Indiana requires all commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators to be licensed. Commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) come in different classes and the driver must hold certain endorsements specific to the type of cargo and CMV operated. Each CDL has specific requirements and violations can lead to penalties and disqualification. This article outlines the process of obtaining a CDL and the necessary endorsements and the violations that lead to license disqualification.
A CDL is required to operate any vehicle weighing 26,001 or more pounds or designed to carry hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers. Each class of CDL and each endorsement authorizes the operation of different weights and types of CMVs.
License classes. 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. Endorsements are designated on the CDL and authorize the holder to operate special CMVs (like school busses) or carry special cargo (like hazardous materials). Each endorsement requires additional testing specific to the endorsement.
Exceptions. Certain vehicles, like CMVs operated by the military and registered farm vehicles, are exempt from CDL requirements.
The first step in obtaining a CDL is to test for a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). The CLP applicant must be at least 18 years old, hold a valid driver’s license, and pass the general knowledge test. During the operation of a CMV, the CLP-holder must be supervised by a licensed commercial driver. After 14 days with a CLP, the holder can take the driving test to obtain a CDL. The CDL will be restricted to in-state use until the driver is at least 21 years old.
Medical card. All applicants and drivers must possess a medical and physical qualification certificate. This document is required to ensure the driver is physically fit enough to operate a CMV and must be updated periodically.
Honesty. Applicants will be disqualified and possibly prosecuted for lying on a CDL application. Additionally, all driving history must be reported. This requirement includes reporting all future violations to the state and the driver’s employer. Failure to comply with this rule can result in a fine of up to $5,732.
Special rules apply to CMV operators. Violation of these rules can lead to license disqualification and fines.
Serious traffic offenses. A licensee will be disqualified for repeated convictions of “serious traffic offenses.” Serious traffic offenses include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, erratic lane changes, following too closely, traffic control violations involving a fatality, texting while driving in a CMV, and operating a CMV without a license. Having 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.
Out-of-Service Order. Law enforcement can issue an out-of-service order (OSO) to a driver or CMV for certain safety violations, including driving with any amount of alcohol in your system. A CDL-holder who operates during an OSO can be convicted of a class C misdemeanor and will be fined at least $3,174 for a first offense and at least $6,348 for any subsequent violation. An employer who knowingly permits an OSO violation will also be fined $5,732 to $31,737. The driver’s license will also be disqualified for a period of time dependent on the number of prior OSO violations within the last ten years.
Railroad crossings. CMV operators are required to stop or slow down when approaching railroad tracks and obey all traffic control devices. And the operator must ensure that the CMV has enough clearance to successfully cross without stopping. A railroad crossing violation will result in a minimum 60 days disqualification for a first offense, minimum 120-days disqualification for a second offense, and minimum one-year disqualification for any subsequent offense in three years. The employer can also be fined up to $16,453.
Major Offenses. Certain major offenses will result in a one-year CDL disqualification. Major offenses include OWI (operating under the influence), operating a CMV with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least .04%, refusing to take a chemical test, leaving the scene of an accident, using a vehicle to commit a felony, driving while disqualified, and negligently causing a CMV-related fatality. A violation occurring in a hazmat vehicle will result in a three-year disqualification. Any subsequent violation or using a vehicle to distribute controlled substances will result in lifetime disqualification.