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A Primer On Truck Driver Disqualification

We recently went over what a truck driver needs to do in order to get qualify and start driving. But now we want to talk about what could potentially disqualify a truck driver.

As a professional truck driver, disqualification should be taken very seriously. Just one violation conviction in any type of vehicle could potentially disqualify you from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), at least for a year.

You love your job, and you want to be a safe driver. Here is what you need to know to keep from getting kicked out of the cab.

How You Get Disqualified

Any CMV operator can get disqualified from driving a CMV for certain offenses, even if these offenses happen in a passenger vehicle. For more specific information, see the FMCSRs section 383.51.

First, we want to take a look at major offenses. Whether you are in a non-CMV or CMV, you can be disqualified from operating a CMV if you have been convicted of any one of the following:

  • Being under the influence of alcohol;
  • Being under the influence of a controlled substance;
  • Refusing to submit to an alcohol or drug test if one is requested by a particular state or jurisdiction;
  • Fleeing the scene of an accident;
  • Have used a vehicle in such a way that results in a felony conviction;
  • Using a vehicle involving the distribution or dispensing of a controlled substance.

If you are already cleared to operate a CMV, but you commit any one of the following major offenses, you will be immediately disqualified:

  • Are found to have a blood alcohol concentration in excess of 0.04;
  • Driving a CMV when your CDL has been revoked, suspended, canceled or is expired;
  • Have caused a fatality as a result of negligent operation of a CMV.

Traffic Violations

You are also subject to disqualification if you are convicted of any combination of two or more serious traffic violations. These violations count whether they are incurred in a passenger vehicle or CMV.

Expect disqualification if you are convicted two or more times of:

  • Excessive speeding, which amounts to 15 miles per hour or more above the legally posted limit;
  • Driving recklessly or carelessly;
  • Improper or erratic lane changes;
  • Following too closely;
  • Causing a fatality in relation to violating state traffic laws.

If you are already cleared to operate a CMV, but you commit any combination of the following two violations, you will be disqualified from operating a CMV:

  • Operating a CMV without having a valid CLP or CDL;
  • Operating a CMV without the necessary class or endorsements needed for the specific vehicle group, passenger allotment, or cargo being transported;
  • Violating any law or ordinance related to distracted driving, using a handheld device, or texting while operating a CMV.

Out-of-Service Violations

You may be placed out of service by an enforcement officer for a specific period of time or until a specified problem has been rectified. This will usually happen during a roadside inspection or at a weigh station.

Out of service disqualifications range from 180 days to 5 years. Fines can range anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000. Operators of hazardous cargo can expect even greater penalties and fines.

The Disqualification Period

For the first conviction, you will be looking at a disqualification period of one year. The exception to this rule is if you have used a vehicle in the commission of a felony related to the distribution or dispensing of a controlled substance, which results in a lifetime disqualification.

If you are a transporter of hazardous materials, expect an even harsher disqualification period of three years. Convicted of anything a second time and you are looking at a lifetime disqualification. Your career as a truck driver will essentially be over.

So what’s the takeaway here? As long as you are sticking to the rules and operating your CMV to the best of your abilities, disqualification shouldn’t be an issue. Be smart, be safe, be qualified.

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