension.
Causing a Fatality
You will be temporarily disqualified from holding a CDL if you cause a fatality through the negligent operation of a CMV. Depending on the circumstances, there may be other civil and legal penalties as well.
Shorter-Term CDL Disqualifications
Traffic Violations and Railroad Crossings
Any of the following will result in a disqualification of 60 days if you get two convictions in a three-year period, or 120 days for third and subsequent violations in that timeframe:
- Excessive speeding (any speed 15 mph or more over the speed limit)
- Reckless driving (defined by state or local law)
- Erratic or improper lane changes
- Following too closely behind the vehicle ahead of you
- Any violation of state or local traffic control laws
- Driving a CMV without a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) or CDL, or without having proof of licensure
- Driving a CMV without the correct class of CLP/CDL, or without the proper endorsements
- Texting while driving a CMV
The following will result in a 60-day disqualification for the first offense, a 120-day disqualification for the second, and a one-year disqualification for the third onward:
- Failing to slow down and check railroad tracks, when stopping isn’t required
- Failing to stop when tracks are not clear, when stopping isn’t always required
- Failing to stop at railroad crossings where stopping is always required
- Failing to leave space to drive through the crossing without stopping
- Failing to obey a law enforcement officer or traffic control device at a railroad crossing
- Failing to negotiate a railroad crossing because of insufficient clearance
If your vehicle is placed out of service, you may not operate it until the issue is resolved. If you do so anyway, you will face a fine as well as a disqualification. For the first offense, this can last from 180 days up to one year, or up to two years if you were hauling hazmat. A second conviction lasts 2-5 years for non-hazmat and 3-5 years for hazmat. For third and subsequent convictions with a ten-year period, the disqualification will last 3-5 years for both hazmat and non-hazmat.
Understand CDL Requirements Before Earning Your License
It’s important to fully understand possible disqualifications and requirements before you earn your CDL. At HDS Truck Driving Institute (HDS truck driving school), we give our students the information and tools they need to succeed.