To operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), the driver must have the appropriate commercial driver’s license (CDL). Different CMVs require different classes of CDLs and endorsements specific to the vehicle and cargo. A CDL can also be revoked for certain criminal convictions or CMV violations. This article outlines the requirements for obtaining the different types of commercial licenses and circumstances that can lead to commercial license disqualification.
CMVs usually include vehicles weighing 26,001 or more pounds. A CMV can also include busses designed for 16 or more passengers, vehicles carrying hazardous materials, and vehicles designed to carry ten or more children (to school or daycare).
There are three classes of CDLs based on the weight of the truck and/or trailer(s).
The driver’s license must be sufficient to operate all applicable weights. For example, a class A CDL permits the operation of all weights of CMVs.
Endorsements are designated on the CDL and authorize the holder to operate special CMVs (like school buses) or carry special cargo (like hazardous materials).
Prior to obtaining a CDL, a driver must be at least 18 years old and acquire a commercial driver’s instruction permit (CDIP). The applicant must complete the application form which includes proof of residency and identification, a ten-year driving record check, and a written examination covering CDL traffic rules. The CDIP allows the holder to drive a CMV while supervised by an authorized CDL holder. After 14 days, the CDIP holder can take a driving skills test to obtain a CDL.
Each CDL class and endorsement requires a different test. Also, the hazmat endorsement requires TSA-clearance and the public passenger endorsement has specific background check requirements.
An applicant with prior military CMV experience may be exempt from the skills test, but all CDL applicants must hold and maintain a medical examiner’s certificate, indicating the driver is physically healthy enough to operate a CMV. The certificate must be updated every 24 months or the driver can be disqualified.
Special rules apply to CMV operators. Violation of these rules can lead to license disqualification.
A licensee will be disqualified for repeated convictions of so-called “serious traffic offenses.” Serious traffic offenses include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, erratic lane changes, texting while driving in a CMV, and operating a CMV without a license. Two offenses in three years will result in a 60-day revocation and having three or more violations in three years carries a 120-day revocation.
Certain traffic offenses or equipment violations can result in an out-of-service order (OSO). An OSO prohibits the operation of the CMV or by the CDL holder. Driving in violation of the OSO will result in license disqualification of 180 days to one year for a first offense, two to five years for a second offense, and three to five years for a third offense. Only violations within the last ten years are counted. Additionally, a driver who was operating a hazmat vehicle or vehicle designed for 16 or more passengers during the OSO violation will be disqualified for 180 days to two years for a first offense and three to five years for a second or subsequent offense.
CMV operators must take special precautions when approaching or crossing railroad tracks. A CMV railroad track violation will result in a 60-day, 120-day, and one-year license revocation for a first, second, and third violation.
CMV operation involving felonies or intoxicants can also result in license disqualification.
CDL holders are expected to be honest about any criminal history or recent convictions. Within 30 days of conviction, a CDL holder must report all traffic violations to the state and to his or her employer. A driver that lies on a CDL application will be suspended for 60 days and may have to retake the tests.