If you are in the trucking industry in the United States, you are well aware of the effort that goes into getting a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) driver. CDL drivers are trained to drive Commercial Motor Vehicles(CMV). All CDL drivers are bound by special rules that are strict, and violating them can result in penalties or disqualification of their CDL. 

Here is an interesting fact: Did you know that from 2010 to 2014, about 9% of all enforcement actions taken by the FMCSA(Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) for violations were actually driver-qualification violations? Though some drivers were disqualified on the  grounds of health, that still puts a significantly high number of CDL drivers getting disqualified for violating laws. Are you aware of what violations can disqualify your CDL Drivers?

Let’s delve a bit deeper into the kind of violations that can disqualify your CDL driver!

What are CDL Disqualifications?

As a fleet operator or owner of a trucking business, you must know that each of your drivers needs to meet a specific set of requirements before they are granted their CDL. Even after they are granted their license, drivers need to follow a set number of rules to continue possessing their license. There can be many reasons such as an accident while driving a CMV or the driver’s own personal vehicle, for instance, that can impact a driver’s CDL.

When is a CDL Driver Disqualified from Driving?

There are two main categories under which a CDL driver may be disqualified:

  • For driving-related offences

A CDL driver who has lost his/her driving privileges due to revocation, suspension, withdrawal or denial of his operator license or permit, stands disqualified from driving until his license has been restored and he is legally permitted to drive again. As a trucking business owner, a CDL driver who is disqualified from driving a CMV and working for you must inform you of the same until his license or permit has been restored or returned to him.

  • For criminal or other offences

According to American State and Federal REgulations, a driver who is convicted of (or forfeits bond or collateral upon a charge of) a disqualifying offence specified in paragraph (c)(2) of 49 CFR 391.15 is disqualified for the period of time specified in paragraph (c)(3) of 49 CFR 391.15.

It is therefore important for you to conduct a thorough background check of the drivers you hire to make sure they are not disqualified from driving or have their CDL revoked due to criminal or other offences.

Types of Violations that can Disqualify your CDL Driver

The government of the USA has designated violations or offences that can disqualify your CDL driver into two broad headings– Serious and Major.

  • Serious Violations

According to the Federal government, ‘serious’ violations that can disqualify your CDL driver are:

  • Speeding 15mph or over the expected speed limit
  • Erratic lane changes
  • Following another vehicle too closely, in more than one instance
  • A traffic violation that is a result of a fatal or near-fatal accident
  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle without a CDL license
  • Driving a CMV without having the CDL license with them at the time of driving
  • Driving a wrong class or category of vehicle than what is permitted in the driver’s CDL
  • Driving recklessly
  • Driving distracted– texting or speaking to someone on the phone, eating while driving

While the Federal law is all-encompassing throughout the USA, many states add few more violations to the above-mentioned list, making it stricter. Examples of such violations include failure to provide help or aid in a hit-and-run case or possessing alcohol in the vehicle without a permit.

  • Major Violations

According to the Federal government, ‘major’ violations that can disqualify your CDL driver include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Driving under the influence of drugs
  • Using a vehicle to commit a crime
  • Driving a vehicle or a CMV while his/her CDL has been revoked
  • Negligence that leads to a CMV accident
  • Driver refusing a chemical test 
  • Leaving an accident scene

How Long Does a CDL Driver Remain Disqualified?

Based on the number of times a driver has violated traffic rules, his/her CDL disqualification varies.

  • Two ‘serious’ traffic violations in separate incidents within a 3-year period can get the driver a minimum 60-day period of CDL disqualification.
  • Three ‘serious’ traffic violations, in separate incidents, within a 3-year period, can get the driver a 120-day disqualification.

Violation of an Out-Of-Service Order

If a CDL driver violates an out-of-service order, he/she and/or the CMV are off the roads until the violation has been corrected. 

  • If the first violation of the order is made, the CDL driver stands disqualified for 90 days to 1 year.
  • If a CDL driver commits his/her second offence in a 10-year period, he/she stands disqualified for 1 to 5 years.
  • A third offence in a span of 10 years and the CDL driver stands disqualified for 3 to 5 years.

Wrapping it up

Hiring CDL drivers with experience and no violations at the time of hiring is advisable for all trucking companies to reduce any chance of legal trouble. In order to do so, you must do a proper check of your new hires and inculcate a safe culture within your company.