West Virginia’s commercial driver’s license regulations cover a variety of commercial vehicles. The required license and endorsements depend on the type of vehicle and materials being transported. The regulations also cover violations and convictions that can result in the loss of commercial driving privileges. This article outlines the requirements for obtaining the different types of commercial licenses and circumstances that can lead to commercial license disqualification.
A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required for the operation of any vehicle that is 26,001 pounds or more, carries 16 or more passengers, buses school children, or transports hazardous materials. Some vehicles, like RVs and personal transports don’t require a CDL to operate. And firefighters and rescue personnel with an authorized emergency vehicle permit are exempt from CDL requirements. Farmers can drive not-for-hire CMVs within 150 miles of the farm, but only for agriculture purposes. Off-road mining equipment can also be driven up to 500 feet on public roads.
Not all CDLs are the same. A Class A CDL is required to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) weighing 26,001 or more pounds, including a trailer weighing more than 10,000 pounds. A Class B CDL is required when the CMV weighs 26,001 or more pounds but the trailer is less than 10,000 pounds. A Class C CDL is for CMVs that are 26,000 pounds or less but are still considered CMVS (such as hazmat vehicles and buses).
Commercial drivers might also be required to hold certain “endorsements.” Endorsements indicate what type of CMV the driver can lawfully operate and require additional testing. A driver can be endorsed to operate CMVs that transport hazardous materials, liquid tanks, or passengers or that have airbrakes or multiple trailers.
West Virginia offers a seasonal CDL for custom harvesters and livestock feeders. The CDL is valid for up to 180 days and can be used only for agriculture transport within 150 miles of the business. A written or skills test is not required, but the applicant must have a West Virginia driver’s license and clean driving history.
To obtain a commercial license or endorsement, the driver must pass a test specific to the particular license or endorsement. CDL applicants must hold a class E or D license for one year and pass a written knowledge test and a vision exam to obtain a commercial driver’s instruction permit (CDIP). The CDIP can be used to operate the designated CMV but only under the supervision of a licensed commercial driver. After practicing with the CDIP, the applicant can take the driving skills test to obtain a full CDL.
Generally, CDL applicants must be at least 18 years old. However, drivers who are applying for interstate travel or hazardous material transport must be at least 21 years old. Applicants must also self-certify as to the type of driving to be performed and obtain a medical certification. The medical certification is signed by a licensed physician and indicates adequate general health to safely operate a CMV. Failure to possess a medical card will result in CDL disqualification.
CMVs can be dangerous, so drivers who have certain convictions can face CDL disqualification. The driver must disclose all convictions and suspensions to the state and employers. And convictions can’t be masked or diverted. Hardship and restricted licenses are also unavailable for commercial drivers. Even failing to appear for a citation can result in license disqualification.
Serious traffic violations. “Serious traffic violations” include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, improper lane change, following too closely, texting while driving, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. Having two serious traffic offenses in three years will result in a 90-day CDL disqualification. A third violation within three years results in a 120-day disqualification. Driving without a CDL is also a serious traffic violation but will be dismissed if the driver presents a then-valid CDL (at the time of the citation) to the court. A serious traffic violation committed in a non-CMV will only count if the violation resulted in suspension of the driver’s non-commercial driving privileges.
Out-of-service orders. Some traffic offenses can result in an immediate bar from driving. For example, a driver who refuses a preliminary breath test or has alcohol in his or her system will receive a 24-hour OSO. Driving in violation of the OSO will result in penalties depending on the number of prior violations in the last ten years.
An employer that allows an OSO violation can also be fined $2,750.
Railroad crossings. CDL drivers must abide by special requirements when approaching and crossing railroad tracks. Railroad-related violations will result in a revocation of 60 days for a first offense, 120 days for a second offense, and one year for a third offense within three years. The employer can also be fined up to $25,000 for permitting a railroad crossing violation.
Major offenses. There are certain violations that can lead to a one-year, three-year, or lifetime revocation of a CDL. CDL holders convicted of a DUI (driving under the influence), refusing a chemical test, DUI in a CMV, leaving the scene of an accident, or using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony will receive a one-year revocation. The disqualification period is three years if the driver was transporting hazardous materials. A second conviction of any of these offenses results in a lifetime disqualification. A driver will also receive a lifetime disqualification for using a CMV to transport controlled substances or for a felony violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.