If you want to drive a commercial vehicle in Virginia, you’ll have to get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
Driving a commercial vehicle can be difficult and dangerous.
You’ll almost always be hauling more weight, or more passengers, than a regular car or truck.
For this reason, the requirements for gaining a CDL in Virginia are much stricter than getting a regular driver’s license.
Similarly, the penalties for breaking traffic laws while holding a CDL are also serious matters.
In this article, we’ll explore the different penalties that apply to CDL holders who break traffic laws while using their CDL.
What is a Commercial Vehicle?
There are three classes of commercial vehicles: A, B, and C.
These classes are determined by two factors: the vehicle’s weight and what it’s carrying.
In this way, Virginia law considers all of the following to be commercial vehicles:
- Any vehicle joined with another vehicle, or towing cargo, with a combined weight of more than 26,000 pounds (Class A).
- Any vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds (Class B).
- Any vehicle that carries more than 16 passengers, including the driver (Class C).
- Any vehicle that transports hazardous materials (Class C).
Getting a CDL
In order to drive any vehicle that fits one of the above classifications, you must first get a CDL.
The state of Virginia has many requirements for obtaining a CDL, which can be generally broken down in to testing and a list of general other requirements.
To get a CDL, you’ll have to pass a written exam and show your knowledge with other hands-on tests.
In this test, you’ll show that you can perform an inspection on your commercial vehicle and properly test its controls.
You will also have to perform a driving test to show that you can handle the vehicle on the road.
To prepare for the CDL, most people take courses with a Virginia trucking school or through a program with their employer.
The average cost of these schools is around $5,000, and the classes can take from 2 to 14 weeks.
Once you have completed the course, you’ll get a commercial learner’s permit.
You’ll have to have this permit for 14 days before you can apply for a CDL.
Operating a commercial vehicle is no small task.
The weight and cargo being transported on a highway can be very dangerous if not handled properly and safely.
That’s why the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires that drivers obtain the proper training and pass a rigorous exam first.
Other than passing the tests, the DMV also places several other requirements on CDL applicants, such as:
- Proving you are 19 years old (intrastate CDL) or 21 years old (interstate CDL).
- Taking a vision test.
- Getting a HAZMAT endorsement (if you will be transporting hazardous materials).
- Making you authorize the DMV to send your information to the Selective Service (for males under 26 years old)
- Submitting a medical examination certificate. This must have been filled out by an approved medical examiner, and shows that you are healthy enough to safely operate a commercial vehicle.
Traffic Violations for CDL Holders
Drivers of commercial vehicles are held to a higher standard than other drivers.
They do dangerous work and can cause extensive damage if they break the law or aren’t operating the vehicle safely.
For this reason, violations by CDL drivers are taken more seriously than other drivers, and the penalties are much more severe.
As one incredibly important note, this applies to violations by CDL drivers while operating both commercial and non-commercial vehicles.
In other words, breaking traffic laws in the family car can affect your CDL license just as much as if you were on the job.
The most serious violations will result in suspension of your CDL for 1 to 3 years.
These violations can include crimes such as:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Any offense involving alcohol or drugs
- Using your commercial vehicle in the commission of a felony
- Giving false information to the DMV
Further, you should note that the DUI standards for CDL drivers are stricter than the standards for regular drivers.
Usually, the legal limit for a DUI conviction is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%.
But a CDL driver can be charged with DUI with a BAC of 0.04%.
In addition, if you are charged with these offenses more than once, you could lose your license forever.
Multiple Serious Violations
Being convicted of one of the following offenses more than twice in a three-year period can cause you to lose your license for 60-120
These include offenses such as:
- Reckless driving
- Texting while driving
- Following too closely
- Driving a commercial vehicle without a CDL
These violations, even if only convicted once and in a non-commercial vehicle, will also give a CDL driver 3-4 points on their driving record.
Additionally, if these violations were committed in a non-commercial vehicle, they will count towards the suspension if:
- At the time of the offense, the person held a CDL or commercial learner’s permit
- The conviction resulted in the revocation, cancellation, or suspension of the person’s driver’s license.
Also, CDL drivers should be aware that out-of-state violations can still appear on their Virginia driving record.
For instance, if a CDL driver is convicted of a DUI outside of Virginia, and then is convicted of another DUI in Virginia, this second DUI will count as a repeat offense.
Point Violations for Unsafe Driving
Individuals with CDLS are subject to more serious point penalties than normal drivers, especially when they are operating commercial vehicles.
In Virginia, the DMV uses a point system to track driving violations, and any driver who accumulates a certain number of points in a short amount of time is subject to certain fines and the loss of their license.
Sorted by the number of demerit points they give, some common crimes CDL holder should look out for include:
- Crimes that give 3 demerit points:
- Speeding 1-9 mph over the posted limit
- Performing an improper u-turn
- Improper passing
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle without license in possession (CDL-specific)
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle in the left lane of an interstate (CDL-specific)
- Driving in excess of 13 hours in a 24-hour period (CDL-specific)
- Crimes that give 4 demerit points:
- Speeding 10-15 mph over the posted limit
- Following too closely
- Aggressive driving
- Failure to slow down/stop at a. railroad crossing (CDL-specific)
- Crimes that give 6 demerit points:
- Reckless driving
- Driving on a suspended license
Other CDL Violations
In addition to the differences listed above, there are some laws and regulations that only apply to CDL drivers.
Some of these regulations include:
- Weight restrictions
- Keeping a logbook of time spent driving
- Restrictions about
grade(staying away from roads that are too steep for commercial vehicles)
- Lane violations (staying out of lanes not meant for commercial vehicle traffic)
Breaking any of these commercial regulations can also result in severe penalties.
When you get a Commercial Driver’s License, you are taking on a big responsibility.
That’s why the state of Virginia requires CDL applicants to go through training and testing.
It’s also the reason why the penalties for violating traffic laws are stricter for CDL drivers.
If you’ve been charged with a violation while operating a commercial vehicle, you’ll want to contact an experienced attorney immediately.
An attorney will be familiar with the law for CDL drivers and can help you understand your situation and explain what options you have for fighting the charges.