How "Major" & "Serious" Infractions Can Impact Your Livelihood

How Your Recent Traffic Ticket Can Cost You Your License, or Worse, Your Job:

As a professional driver with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), you spend the majority of your day, your work week, heck the majority of your life on the road. You drive thousands of miles, past thousands of beautiful sights in different states, and past thousands of drivers each day. With every passing moment, you work hard to be mindful not to speed, not to use your cell phone, and not to tailgate that car in front of you; however, during a momentary lapse in judgment, you lose focus — you hit the accelerator in the construction zone, you speed up beyond 15 miles an hour over the speed limit, you follow the car in front of you too closely, you stay in the fast lane too long, or you make a quick lane change and cut a vehicle off (or more likely, the car cuts you off). And wouldn’t you know it, you look up, and there’s a cop witnessing it all. You hold your breath, hope he didn’t see you, hope he won’t pull out, hope he won’t turn his lights on — yet, of course, he does.

Despite the 99% of the time you follow the rules to a “T,” doesn’t it seem there is always law enforcement there to catch you the moment you don’t? More appropriately, it may be the opposite case — where the police officer thinks he caught you doing something that you truly weren’t doing. In the end, the result is the same. He writes you a ticket, despite your explanation, despite your begging and pleading. Sometimes, he may cut you a little break, but often times it isn’t enough to truly matter in regards to the impact on your license, the impact on your pocketbook, or an impact on your employment status now and in the future.

You may say to yourself, “Who cares? I’ll just pay the ticket and move on with my life. It doesn’t matter anyways, the ticket is from another state.” Many times you pay the ticket, write it off as a fluke, and with time, you forget about it. In fact, you may have done this a couple of times over a couple of years, each time paying the ticket, repressing the memory, and then you move forward with your life and job.

Unfortunately, what you may not realize is that those judgments can haunt you in the end. Even if they are from out of state. Due to advancements in technology, you can almost always rely on the fact that any ticket you receive from out-of-state will be immediately transferred to your home state and to your local BMV/DMV. Within a few days, the judgements are listed on your certified driving record, recorded as part of your CDL driving record, and sometimes forwarded to your employer. Sadly, if you have had a string of tickets in a short amount of time, you may also receive notice that your CDL has been suspended for 60 – 120 days. All without you even knowing that was even a possibility to begin with. Therefore, as a professional driver, you must always stay apprised of the particular CDL rules in your individual state, and the all the other states in which you travel, too.

That may seem impossible right? But, truly it isn’t.  That’s because most of the 50 states have adopted all, or most, of the provisions laid out in the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, which was signed into law on October 27th, 1986. Previous to that date, it was quite the opposite — each state had created their own rules, their own regulations, their own punishments. It was nearly impossible for CDL drivers to know the rules as they traveled from state to state. In fact, some states didn’t even have a CDL classification. This Act was the governments way of trying to unify enforcement and to establish consistency among the states.

Given most states have adopted a majority of the rules, regulations, and punishments espoused in the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, it’s important to understand what it states. Most importantly, it’s imperative for anyone with a CDL to understand the specific infractions/judgements that can have a lasting impact on your license and your livelihood. If you don’t take the time to understand how they impact you, you can be left with a 60-120 license suspension, a complete loss of your license, and/or the loss of your current job or your ability to gain employment in the future (especially given the requirement that any employer receive 10 years of your prior employment/driving history).

Below are some of the key provisions, specifically referencing “Major” and “Serious” violations — both of which can have a detrimental impact on your ability to drive. The relevant sections of the Act are below and are taken verbatim from the U.S. Department of Transportation:

Notification of previous employment:

All employers shall request and all person’s applying for employment as a commercial motor vehicle operator shall provide, employment history information for the 10 years preceding the date the application is submitted. The request shall be made at the time of application for employment.

Major Violations while operating a motor vehicle

  1. Being under the influence of alcohol as prescribed by State law.
  2. Being under the influence of a controlled substance.
  3. Having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater while operating a CMV
  4. Refusing to take an alcohol test as required by a State or jurisdiction under its implied consent laws or regulations.
  5. Leaving the scene of an accident.
  6. Using the vehicle to commit a felony other than a felony described in number 9 of this table.
  7. Driving a CMV when, as a result of prior violations committed operating a CMV, the driver’s CDL is revoked, suspended, or canceled, or the driver is disqualified from operating a CMV.
  8. Causing a fatality through the negligent operation of a CMV, including but not limited to the crimes of motor vehicle manslaughter, homicide by motor vehicle and negligent homicide.
  9. Using the vehicle in the commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance.

Serious Violations while operating a motor vehicle

  1. Speeding excessively, involving any speed of 24.1 kmph (15 mph) or more above the posted speed limit.
  2. Driving recklessly, as defined by State or local law or regulation, including but, not limited to, offenses of driving a motor vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
  3. Making improper or erratic traffic lane changes.
  4. Following the vehicle ahead too closely.
  5. Violating State or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control (other than a parking violation) arising in connection with a fatal accident.
  6. Driving a CMV without obtaining a CDL.
  7. Driving a CMV without a CDL in the driver’s possession.
  8. Driving a CMV without the proper class of CDL and/or endorsements for the specific vehicle group being operated or for the passengers or type of cargo being transported.

Disqualification for major offenses. The first violation for a Major violation, in a CMV or a non-CMV, results in a 1-year disqualification or a 3-year disqualification if transporting hazardous materials required to be placarded. The second violation for a Major, in a CMV or a non-CMV, results in a lifetime disqualification. The driver may be eligible for reinstatement under certain conditions after 10 years.

Disqualification for serious traffic violations. The first violation for a serious violation does not result in a disqualification. A second serious violation within 3 years, results in a 60 day disqualification, and a third serious violation within 3 years, results in a 120 day disqualification. Serious disqualifications must be served consecutively. All serious violations in a CMV are included. Serious violations in a non-CMV must not be included, unless it results in the revocation, cancellation, or suspension of the CDL holder’s license or non-CMV driving privileges.

Having read the above information, it’s easy to see the impact a judgment/judgments can have on your future. Many are amazed to see that simply following to closely, or speeding a mere 15 miles an hour over the speed limit (which seems the norm on the interstate), or making “improper” lane changes are considered serious offenses, and ones that can land you suspended so quickly. That’s why it’s crucial that you stay informed before you decide to admit to any ticket.
In so doing, you may decide you need to challenge your ticket through a lawyer in the state where you received the ticket in order to avoid the possibility of getting close to a CDL suspension. You may even need to fight the ticket after the judgement has already been paid. Therefore, its crucial that you hire a lawyer who understands the laws in each state and how judgments can impact you and your job. They need to know how to protect you, your license, and your future — no matter if you already admitted to the ticket or if you are contemplating fighting it beforehand. A good traffic lawyer can fight to vacate a judgment to reinstate your license, can fight to admit to a lesser violation which isn’t “major” or “serious,” or can fight the allegations in court at trial. The lawyers at Banks & Brower, LLC can do just that — and have done so for many others. So, before you make any decision about your recent ticket in Indiana, contact Banks & Brower and speak with an experienced litigator today. We can help protect your CDL.