Bottom Line
Road Law
The minor, the major and the serious

Jeff McConnell & James Mennella
Attorneys at Law

This column is not about a "spaghetti western" or our interest in baseball.

The words in the headline may jump out at you and you might think to yourself that you have heard them before. But where? Was it in truck driving school, orientation at a company, when you took your CDL exam or even that infamous green and white book? The answer is probably all of them.   

However, whatever labeling system you have been exposed to, it is of vital importance that you know where these words come from and what they mean to you.

Q: I received a ticket for leaving the scene of an accident after I knocked a sign down while making a turn. My safety man says this is a "major" violation and I might get terminated if it shows up on my record. I can't find anywhere what a "major" violation is. Where can I find this information?

A: This is an excellent question and one that we have heard many times before. It is a perfect example of the feds assigning a name to a group of violations that is buried within the regulation. 

Generally, when someone speaks of major violations, they are referring to Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations part 383.51 Disqualification of drivers. You have to read 383.51(b) - Disqualification for major offenses - before you will find the word "major." 

There is a handy table to section 383.51, which you need to dog ear in your green and white book or make a copy of to carry with you. 

These are the major violations and the ones that will get you disqualified from operating a CMV for the longest periods.

Q: I received a ticket for 75 in a 55 and another driver told me that was a major violation. Is this true? 

A: The actual answer is no. However, the driver has the right instinct to assume that it is a major violation. Within section 383.51 is a second table that all drivers should be aware of as well.

The difference between the offenses in Table 1 and Table 2 is that Table 2 offenses are labeled as "serious" traffic violations and it requires a conviction of any two of these violations within a three-year period before a disqualification occurs.

Also, within section 383.51, Table 3 and Table 4 should be consulted for the railroad crossing violations and out-of-service orders as both carry a disqualification period for a conviction of just one offense.

Q: So if I don't have a major or a serious offense, then I must have a "minor" offense and should be able to just pay the violation?

A: Unfortunately, there is no "minor" offense. Although a violation you receive may not be one that is a disqualifying offense, it may still allocate points or a moving violation to your MVR in your licensing state. 

If you accumulate too many points or moving violations within a given time period, the licensing state will suspend your driving privilege.

The difference between a suspension and a disqualification is that with a suspension, your total driving privileges are suspended. 

If you are disqualified from operating a CMV you still will retain the ability to drive a non-CMV in most situations.

Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Road Law, 3441 W. M