To operate a commercial vehicle in Alaska, a driver must hold certain credentials. Alaska has many requirements and rules based on the type of commercial vehicle operated and the type of cargo being transported. This article outlines the requirements for each type of license and the reasons a driver might be disqualified or temporarily prohibited from operating a commercial vehicle.
A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is generally required to operate any vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, carries more than 15 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 with 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 more than 15 passengers.
Endorsements. Commercial drivers may also need to hold certain “endorsements.” These endorsements indicate the type of CMV that the driver can operate and the type of cargo the driver can transport. Alaska issues a number of different endorsements, including for tankers, school buses, and hazardous materials.
Restrictions. A CDL can also include restrictions. For example, depending on the driver’s qualifications, a license may allow only off-highway driving or driving only automatic transmissions.
General requirements. To obtain a CDL, applicants must be Alaska residents, at least 21 years old (18 years old if driving only intrastate), and have held a driver’s license for at least one year. CDL applicants must pass a general behind-the-wheel test, a written test, and a vision exam. The tests the driver must pass are tailored to the applicable endorsements and restrictions.
School bus. School bus applicants must hold a driver’s license for three years prior to applying for a CDL and complete school bus driver training or similar training. Certain sex offenses or recent misdemeanors can prohibit school bus licensure.
Off-highway operation. One exception to the testing requirements is for the off-highway CDL endorsement. The off-highway CDL authorizes operation away from public roads and only in certain areas of the state. However, an off-highway CDL requires only a general-knowledge written test.
Certain criminal and traffic violations will lead to CDL disqualification or revocation.
Railroad crossings. CDL holders must take special care when operating a CMV over railroad tracks. Railroad-related violations will result in a revocation of 60 days for a first offense, 180 days for a second offense, and at least one year for a third offense within three years.
Serious traffic offenses. “Serious traffic offenses” include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, improper lane changes, following too closely, texting while driving, and any traffic violation resulting in personal injury. A serious traffic offense will result in a 60-day revocation. A second offense in three years carries a 120-day revocation.
Out-of-Service Order. For certain weight and traffic violations, the issuing officer is permitted to issue an out-of-service order (OSO). This order generally prohibits the operation of the CMV for 24 hours. An OSO will also be issued for any driver who is found to:
OSO violation. Driving after being issued an out-of-service order is a class A misdemeanor and will result in license revocation. The offender will be revoked 180 days for a first offense, two years for a second offense, and three years for a third or subsequent offense. In addition to license penalties, the driver may face fines and possible jail time.
Very serious offenses. Certain offenses will result in harsher penalties and possible lifetime revocation. CDL holders convicted of an OUI (operating under the influence), an OUI in a CMV, leaving the scene of an accident, negligently causing a fatality, 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 or transportation of controlled substances is a lifetime disqualification.
Implied consent. Alaska has two types of implied consent for CMV operators. A driver who’s arrested for an OUI while operating a CMV will be required to submit to a breathalyzer test. Additionally, a CMV driver who has committed a traffic infraction and shows signs of impairment can be required to submit to a preliminary breath test. A breathalyzer refusal will result in DUI-like penalties and a preliminary breath test refusal will result in an OSO and is a class B misdemeanor.
Employers. Alaska also places responsibilities on commercial drivers’ employers. Employers receive notice of all CDL violations and can be held liable for allowing a driver to operate in violation of license restrictions.