New Jersey’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

The requirements to obtain a New Jersey CDL and the reasons for disqualification.

New Jersey requires commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators to obtain and hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL). There are several types of CDL and rules and requirements specific to each. This article outlines when each type of CDL is required, the CDL application procedure, and the consequences of CDL rule violations.

When a CDL is Required

A CDL is required to operate any non-exempt CMV. A CMV includes any vehicles that weighs 26,001 or more pounds, carries 16 or more passengers, carries hazardous materials, or taxis more than eight passengers. Exempt vehicles include recreational vehicles (RVs), military vehicles, and emergency response vehicles. Additionally, farm-owners are allowed to operate machinery within 150 miles of their farm without a CDL.

CDL License Classes

There are three classes of CDLs corresponding to the weight of the truck and/or trailer(s).

  • Class A. Any vehicle or combination of vehicles that weighs 26,001 or more pounds, including a trailer that weighs more than 10,000.
  • Class B. Any single vehicle that weighs 26,001 or more pounds or is designed to carry 16 or more passengers.
  • Class C. Any CMV that does not fall within classes A or B. This includes hazardous material carriers and vehicles designed to carry at least eight persons for hire, or at least six children for daycare purposes.

Cargo Endorsements

Certain cargo requires endorsements, which are added to the CDL. Endorsements require additional testing and are required to carry hazardous materials or passengers.

Restrictions

New Jersey also places restrictions on certain drivers. For example, drivers who are younger than 21 years old can’t drive hazmat or passenger vehicles or operate out-of-state.

CDL Testing

Application process. A driver must be at least 18 years old, hold a class D license, and be a New Jersey resident prior to applying for a CDL. The application process includes a knowledge test, background check, and a self-certification regarding prohibitive offenses. Passing the knowledge test grants the applicant an examination permit that can be used to practice driving. However, at all times while practicing, the driver must be supervised by a licensed commercial driver. After 14 days, the applicant can take the driving test to receive a full CDL. (Military veterans with experience driving military CMVs may be eligible to have the driving test waived.)

Certifications. All CDL holders are required to certify as to the type of transport performed. Generally, the driver must also obtain a medical examiner’s certification indicating adequate general fitness to operate a CMV.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

CMVs are subject to special rules and regulations. Violation of these rules and certain traffic offenses can result in license revocation and criminal charges.

Serious traffic violations. A CDL will be revoked for at least 60 days for having two “serious traffic violations” in three years. Having three serious violations in three years will result in a minimum 120-day revocation. The following violations are considered serious traffic violations when committed in a CMV: speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, erratic lane change, following too closely, texting and driving, and any traffic violation involving a fatality.

Major offenses. “Major offenses” include leaving the scene of an accident, chemical test refusal, DWI (driving while intoxicated), using a motor vehicle to commit a felony, negligently causing a CMV-related fatality, and operating with a revoked CDL. A major offense committed in a CMV results in a one-to three-year revocation, while a major offense committed in a non-CMV carries a one-year CDL revocation. A second major violation results in a lifetime revocation, but reinstatement may be possible after ten years. The use of a CMV to transport or distribute controlled substances will result in permanent lifetime disqualification.

Out-of-service orders. Some safety violations can result in a temporary and immediate out-of-service order (OSO). For example, operating a CMV after consuming or while in possession of alcohol will result in a 24-hour OSO. Driving during an OSO will result in license revocation and penalties that depend on the number of prior OSO violations the driver has within the past ten years.

  • First offense. 180-day to one-year license revocation (180-day to two-year if in hazmat CMV or vehicle designed for 16 or more passengers) as well as a $2,500 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail.
  • Second offense in ten years. Two-to five-year license revocation (three-to five-year if in hazmat CMV or vehicle designed for 16 or more passengers) as well as a $5,000 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail.
  • Third offense in ten years. Three-to five-year license disqualification as well as a $5,000 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail.

An employer that knowingly permits an OSO violation can be fined $2,750 to $25,000.

Railroad crossings. CMV operators must take care around railroad crossings. Drivers cannot shift or stop on railroad crossings and must ensure proper clearance. A railroad crossing violation will result in a minimum 60-day, 120-day, and one-year license revocation for a first, second, and third violation in three years.

Implied consent. All CMV operators are considered to have given consent to a breath test to determine the presence of alcohol. An officer who has reasonable grounds to believe the driver has a blood alcohol content of at least .04% can request a test. An unlawful refusal to test will result in license revocation and $250 to $500 in fines.

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