They say the law is the same for everyone but traffic laws come with certain tweaks for drivers with a Commercial Driving License (CDL).
Commercial drivers enjoy certain perks but they also have to take care of more limitations. However, like regulator drivers, those with a commercial license can also get a ticket.
In this article, we’ll explain all that you need to know about a CDL traffic ticket including possible fines and consequences. Let’s start:
What is a Commercial Driving License?
Wikipedia defines a CDL as a “driver’s license required to operate large, heavy, or placarded hazardous material vehicles in commerce.”
The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 covers this aspect in the US. A driver can have one of the following CDLs depending on eligibility requirements and other such factors:
- Class A – This is the most in-demand licenses as it allows holders to drive any combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more for as long as the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is more than 10,000 pounds. Moreover, those who hold this license are also legally allowed to operate any commercial vehicle included in the other two classes for as long as they have the required endorsements.
- Class B – This type of license allows holders to drive a single vehicle or a combination with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more for as long as the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is more than 10,000 pounds. Moreover, those who hold this license are also legally allowed to operate any commercial vehicle included in Type C for as long as they have the required endorsements.
- Class C – This type of license allows holders to drive a single vehicle that is not covered in the other two glasses. However, the purpose of the vehicle should be to transport at least 16 passengers, including the driver. Additionally, vehicles used to transport hazardous material also fall under this category.
You must be at least 18 years of age to apply for a commercial license in the US, however, the age in Hawaii and New York, for some categories, is 21.
So What’s a CDL Traffic Ticket?
A CDL ticket is a traffic ticket that law enforcement officials issue to the driver of a commercial vehicle or someone who drives commercially.
Companies hire drivers for a variety of reasons – to operate buses, trucks, and other such vehicles. While it’s the duty of the company to hire skilled drivers, it’s the job of drivers to ensure they’re efficient on the road and follow all the rules.
Breaking any of the rules can cause drivers to receive a CDL traffic ticket.
CDL Traffic Ticket in California – Understanding the Law
In simple words – breaking traffic laws can result in the receiving of a CDL traffic ticket.
Drivers are required to hold a CDL in order to be legally able to operate a commercial motor vehicle. The law very clearly describes the rules such drivers are required to follow.
It’s very important to be aware of the law as the CDL is essential for professional drivers to be able to earn a living. Losing your CDL can have serious consequences in California.
The law expects and requires you to be a law abiding citizen and follow all the rules and regulations. Drivers are required to maintain appropriate training and licensing while also following all regulations related to driving on a specific road.
- Construction vehicles for special use
- Semi-truck trailers
- Semi trucks
- Cement trucks, etc.
It is important to remember that rules for driving these vehicles aren’t the same as rules for driving regular automobiles. Moreover, the government recently revised rules for license holders who receive a CDL ticket in California.
Back in the day, drivers who received off-duty violations were not able to have their citations dismissed or suppressed. Moreover, they weren’t allowed to attend traffic school, hence they had no option to get rid of points.
Once you’re caught breaking the law, you were stuck, however, things have now changed. The government passed a law in 2013 that permits truck drivers to opt for traffic school – in some cases – and get points erased off their record.
The new bill called the Assembly Bill No. 1888 is defined as “an act to amend Section 42005 of, and to add Section 1808.10 to, the Vehicle Code, relating to vehicles.”
According to the document, the Bill allows “the court to, after a deposit of the specified fee or bail, a plea of guilty or no contest, or a conviction, to order or permit a person who holds a class A license, class B license, or commercial class C driver’s license to attend a traffic violator school for a traffic offense while operating a vehicle requiring only a class C or class M license. The bill would specify that the record of conviction in any 18-month period would not be confidential, would require that the record of conviction be disclosed to insurers for insurance underwriting and rating purposes, and would not count as a violation point for determining whether a driver is presumed to be a negligent operator, unless a specified condition applies to the offense.”
Most commercial drivers in the state are caught speeding. The law is very strict when it comes to speeding as it can result in serious accidents.
Here’s what the law says:
No person may drive any of the following vehicles on a highway at a speed in excess of 55 miles per hour:
(a) A motortruck or truck tractor having three or more axles or any motortruck or truck tractor drawing any other vehicle.
(b) A passenger vehicle or bus drawing any other vehicle.
(c) A schoolbus transporting any school pupil.
(d) A farm labor vehicle when transporting passengers.
(e) A vehicle transporting explosives.
(f) A trailer bus, as defined in Section 636.
(Amended by Stats. 2000, Ch. 787, Sec. 22. Effective January 1, 2001.)
So, How Serious is a CDL Ticket?
