Life as a professional over-the-road driver can be both exhilarating and challenging. Whether you are a bus driver who helps people get where they need to be going, or you are an interstate long-haul freight trucker, you know that your position presents you with a unique responsibility to stay safe and cautious while driving. However, mistakes are often made. A DUI for CDL drivers can be crippling, and can carry with it significant consequences. Understanding the regulations of your CDL license and what can disqualify you from operating a commercial vehicle in the future is necessary for your career.
This is the first installment of a three-part series exploring traffic violations CDL drivers may face throughout their careers.
DWI for professional Drivers: What to do if you get pulled over
In the event you are pulled over while operating a commercial vehicle under the suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol, there are certain rules and regulations to adhere to. According to the website Trucking Truth, it’s in your best interest to submit to any and all alcohol and drug tests that are requested by law enforcement officers. While you are not legally obliged to submit to these tests, there are strict penalties for refusal. In fact, you can become disqualified from commercial driving for at least 12 months for refusing to perform the tests.
Differences between a DUI for CDL drivers and personal DUI
In recent years, law enforcement agencies across the country have worked to minimize drinking and driving incidents by increasing patrols and also by enforcing stricter punishments for a conviction. While typical car drivers face significant fines, penalties and even jail time, there are higher standards for professional drivers who require a CDL to perform their job duties.
Important differences to note include:
- Your CDL is at risk if you are convicted of a DUI, even if you are not driving your commercial vehicle at the time you are pulled over. If convicted of a DWI, you will lose your CDL for at least 12 months. This occurs even if you are operating your personal car at the time of the incident.
- CDL drivers are required to adhere to more strict sobriety standards while operating their professional vehicles. In Colorado, your BAC cannot exceed .04 if you are operating your professional vehicle. If you are operating your private vehicle, the legal BAC limit of .08 is in effect.
- Penalties increase in severity if you are operating a vehicle that is carrying hazardous materials.
Consequences of a DUI are tough: Hire the best lawyer you can
The consequences of a DUI for CDL drivers can be severe and career-ending. Per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, commercial drivers also are required to report any DUI charge to their employer, even if the incident occurs while driving a private passenger vehicle. In the event of a conviction, the employer must terminate the employee while their license is suspended. Furthermore, most commercial driving companies or employers who require their employees to carry a CDL will not hire an applicant who has a previous DUI on their record.
The professional implications of a DUI for CDL drivers is serious, and it can be difficult to overcome the mark on your record. In addition, you still face the same criminal penalties within the legal system that any other driver would face under similar charges and convictions. It’s critical to understand the far-reaching consequences of a DUI, particularly if you are a CDL driver, and to practice safe driving habits at all times.
In part 2 and 3 of this series, we will examine the effects other types of serious traffic violations may have on your professional driving career.