Serious Traffic Offenses Triggering Suspension of CDL License
Under federal law, if a CDL holder is convicted TWICE of any of the following “serious traffic offenses” in a separate offense within a 3-year period while operating a commercial vehicle, the CDL holder will be disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle for 60 days:
- Speeding 15 mph or more over the speed limit
- Reckless driving
- Improper lane change
- Following too closely
- Traffic control violation resulting in a fatal accident
- Driving a commercial vehicle without a CDL in your possession
- Driving a commercial vehicle without proper endorsements or proper class of CDL
- Violating a state or local law banning texting while driving
If you are convicted of any of the above offenses THREE or more times within a 3-year period, your CDL will be suspended for 120 days.
Note that these suspensions apply whether the offense was in your commercial vehicle or your personal car.
Because of the serious consequences that even a speeding ticket can have on a CDL holder’s livelihood, talking to an experienced attorney about your options for a speeding, reckless driving or other traffic charge is critical.
Below is a table summarizing each of these offenses and the length of CDL license suspension (from 49 CFR 383.51, Table 2):
|Second conviction of any of the below offenses in a separate incident within a 3-year period while operating a commercial vehicle||Second conviction of any of the below offenses in a separate incident within a 3-year period while operating a non-commercial vehicle||Third or subsequent conviction of any of the below offenses in a separate in a 3-year period while operating a commercial vehicle||Third or subsequent conviction of any of the below offenses within a 3-year period while operating a non-commercial vehicle|
|Speeding 15 mph or more above the speed limit||60 days||60 days||120 days||120 days|
|Reckless driving||60 days||60 days||120 days||120 days|
|Improper lane change or erratic lane change||60 days||60 days||120 days||120 days|
|Following too closely||60 days||60 days||120 days||120 days|
|Traffic control violation resulting in a fatal traffic accident||60 days||60 days||120 days||120 days|
|Driving a commercial vehicle without a CDL||60 days||N/A||120 days||N/A|
|Driving a commercial vehicle without a CDL in your possession||60 days||N/A||120 days||N/A|
|Driving a commercial vehicle without the proper class of CDL and/or endorsements||60 days||N/A||120 days||N/A|
|Texting while driving in violation of state or local law||60 days||N/A||120 days||N/A|
|Using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving in violation of state or local law||60 days||N/A||120 days||N/A|
OVI, Breathalyzer Refusal, Hit-Skip & CDL Disqualification
Federal law also provides that other more serious traffic offenses – such as OVI / DUI and hit and run accidents – have longer periods of suspension.
Below is a chart from the federal regulations explaining the length of CDL suspensions for first or second DUI / OVI convictions, hit and run convictions as well as operating a commercial vehicle with a prohibited breath alcohol level. From 49 CFR 383.51, Table 1
|First conviction or refusal to be tested while driving a commercial vehicle||First conviction or refusal to be tested while driving non-commercial vehicle||First conviction or refusal or be tested while operating a commercial vehicle carrying hazmat||Second conviction or refusal or be tested in a separate incident while operating a commercial vehicle||Second conviction or refusal to be tested in a separate incident while operating a non-commercial vehicle|
|DUI / OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence)||1 year||1 year||3 years||Life||Life|
|Having a BAC of .04 or more while operating a commercial vehicle||1 year||N/A||3 years||Life||N/A|
|Refusal or take a breathalyzer test||1 year||1 year||3 years||Life||Life|
|Leaving the scene of an accident (hit-skip)||1 year||1 year||3 years||Life||Life|
|Using vehicle to commit a felony||1 year||1 year||3 years||Life||Life|
|Driving a commercial vehicle while CDL is revoked, suspended or cancelled||1 year||N/A||3 years||Life||N/A|
|Causing a fatality through negligent operation of a commercial vehicle||1 year||N/A||3 years||Life||N/A|
|Using vehicle in commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing or dispensing a controlled substance||Life – not eligible for 10-year reinstatement||Life – not eligible for 10-year reinstatement||Life – not eligible for 10-year reinstatement||Life – not eligible for 10-year reinstatement||Life – not eligible for 10-year reinstatement|
Disqualification of drivers.
