Preserve Your CDL

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by Allen Brotherton

For many people, the ability to drive what is known as a commercial motor vehicle is essential to earning a living. Therefore, it is critically important that they understand the many ways this privilege, indicated by the holding of a Commercial Driver License (“CDL”), can be taken away by the state. North Carolina law calls the revocation of this privilege a “disqualification.”

§20-4.01 in large part defines a commercial vehicle by looking to the manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (“GVWR”), which is basically the value specified by the manufacturer as the maximum loaded weight a vehicle is capable of safely hauling. However, in addition to the obvious large trucks included as Class A and Class B motor vehicles based upon their GVWR, the definition of commercial vehicle also includes any other vehicle that is 1) designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or 2) transporting hazardous materials and is required to be placarded by federal regulations.

What sorts of problems will lead to the disqualification of a person from driving a commercial vehicle? First, of course, the same violations or events that will result in the revocation of a regular driver license will also cause disqualification. A person is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for any period during which the person’s regular driver license is revoked, suspended, or cancelled.

In addition, a person is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for 60 days if that person is convicted of two serious traffic violations, or 120 days if convicted of three or more serious traffic violations, committed in a commercial motor vehicle arising from separate incidents occurring within a three-year period. The term “serious violation” includes driving more then 15 miles per hour above the speed limit and reckless driving (i.e., “carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others; or without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property”). Also, a single violation of certain railroad grade crossing offenses results in a 60 day disqualification, with a second and third violation within three years causing a 120 day and one year disqualification respectively.

A one year disqualification also results from a first conviction of: DWI, hit and run, any felony involving the use of a motor vehicle, and driving while license revoked. A one year disqualification further arises from a second conviction within seven years of driving a commercial vehicle while consuming alcohol or with alcohol remaining in the body. Strangely, a first such conviction results only in a ten day disqualification.

In addition to these convictions, a one year disqualification is imposed when a person is charged with DWI or other implied consent offense while driving any type of vehicle and that person refuses to submit to chemical analysis (i.e., intoxilyzer or blood test for alcohol or drugs) or when he submits and has an alcohol content of .08 or more, even if he is ultimately found not guilty of the underlying charge. The one year disqualification for all of the above is extended to three years if the offense or act occurred while the person was transporting a hazardous material that required the motor vehicle driven to be placarded.

Finally, after a person has suffered a one year disqualification, a second such disqualification will be for LIFE. Also, there are several other problems that will lead to a lifetime disqualification. Therefore, while a regular licensee would be wise to consult with an attorney before disposing of a traffic charge, it is absolutely imperative that the holder of a CDL never act without advice if he values his privilege to drive a commercial vehicle.

Allen Brotherton as well as three other attorneys with Knox Law Center, is a resident of Lincoln County and has been representing people charged with crimes, including traffic violations, for over 19 years. He can be reached at 704-315-2363 or 866-704-9059 (Toll free) or [email protected]. The firm’s website is Open now is their new office in Denver located at Hwy 16/73- Waterside Crossing.

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