Understanding the Impact Traffic Violations can have on CDLs
Whether your routes are long hauls or short deliveries, many drivers rely on their commercial driver’s license (CDL) to make a living, and it is important to understand the impact traffic violations can have CDLs. While the point system for minor violations and the limit of points tolerated before license suspension varies from state to state, there are a number of commonalities between the states regarding serious and major offenses.
Civil traffic violations vary from state to state, and the penalties usually come in the form of points on one’s license. Some states permit more points for CDL drivers before consequences take effect while others permit less. Additionally, some states give more points to CDL drivers versus non-commercial drivers for the same violation. The differences between the states is vast, but some of the most common violations in Arizona include:
· Civil speed violations
· Driving below the minimum speed
· Making an illegal turn
· Failing to stop at a red light
· Leaving a vehicle unattended and running
· Having an expired license plate
· Driving without a seatbelt (Note, commercial drivers are occasionally given criminal charges for seatbelt violations. Like other violations, the points for such charges vary from state to state.)
· Not stopping at a stop sign
· Illegal street crossing
· Having an overweight vehicle
This is by no means an exhaustive list but covers many of the citations given to CDL drivers. Because defensive driving school is not available to commercial drivers, often the best course of action in these scenarios is to plead to a lesser charge without points or to plead to the same charge with a reduced fine.
Commercial drivers also need to be wary of non-serious and non-major criminal traffic violations. Of specific interest to truck drivers is the collection of laws regulating logbooks and driving hours. These laws include
· Not carrying a logbook
· Creating a false logbook entry
· Logbook entries demonstrating the driver has driven over the permitted hours
· Carrying a logbook that is not current.
Unfortunately, these laws are complex and create many pitfalls for a driver to make a mistake. While most states with the exception of California do not give points for logbook violations, these are still criminal charges that will remain on one’s record. Additionally, these criminal violations will show up on a driver’s CSA record.
Drivers also need to avoid serious offense citations. For the first violation of a serious offense, there is no disqualification of a CDL. However, for a second and separate violation during a three-year period, drivers can expect 60-day disqualification of their license. Should a driver receive a third violation in that same three-year period, they can expect a 120-day disqualification of their license. These violations include:
· Excessive Speed 15 mph over the posted speed limit
· Reckless Driving
· Unsafe Lane Changes
· Following a vehicle too closely
· A minor offense arising in connection with a fatal accident
· Driving a commercial motor vehicle without the appropriate license
· Driving without a CDL in possession
· Using a cell phone or texting while driving if forbidden by State or Local law
Due to their gravity, major offenses offer less leniency to CDL drivers than serious offenses, and unlike serious offense they do not reset after 3 years. Because of the permanence of each infraction, it is important to avoid such infractions at all costs. The first violation will result in a one-year disqualification of one’s driver’s license (three-years for vehicles transporting hazardous waste). A second and separate offense will result in a lifetime CDL disqualification with the eligibility to reinstate one’s license after 10 years based on good driving. If one receives a third violation after reinstatement, CDLs are permanently disqualified with no option for reinstatement. These violations include:
· Driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance
· Refusing to take an alcohol or drug test as required by State or Local law
· Leaving the scene of an accident
· A felony involving the use of a motor vehicle
· Driving a commercial motor vehicle when the driver’s CDL has been revoked, suspended, disqualified, or canceled
· Causing a fatality through negligent operation of a commercial motor vehicle
· Using a motor vehicle in manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing of a controlled substance
Last of all, it should be noted that commercial drivers may experience consequences to their CSA record for minor, serious, and major traffic violations, despite any dismissal of violations in court. The CSA is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) safety compliance program. It is updated based on a law enforcement officer’s entry into the Driver Vehicle Examination Report (DVER), and it is handled completely separately from one’s legal obligations for the same infractions. They are important namely because some employers may terminate a driver for their CSA record and a CSA record may influence whether a new employer will hire a commercial driver applicant.
What does this mean for commercial drivers? Well, for one, courts do not have the ability to independently adjust one’s CSA score. After a violation has been dismissed or reduced, it is up to the driver to contest the CSA record using DataQs on the FMCSA website. However, law enforcement officers will at times input more violations into a DVER than they will into the citation itself. When this occurs, contesting these CSA violations is extremely difficult. Therefore, the best way to avoid a CSA record is ultimately to drive safely and carefully.
Additionally, home state Motor Vehicle Divisions may add additional penalties for minor, serious, and major traffic violations. If you are a commercial driver and have received any traffic violation, it is important to understand what options are at your disposal. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact the Tyler Allen Law Firm by filling out the contact form on this page or by calling (602) 456-0545 to discuss your case.