Alabama’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

The requirements to obtain an Alabama CDL and the reasons for disqualification.

Alabama's commercial driver's license regulations cover a variety of commercial vehicles. The required license and endorsements depend on the type of vehicle and materials being transported. The regulations also cover violations and convictions that can result in the loss of commercial driving privileges. This article outlines the requirements for obtaining the different types of commercial licenses and circumstances that can lead to commercial license disqualification or revocation.

When Is a CDL Required?

A commercial driver's license (CDL) is required for the operation of any vehicle that is more than 26,000 pounds, carries 16 or more passengers, or transports hazardous materials.

License classes. Not all CDLs are the same. A Class A CDL is required to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) weighing more than 26,000 pounds including a trailer weighing more than 10,000 pounds. A Class B CDL is required when the CMV weighs more than 26,000 pounds but the trailer is less than 10,000 pounds. A Class C CDL is for CMVs that are less than 26,000 pounds but are used to carry hazardous materials or at least 16 passengers.

Endorsements. Commercial drivers might also be required to hold certain "endorsements." Endorsements indicate what type of CMV the driver can lawfully operate. A driver can be endorsed to operate CMVs with hazardous materials, liquid tanks, passengers, airbrakes, and multiple trailers.

CDL Testing & Requirements

To obtain a commercial license or endorsement, the driver must pass a test specific to the particular license or endorsement. Additionally, CDL applicants must pass a general behind-the-wheel knowledge and skills test and a written and vision exam. (The driving test may be waived for school bus drivers and persons with military CMV experience.) Generally, CDL applicants must be at least 18 years old. However, drivers who are applying for interstate travel and transporting hazardous materials must be at least 21 years old.

CDL Disqualification

CMVs can be dangerous, so drivers who have certain convictions may not qualify to obtain a commercial license or face CDL revocation.

Serious traffic offenses. "Serious traffic offenses" include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. Two serious traffic offenses in three years will result in a 90-day CDL disqualification. A third violation within three years results in a 120-day disqualification.

Out-of-service orders. Some safety violations can result in an immediate bar from driving. For example, after being caught driving a CMV with any amount of alcohol in his or her system, the driver will be prohibited from driving a CMV for 24 hours. Violation of the "out-of-service order" will result in a 90-day to one-year license revocation. For two violations in ten years, the driver will face a one-to-five-year CDL revocation. Having three or more violations in ten years will result in a three-to-five-year revocation. These penalties are roughly doubled for hazardous material carriers.

Railroad crossings. CDL drivers must abide by special requirements when approaching and crossing railroad tracks. Railroad-related violations will result in a revocation of 60 days for a first offense, 120 days for a second offense, and 365 days for a third offense within three years.

Very serious offenses. There are certain offenses that can lead to a lifetime revocation of a CDL. CDL holders convicted of a DUI (driving under the influence), a DUI in a CMV, leaving the scene of an accident, or using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony will receive a minimum one-year revocation. The minimum period is three years if the driver was transporting hazardous materials. A second conviction of any of these offenses results in a lifetime disqualification. A driver will also receive a lifetime disqualification for using a CMV to transport controlled substances.

Implied consent. CMV operators are considered to have given consent to breathalyzer testing. An officer with probable cause to believe the CMV operator has consumed alcohol or drugs can request a chemical test. An unlawful refusal will result in an out-of-service order and a minimum two-year disqualification.

Sex offenders. Registered sex offenders are prohibited from obtaining a passenger or school bus endorsement.

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