Below are the available interpretations for the given section. To return to the list of parts, use the Parts link above. The menu to the left provides a full list of sections that have interpretations. To view interpretations for a different section, click on the menu item.
The regulations text of the section can be found on the CFR website. To view the regulations text, use the link below.
Question 1: a. If a driver received one “excessive speeding” violation in a CMV and the same violation in his/her personal passenger vehicle, would the driver be disqualified? or, b. If a driver received two “excessive speeding” violations in his/her personal passenger vehicle, would the driver be disqualified?
Guidance: No, in both cases. Convictions for serious traffic violations, such as excessive speeding, only result in disqualification if the offenses were committed in a CMV—unless the State has stricter regulations.
Question 2: §383.51 of the FMCSRs disqualifies drivers if certain offenses were committed while operating a CMV. Will the States be required to identify on the motor vehicle driver’s record the class of vehicle being operated when a violation occurs?
Guidance: No, only whether or not the violation occurred in a CMV. The only other indication that may be required is if the vehicle was carrying placardable amounts of HM.
Question 3: If a CDL holder commits an offense that would normally be disqualifying, but the CDL holder is driving under the farm waiver, must conviction result in disqualification and action against the CDL holder?
Guidance: Yes. Possession of the CDL means the driver is not operating under the waiver. In addition, the waiver does not absolve the driver from disqualification under part 391.
Question 4: What is meant by leaving the scene of an accident involving a CMV?
Guidance: As used in part 383, the disqualifying offense of “leaving the scene of an accident involving a CMV” is all-inclusive and covers the entire range of situations where the driver of the CMV is required by State law to stop after an accident and either give information to the other party, render aid, or attempt to locate and notify the operator or owner of other vehicles involved in the accident.
Question 5: If a State disqualifies a driver for two serious traffic violations under §383.51(c)(2)(i), and that driver, after being reinstated, commits a third serious violation, what additional period of disqualification must be imposed on that driver?
Guidance: If three years have not elapsed since the original violation, then the driver is now subject to a full 120-day disqualification period.
Question 6: May a State issue a “conditional,” “occupational” or “hardship” license that includes CDL driving privileges when a CDL holder loses driving privileges to operate a private passenger vehicle (non-CMV)?
Guidance: Yes, provided the CDL holder loses his/her driving privileges for operating a non-CMV as the result of a conviction for a disqualifying offense that occurred in a non-CMV. A State is prohibited, however, from issuing any type of license which would give the driver even limited privileges to operate a CMV when the conviction is for a disqualifying offense that occurred in a CMV.
Question 7: What information needs to be contained on a “conditional,” “occupational” or “hardship” license document that includes CDL driving privileges?
Guidance: The same information that is required under §383.153, including an explanation of restrictions of driving privileges.
Question 8: Is a State obligated to grant reciprocity to another State’s “conditional,” “occupational” or “hardship” license that includes CDL driving privileges?
Guidance: Yes, in regard to operating a CMV as stated in §383.73(h).
Question 9: Are States expected to make major changes to their enforcement procedures in order to apply the alcohol disqualifications in the Federal regulations?
No. §383.51 and 392.5 do not require any change in a State’s existing procedures for initially stopping vehicles and drivers.
Roadblocks, random testing programs, or other enforcement procedures which have been held unconstitutional in the State or which the State does not wish to implement are not required.
Question 10: Is a driver disqualified for driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) while off-duty with a blood alcohol concentration over 0.04 percent?
Guidance: Yes. §383.51 applies to any person who is driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV), as defined in §383.5, regardless of the person’s duty status under other regulations. Therefore, the driver, if convicted, would be disqualified under §383.51.
Question 11: Does a temporary license issued pursuant to the administrative license revocation (ALR) procedure authorize the continued operation of Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)s when the license surrendered is a CDL? Does the acceptance of a temporary driver’s license place the CDL holder in violation of the one driver’s license requirement?
