FAQ for Commercial Drivers

If your job requires you to do any amount of driving, particularly of larger vehicles like trucks or buses, you know that your commercial driver's license (CDL) is vital to your income. Whether you work as a professional truck driver, drive school buses, transport the elderly, or other work involving some sort of transportation, having your CDL suspended or revoked can have an immediate and drastic impact on your career.

If you have lost your CDL or are facing the possibility of losing your license, it is critical to know what is at stake and what options you have (if any) of preventing your license from being revoked. Having an experienced attorney in your corner can increase your chances of a positive outcome if your CDL comes under scrutiny. Joseph D. Lento has helped many commercial drivers facing disciplinary actions against their CDL in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. The Lento Law Firm has provided answers to the following pressing questions below so commercial drivers can make informed choices about their license and their career.

What Types of Violations Could Cause Me to Lose My Commercial Driver's License?

Commercial drivers are effectively held to the same standards of safety as other drivers on the road, but violating the rules comes with more severe consequences for CDL holders because their actions have the potential to do more damage and put more lives at risk. Let's look at some of the most common violations that could easily result in having your CDL suspended and/or revoked.


By far, the quickest and surest way to lose one's CDL license is by operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even a first offense will typically result in a license suspension of 3-12 months, and in many cases, a second DUI conviction will cause you to lose your license permanently.

While the standard "legal limit" for blood alcohol content (BAC) in most states is 0.08, for drivers of commercial vehicles, the limit is 0.04. A single drink will likely put you over that threshold.

Refusing a Blood Alcohol Test

Standard drivers have the right to refuse a field sobriety test (i.e., breathalyzer) if they are pulled over—although they may still be arrested if the officer suspects DUI. For commercial drivers, the right to refuse testing (before or after an arrest) is effectively forfeited. If you decide to refuse the blood alcohol test, you can expect to have your license suspended or revoked.

Leaving the Scene of an Accident

If you are involved in an accident—even if you are not at fault—leaving the scene can result in serious consequences, including the revocation of your CDL.

Using a Vehicle in the Commission of a Felony

Any crime involving a commercial vehicle that results in a felony conviction--regardless of the nature of the felony--likely means that you will lose your CDL license in addition to any penalties arising from your conviction.

At-Fault Accident With a Fatality Involved

If you are involved in an accident where you are at fault, resulting in the death of another person, it will almost certainly result in having your CDL license revoked by your state's Department of Motor Vehicles.

Driving With a Suspended License

If your CDL has already been suspended, your need for income might tempt you to continue driving. If you are caught doing so, it is generally grounds for losing your CDL permanently.

Moving Violations

In addition to the violations above, failing to observe the basic rules of the road can result in challenges to your CDL. With most moving violations, the penalty may result in a temporary suspension (also called a "disqualification") of your license. Disqualifications can last between three months and one year in general. Multiple or repeated moving violations will result in longer suspensions and possibly a permanent loss of your CDL.

These moving violations include, but are not limited to:

  • Driving more than 15 mph over the speed limit
  • Reckless or aggressive driving
  • Tailgating
  • Changing lanes improperly or erratically
  • Driving an overloaded vehicle

What Are the Consequences of Losing My Commercial Driver's License?

When you lose your CDL, it is just that—you are no longer allowed to drive a commercial motor vehicle. If your job depends on your CDL, even a temporary license suspension could create a slew of problems for you, including:

  • Being restricted from doing certain vital tasks at work
  • Possibly being fired from your job, even before your court date
  • Issues with your insurance
  • Immediate loss of income

Is There a Disciplinary Process Involved? Will I Have a Chance to Respond to Charges Against My CDL?

Unlike other types of professional licenses involving a licensing board, a CDL is issued by the department of motor vehicles for the state—and as such, license suspensions and revocations don't go through the same investigative process. The DMV may be able to suspend your license temporarily even before any court dates involving criminal offenses like DUI/DWI. However, if your license suspension occurred because you have been unfairly accused, ticketed, or charged, a good defense attorney can help you fight the charges and work to get your license reinstated, where applicable.

Can My CDL Be Suspended or Revoked if the Violation Occurred While Driving a Private Vehicle?

Yes! By state law, when you obtain a CDL, you are obligated to abide by the standards associated with that CDL anytime you drive--in whatever vehicle you are driving. Therefore, for example, if you are convicted of a DUI while driving your personal car off company time, you can still lose your CDL over that violation.

What Options Do I Have for Reinstating My CDL?

If you're facing a suspension or revocation of your CDL, your best line of defense is to fight the charges that could lead to losing your license. If you are charged with a crime related to your CDL (a DWI, for instance), your license may be saved if your attorney can get the charges dismissed. If you're facing a suspension over a moving violation, contesting that violation in traffic court may be your best option for keeping your license intact. Once a CDL is officially suspended, usually, the fastest path for reinstating it is to reapply after the suspension period is over (e.g., 12 months). If your license has been permanently revoked, it can be very difficult (though not impossible) to get it reinstated.

If your CDL is in jeopardy, your best hope of saving your career is with the help of a seasoned attorney like Joseph D. Lento. Attorney Lento has extensive experience with professional license defense cases, as well as with criminal defense in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Because he understands how these fields of law intersect, he can help you strategize the best course of action for saving your commercial driver's license. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today for more information.


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