You must take a CDL ticket very seriously as it can result in the suspension of your license and cause you to lose your job.
The law considers some offenses more serious than others based on how much harm they can cause to the driver, vehicle, passengers, and other drivers, people, or vehicles on the road.
The riskier your behavior, the more you will have to suffer:
- Drivers with two serious violations in a period of three years can face revocation for up to a minimum of 60 days.
- Drivers with three serious violations in a period of three years can face revocation for up to a minimum of 120 days.
Some of the offenses that the law considers serious include:
Excessive Speeding – going 15 miles or higher above the speed limit. VC 22406 covers this aspect and says:
- No person may drive any of the following vehicles on a highway at a speed in excess of 55 miles per hour:
- A motor truck or truck tractor having three or more axles or any motor truck or truck tractor drawing any other vehicle.
- A passenger vehicle or bus drawing any other vehicle.
- A school bus transporting any school pupil.
- A farm labor vehicle when transporting passengers.
- A vehicle transporting explosives.
- A trailer bus, as defined in Section 636
Improper Lane Changes – switching lanes without warning the driver behind. California Vehicle Code 22107 covers this section. It says:
No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.
Reckless Driving – driving in an improper manner. California Vehicle Code 23103 covers this aspect and says:
A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
A person who drives a vehicle in an off street parking facility, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 12500, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
Except as otherwise provided in Section 40008, persons convicted of the offense of reckless driving shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than five days nor more than 90 days or by a fine of not less than one hundred forty-five dollars ($145) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, except as provided in Section 23104 or 23105.
Following Too Closely – not giving the driver in the front enough space. VC 21703 covers this section and says:
“The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.”
Distracted Driving – using the phone while driving, etc. California Vehicle Code 23123 VC covers this aspect and says:
A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving.
A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense.
This section does not apply to a person using a wireless telephone for emergency purposes, including, but not limited to, an emergency call to a law enforcement agency, health care provider, fire department, or other emergency services agency or entity.
This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using a wireless telephone while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties.
This section does not apply to a person driving a school bus or transit vehicle that is subject to Section 23125.
(f) This section does not apply to a person while driving a motor vehicle on private property.
Driving Without a Valid CDL – not having a license or having an expired license. VC 12500 covers this aspect and says
A person may not drive a motor vehicle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver’s license issued under this code, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code.
A person may not drive a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver’s license or endorsement issued under this code for that class, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code, or those persons specifically authorized to operate motorized bicycles or motorized scooters with a valid driver’s license of any class, as specified in subdivision (h) of Section 12804.9.
A person may not drive a motor vehicle in or upon any offstreet parking facility, unless the person then holds a valid driver’s license of the appropriate class or certification to operate the vehicle. As used in this subdivision, “offstreet parking facility” means any offstreet facility held open for use by the public for parking vehicles and includes any publicly owned facilities for offstreet parking, and privately owned facilities for offstreet parking where no fee is charged for the privilege to park and which are held open for the common public use of retail customers.
A person may not drive a motor vehicle or combination of vehicles that is not of a type for which the person is licensed.
A motorized scooter operated on public streets shall at all times be equipped with an engine that complies with the applicable State Air Resources Board emission requirements.
This is the federal law that applies to all the states in the country. However, states have the option to add more crimes to the list of serious offenses. Some of these include:
- Hit and run cases – not providing aid to the injured
- Possessing alcohol
Major violations can also result in your license getting revoked. You will lose your license if you’re caught performing a major violation. However, operating a hazmat CMV can result in a minimum suspension of three years.
Some of the offenses that the law considers major include:
Driving Under the Influence: Vehicle Code 23152 covers California’s law on commercial DUI. Here’s what the law says:
It is unlawful for a person who has 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a commercial motor vehicle, as defined in Section 15210. In a prosecution under this subdivision, it is a rebuttable presumption that the person had 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood at the time of driving the vehicle if the person had 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood at the time of the performance of a chemical test within three hours after the driving.
Refusing a Chemical Test: Linked to a DUI, refusing to give a chemical test can cause you to lose your license as covered by VC 13353:
If a person on more than one occasion in separate incidents refuses the officer’s request to submit to, or fails to complete, a chemical test or tests pursuant to Section 23612 while driving a motor vehicle, upon the receipt of the officer’s sworn statement that the officer had reasonable cause to believe the person had been driving a motor vehicle in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153, the department shall disqualify the person from operating a commercial motor vehicle for the rest of his or her lifetime.
