To drive vehicles that weigh over 26,000 pounds or transport hazardous materials, the law requires commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs). Fines and jail sentences are ready for drivers who don’t want to comply. CDL applicants must provide prospective employers with information on all previous driving jobs over the past 10 years. All states connect to a computerized system to exchange information about CDL drivers and their accident records to be sure that all drivers have just one CDL.
CDL Tickets and Citations
Drivers holding CDLs are subject to stricter regulation than are ordinary licensees. CDL drivers should handle traffic tickets with care, so hiring experienced attorneys for help is for them always a provident policy. Simply paying for the citation can cost much more than the amount paid if it puts a conviction on the driver’s record. Certain convictions can make CDLs subject to suspension.
Court supervision (probation) may be an acceptable sentence for an ordinary driver in Texas but not for a CDL holder. The Texas Department of Public Safety treats a sentence of court supervision as a conviction, which can mean CDL suspension or disqualification. This obviously is a very costly consequence.
In Texas, CDL holders are not eligible for deferred dispositions, defensive driving school, nor any other diversions from prosecution to keep traffic offense convictions off their driving records. Whenever charged with traffic violations, their sole recourse may be to stand trial and try for an acquittal.
Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Standards
Under interstate regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), bus drivers, truck drivers, and other CDL holders must meet impaired driving standards higher than those for ordinary drivers. Their cargoes may be steel tanks of gasoline or school buses of small children, so safety concerns are much higher than for typical passenger car drivers. An impaired CDL driver poses a threat to public safety and a serious potential liability to the employer.
Examples of drivers and employers subject to FMCSA regulation of drug abuse by commercial drivers:
- Commercial motor vehicle owners and lessors,
- Motor carriers for hire,
- Private motor carriers,
- Civic organizations, and
CDL Blood Alcohol Limits (DWI and DUI)
Most states have adopted FMCSA CDL driver alcohol regulations, which set a 0.04-percent blood alcohol concentration limit, half the 0.08 limit for nonCDL drivers in most states. The FMCSA also prohibits CDL drivers from operating commercial vehicles within four hours after any use of alcohol.
CDL Alcohol and Drug Tests
CDL drivers may have to submit to drug or alcohol testing as a condition of employment, at random, after an accident, on reasonable suspicion of alcohol abuse, or to return to duty after suspension for an alcohol policy violation. Drugs often screened are amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and phencyclidine.
When stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicant, CDL drivers also face penalties harsher than those for ordinary drivers for refusing to submit to blood alcohol content tests. Under FMCSA regulations, refusal to submit is equivalent to pleading guilty.
CDL Driving While Impaired Cases
Besides their lower blood alcohol content threshold, CDL holders charged with driving on the job while impaired are subject to the same criminal law penalties as are non-CDL defendants. Suspensions or disqualifications for driving under the influence are usually longer in commercial than in noncommercial vehicles, sometimes long enough to amount to a loss of livelihood for the CDL holder.
CDL holders convicted of any traffic violation other than improper parking must notify their employers within 30 days regardless of the vehicles, commercial or not, driven at the time. A CDL truck driver convicted of a traffic offense while driving a personal car off duty must make notification. If the offense causes a suspension, the employer may not use the driver’s services for as long as the suspension lasts. CDL drivers with records of driving under the influence or while impaired may have extreme difficulty finding employment in their occupation.
Consult an Experienced CDL Ticket Attorney
Why do I need an attorney for a CDL ticket? A skilled criminal defense attorney with experience in defending CDL holders charged with serious traffic violations can evaluate the evidence, review the procedures and results of sobriety and chemical tests, and make sure the arrest and prosecution protect all legal rights. Representation by an attorney respected and esteemed by prosecutors and judges as a stalwart, trustworthy defender of clients willing to litigate the most challenging cases to protect their interests is the best way to go for the best result in court. Most offer free consultations, so the first step in a CDL holder’s defense should be to contact an experienced attorney to schedule one.