Guidance: The ALR procedure of taking possession of the driver’s CDL and issuing a “temporary license” for individuals who either fail a chemical alcohol test or refuse to take the test is valid under the requirements of part 383. Since the CDL that is being held by the State is still valid until the administrative revocation action is taken, the FHWA would interpret the document given to the driver as a “receipt” for the CDL, not a new “temporary” license. The driver violates no CDL requirements for accepting the receipt which may be used to the extent authorized.
Question 12: Is a driver disqualified under §383.51 if convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol while operating a personal vehicle?
Guidance: The convictions triggering mandatory disqualification under §383.51 all pertain to offenses that occur while the person is driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV). However, a driver could be disqualified under §383.51(b)(2)(i) if the State has stricter standards which apply to offenses committed in a personal vehicle. (The same principle applies to all other disqualifying offenses listed in §383.51.)
Question 13: Would a driver convicted under a State’s “open container” law be disqualified under the CDL regulations if the violation occurred while he/she was operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)?
Guidance: If a conviction under a particular State’s “open container law” is a conviction for “driving under the influence” or “driving while intoxicated,” and if the person committed the violation while driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV), then the driver is disqualified for one year under §383.51, assuming it is a first offense.
Question 14: Is a driver who possesses a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) issued by their State of residence, but who is suspended by another State for reasons unrelated to the violation of a motor vehicle traffic control law, disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in accordance with provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations?*
Yes. Currently, both section 383.5, which defines the term disqualification as it applies to drivers required to have a CDL, and section 391.15, which applies to other CMV drivers subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, include the suspension of a person’s license or privilege to drive as an action requiring that person to be disqualified from operating a CMV. Neither of these regulatory provisions limit such suspensions to those imposed by the State where the driver is licensed, nor do these regulations specify the grounds upon which a suspension must be based.
Be advised, however, that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed in 66 FR 22499, Docket No. FMCSA-00-7382, published May 4,2001, to limit the basis of the suspension to those resulting from a driving violation. If the rule is finalized, the answer would be no.
*Editor’s Note:This interpretation was issued after the interpretations were published in the Federal Register in April 1997.
Question 15: Must the State use the date of conviction, rather than the offense date, to calculate the starting and ending dates for the driver disqualification period specified in 49 CFR 383.51?*
Yes, the State must use the date of conviction or a later date, rather than the offense date, as the basis for calculating the starting and ending dates for the driver disqualification period. The State may allow the driver additional time after the conviction date to appeal the conviction before the disqualification period begins. The use of the conviction date (or the date when all appeals are exhausted) ensures that the driver receives due process of law but(if the conviction is upheld)still serves the full disqualification period 49 CFR 383.51 requires. For example, a driver is cited for a disqualifying offense on May 1 and is convicted of the offense on July 1. If the offense date were used for the starting date of the disqualification, it would shorten the actual disqualification by 2 months. Using the conviction date or a later date when all appeals are exhausted ensures that the driver serves the full disqualification period.
*Editor’s Note:This interpretation was issued after the interpretations were published in the Federal Register in April 1997.
Question 16: Must the State use the offense date or the conviction date to determine if two or more serious traffic convictions occurred within a 3-year period?*
The State must use the offense date to determine if two or more serious traffic convictions fall within the 3-year period specified in 49 CFR 383.51 Table 2. If the conviction date were used, delays in bringing a case to trial could push the second conviction out side the 3-year period, thus defeating the purpose of the rule. For example, a driver is cited for a first serious traffic violation on February 1, 2001 and is convicted on March 1, 2001. The driver is cited for a second serious traffic violation on January 15, 2004. The trial is set for February 27, 2004, but the driver asks to have the trial delayed because he has something important to do that day. The new trial date is set for March 15, 2004 and he is convicted of the second violation on this date. If the conviction dates are used, the two offenses are not within three years of each other and no disqualification action is taken on the driver. If the offense dates are used, the driver is disqualified regardless of the conviction date because the offenses for which he was convicted are within three years of each other.
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