Driving while Revoked: VC 14601 covers this aspect and says:
No person shall drive a motor vehicle at any time when that person’s driving privilege is suspended or revoked for reckless driving in violation of Section 23103, 23104, or 23105, any reason listed in subdivision (a) or (c) of Section 12806 authorizing the department to refuse to issue a license, negligent or incompetent operation of a motor vehicle as prescribed in subdivision (e) of Section 12809, or negligent operation as prescribed in Section 12810.5, if the person so driving has knowledge of the suspension or revocation. Knowledge shall be conclusively presumed if mailed notice has been given by the department to the person pursuant to Section 13106. The presumption established by this subdivision is a presumption affecting the burden of proof.
In addition to this, you can also get into trouble for using a commercial vehicle to commit a crime such as a robbery. Moreover, being negligent while driving is also considered a serious offense and can result in jail time, fines, and suspension.
What is a CDL Infraction Violation?
It refers to a type of violation that requires drivers to pay a fine or face other consequences.
Infraction violations are of two types:
Non-Moving Violations: No points will be added to your record even if you’re found guilty.
Moving Violations: These will result in the addition of points to your record if you’re found guilty.
For commercial drivers, points shouldn’t be the only concern as getting caught breaking the law can cause drivers to lose their job.
What is a CDL Misdemeanor Violation?
A misdemeanor will result in a hefty ticket. The minimum amount is $1,000 but most end up paying more. Plus, offenders also have to serve jail time, which is mandatory.
In addition to this, your license might get revoked, suspended, or taken for life. The DMV keeps a record of violations and getting four points in a period of 12 months can cause you to lose your license.
CDL Traffic Tickets in California: FAQ
Can drivers of commercial vehicles choose to go to a traffic school?
California Governor Jerry Brown took a major step in the last quarter of 2012 and signed a change to the law that allows drivers of commercial vehicles to choose to attend a traffic school if they’re in violation of a minor law.
We must mention that this option is not available for offenders involved in a serious or major crime, which is why it is important that you take the law very seriously.
Can off-duty violations impact my professional license?
Off-duty citations can affect your earning potential but it will not typically cause you to lose your commercial license.
Violations will sit on your driving record and can cause your employer to suspend you. It is common for employers to have a ‘no tolerance’ policy. Plus, off-duty violations will make insurance more expensive, which can put a lot of pressure on you.
Lastly, if you’re caught thrice in a period of 12 months then you might have to face serious consequences.
What can I do if my license gets suspended?
You might have the option to contest the decision based on your circumstances. For example, if you get your license suspended for DUI, then you might have the option to contest the decision within a period of 10 days.
Moreover, you might be eligible to receive a limited or restricted license if this is your first offense and if you were caught driving a non-commercial motor vehicle when you got caught.
In some cases, you might have the option to get your license reinstated after paying the required fee and submitting documents.
Can getting a ticket when driving a personal vehicle affect my CDL privileges?
In most cases, getting a ticket when driving a personal vehicle will not affect your CDL privileges, depending on the offense. For example, the same rule does not apply to speeding.
What are the penalties?
Penalties depend on a number of factors including how many times you’ve committed a violation and how extreme was your case.
Drivers of commercial vehicles don’t only have to face employer-mandated actions but state and federal penalties as well including:
- Getting convicted of a DUI or refusing to take a test can cause you to lose your license for 12 months
- A second conviction of overspeeding (15 mph or more above the speed limit), improper lane changes, tailgating, and reckless driving can cause you to lose your right to drive a commercial vehicle for 60 days.
- Not slowing down at railroads can cause you to lose your license for at least 60 days.
- Going behind the wheels with a BAC of 0.4% or more can cause you to lose your license for 12 months.
- Refusing a breath test for a second time can cause you to permanently lose your license.
Drivers have to be very careful in California as points accrue pretty quickly.
Commercial licenses accrue points at the rate of 1.5 percent. This means you will get 3 points for a 2-point infraction.
A commercial driver can end up facing a suspension for up to six months or 1-year probation if he or she collects these many points:
- 4 within a period of 12 months
- 6 within a period of 24 months
- 8 within a period of 36 months
Getting these many points means you’re negligent and risky. Other than this, drivers have to pay heavy fees.
Going 1-9 MPH over the speed limit meant having to pay $237 or more. Going 10 MPH or higher above the limit means paying $500 or more. This amount does not include additional charges. You might end up having to pay double the amount if you’re given a CDL ticket in California.
Do I Need Legal Assistance?
The law is very stringent and only a legal expert who understands the law can help you in this situation. While the best option is to be careful and to obey the law, at times you might have a ‘justified’ reason to defend your actions.
If you got a CDL ticket in California then make sure to make a move today and get in touch with an attorney to know more about your options.