New York’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

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

Whether used for delivery or transportation, New York issues commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) to authorize the operation of different commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Each license has different rules and can be revoked for certain violations and criminal convictions. This article outlines the requirements for obtaining the different types of commercial licenses and violations that could lead to license revocation.

When a CDL is Required

New York considers a CMV to be any vehicle designed to carry hazardous materials, 15 or more passengers, or that weighs more than 26,000 pounds. Emergency responders, military personnel, and private persons driving RVs are not required to obtain a CDL. Farm owners are also exempt when operating farm equipment within 150 miles of the farm but might still need a class D endorsement.

New York Commercial License Classes

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

Combined Weight

Tractor Weight

Trailer(s) Weight

Class A

More than 26,000 pounds

More than 26,000 pounds

Over 10,000 pounds

Class B

More than 26,000 pounds

More than 26,000 pounds

10,000 pounds or less

Class C

26,000 pounds or less

26,000 pounds or less

10,000 pounds or less

The CMV’s weight must be exceeded by the CDL’s permitted limits. For example, a class A CDL can be used to operate any weight of CMV.

Cargo Endorsements

Transporting passengers or hazardous materials also requires CDL license endorsements. Each endorsement requires additional testing and is added to the CDL after issuance.

Restrictions

A person’s age, health, or experience can also result in certain CDL restrictions. For example, drivers who’s under 21 years old can’t drive a class A CMV, obtain a hazmat endorsement, or operate out-of-state.

CDL Testing

A driver must be at least 18 years old and hold a class D license before applying for a CDL. With proof of identification and the application documents complete, the driver can take the knowledge test to receive a commercial learner permit (CLP). A CLP allows the driver to practice driving a CMV under the direct supervision of a licensed commercial driver. After holding the CLP for 14 days, the driver can take the driving test to obtain a full CDL. Applicants with prior experience operating a military CMV may be exempt from the driving test.

All CMV drivers must keep a medical certificate on file with the state. The medical certificate is signed by a physician and indicates the driver is healthy enough to operate a CMV. Medical certificates must be renewed periodically and an expired certificate will lead to license revocation.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

Failure to follow any of the many CMV-related rules can result in fines, jail, and license revocation. Even if occurring out-of-state, drivers are required to disclose all traffic violations to their employers and to the New York DMV.

Serious traffic offenses. In New York, the list of “serious traffic offenses” includes speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, erratic lane changes, following too closely, using a cellphone while driving a CMV, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. Driving a CMV without a CDL is also a serious traffic offense but will be dismissed if the driver can provide a then-valid CDL to the court. Having two serious traffic offenses in three years will result in a 60-day revocation. Having three serious traffic offenses in three years will result in a 120-day revocation.

A driver can also be disqualified for 60 days for speeding 20 miles per hour over the limit (ten miles over the limit if hauling hazardous materials or under an out-of-service order).

Out-of-service orders. Certain actions, like exceeding driving time limits, will result in the issuance of an immediate, but temporary, out-of-service order (OSO). Driving in violation of an OSO will result in a 180-day, two-year, and three-year revocation for a first, second, and third or subsequent offense in a ten-year period. A second offense committed in a hazmat or passenger CMV results in a three-year revocation.

Railroad crossings. CMVs have special safety rules regarding railroad crossings. The driver must slow down or stop for all crossings and ensure the CMV has proper clearance to completely cross. The penalties depend on the number of prior railroad crossing violations in the last three years.

  • First offense. 60-day license revocation as well as $150 fine and/or up to 15 days jail.
  • Second offense. 120-day license revocation as well as $500 fine and/or up to 45 days jail.
  • Third offense. One-year license revocation as well as $750 fine and/or up to 90 days jail.

Major offenses. A CDL will be disqualified for one year for a chemical test refusal, DWI (driving while intoxicated), leaving the scene of an accident, using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony, driving a CMV while revoked, or negligently causing a CMV-related fatality. The disqualification will be for three years if the violation occurred in a CMV designed to carry hazardous materials. A second major offense will result in a lifetime revocation, but the commissioner may waive the revocation after ten years. The production or transportation of controlled substances using a motor vehicle will result in permanent lifetime revocation.

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