Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) are required to operate certain motor vehicles. These typically include commercial vehicles that have a gross weight of over 26,000 pounds, such as:

  • Tractor-trailers (“big rigs”)
  • Tow-trucks
  • Buses
  • Hazardous material transports

Obtaining a commercial driver’s license is much like obtaining a non-commercial license from a local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The candidate will be required to take a series of examinations, and is also required to furnish proof of training with a certified organization. Commercial driver’s licenses are further subdivided into different categories based on the weight and purpose of the vehicle.

Are Commercial Drivers Held to Different Standards than Other Drivers?

Yes, holders of CDL’s are held to a higher standard of responsibility and will be subjected to greater penalties if they violate the rules of the road. This is because operating a commercial vehicle usually requires a greater amount of skill and care than standard automobiles. CDL holders who break the law may be subjected to consequences such as:

  • More points on one’s driving record for violations (usually ½ point higher than normal)
  • No traffic school is available to clear the driving record of violations
  • Certain offenses may be elevated to a misdemeanor charge. Misdemeanors can result in fines and/or jail time of less than one year.
  • Furthermore, violations of CDL provisions can lead to a suspension or complete confiscation of driving privileges, potentially resulting in a loss of employment for the commercial driver.

How Do Drunk Driving Charges Affect a Commercial License?

Most states hold commercial drivers to higher standards in terms of drunk driving (DUI) and blood alcohol content limits. For instance, commercial drivers are usually limited to maximum of .04% blood alcohol when operating a commercial vehicle.    

Being convicted of driving under the influence or DUI is a serious offense, and can have severe consequences for a commercially licensed driver. Penalties, in addition to DUI fines and costs, can include having the commercial license suspended for a year. Subsequent convictions may lead to extended periods of suspension or a complete revocation of driving privileges. If the holder of a CDL refuses to submit to a chemical test during a DUI arrest, they may be subject to even greater penalties. Multiple or repeat convictions are treated most severely and can even lead to criminal felony charges.

Can a Suspended Commercial Driver's License Be Reinstated?

Usually if a person is convicted for operating a commercial vehicle while drunk, they will have their license immediately suspended for the duration of the trial. If they are not found to be guilty, they can usually have their license reinstated. Some states do not immediately restore the person’s license, and they must submit a formal request for reinstatement. If the commercial driver has been found guilty of DUI charges, they will likely have to wait until they complete their period of suspension before they can reapply for another commercial driver’s license. This will usually involve paying a fee and retaking all the required exams with the DMV.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Violations of commercial driving privileges are quite serious and can lead to criminal charges on one’s record. If you are involved in any type of dispute over your commercial driving privileges, it is important that you contact a DUI attorney immediately. They will be able to help you prepare any necessary documents and evidence in your defense. Sometimes a criminal defense lawyer will be able to secure reduced or dropped charges, depending on the nature of the offense.