By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella
There are many reasons why commercial drivers are targeted by law enforcement at local, county, state and federal levels. Professional drivers should know about specific issues contributing to the phenomenon and be aware of these tips on how CDL holders can protect their status.
Q: What is the main problem that CDL holders are having in terms of longevity in the industry?
A: The biggest problem is remaining qualified to drive a commercial vehicle. This comes in many forms, but the biggest problems are suspensions and disqualifications.
Remember, you can be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle without accumulating the necessary points or moving violations that would cause suspension of your license under your home state’s motor vehicle code.
Further, you only have one motor vehicle record and whether you are in a commercial vehicle or a personal vehicle when you receive a ticket, all convictions will show up on the same record.
Q: Why do all of these suspensions and disqualifications occur?
A: The main reason for any action by your state’s department of motor vehicles is because of convictions or lack of action on your behalf.
Convictions occur when you either mail in your fine/costs to the court or are found guilty at a trial.
Unfortunately, many drivers simply just pay fines without obtaining information about the ramifications of the charges.
The flip side to this is ignoring the ticket altogether, or trusting your company to pay the violation on your behalf.
If you or your company fails to pay the ticket, most jurisdictions will request a suspension of your driving privileges. You may be suspended only in the state where the citation was issued, or the citation may eventually get to your home state where your license will be suspended or not renewed until the matter is cleared up.
The worst case scenario is that you get picked up in an entirely different state and charged with driving under suspension. You can be either jailed or put out of service until the matter is resolved.
Clearing up the matter is not as simple as just paying the original violation. For example, refusing to take an alcohol test as required by a state or jurisdiction under its implied consent laws or regs calls for a one-year disqualification of your CDL under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Section 383.51. The odds of obtaining suitable employment are pretty slim with that kind of record.
Q: How does a commercial driver stay qualified to drive?
A: Some of the main considerations every CDL holder needs to be aware of are the following:
- Know the “disqualifying” traffic violations under FMCSR Section 383.51;
- Know your licensing state’s suspension criteria and when they will take action against you;
- Know your company’s policy for traffic violations and when they will take action against you;
- Don’t ever just pay a ticket without getting legal advice from someone who can tell you how it may harm you; and
- If you entrust someone to pay your violations, make certain that payment has been made and that the matter is closed with the particular court or agency the money is due to. LL
Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134, call (405) 242-2030, fax (405) 242-2040, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.