If you are a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder, you know that your CDL is your ticket to work, the key to ensuring your family’s financial security, and that any traffic ticket you get can compromise your ability to work and put food on the table.
The State of New York holds CDL drivers to a higher standard than the average driver. Accordingly, CDL drivers are subjected to various restrictions and violating them can result in the suspension—and even revocation—of your commercial driver’s license (VTL 510-a).
You will need a CDL if you drive a commercial motor vehicle. The State of New York defines a commercial motor vehicle as:
- A single-vehicle with a gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
- A trailer with a gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
- A vehicle designed to transport 16 or more occupants (including the driver) or a bus
- Any vehicle that requires hazardous material placards
Remember, driving a commercial motor vehicle without a CDL is a crime in New York and you could face a $5,000 fine or even go to jail.
Under the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, it is illegal for you to have more than one driver’s license of any kind. If you originally had a regular New York driver’s license and now have a CDL, you must surrender your old regular license. Failing to do so could result in a $5,000 fine and even jail time.
Do not think you can get away with it if you travel to another state: all 50 states share information about CDL drivers with one another. If you have two licenses, they will find out.
Several moving violations can result in the suspension of your CDL. Some of them include:
- Being the cause of an accident that leads to a fatality
- Failing to yield and/or to stop at a stop sign
- Having a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of more than .04%
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Operating a commercial vehicle without the proper CDL
- Reckless driving
- Refusing to take a breathalyzer test
- Running a red light
- Speeding 15 mph or more over the posted limit [VTL 1180(g)]
- Unsafe or illegal lane change
- Violating the New York Transportation Law/Regulations (weight, size and emissions)
In addition, many CDL offenses (e.g. logbook violations) are crimes. If convicted you will not only risk losing your job but also have a permanent criminal record and you could even go to jail.
Likewise, if your vehicle is overweight and you do not have a CDL, this could lead to a CDL violation.
There is no question that there is a lot at stake if you receive a New York traffic ticket as a CDL holder. That’s where we come in. The traffic ticket attorneys at Rosenblum Law have years of experience handling traffic ticket cases of all varieties, especially CDL violations. We will guide you every step of the way through the process and help you get the results you are looking for. We will fight hard to preserve your rights and livelihood.
Important: Watch your weight! In New York State, it is permissible for police to treat a vehicle that has exceeded the weight limit on its permit as though the vehicle never had a permit to begin with. Read more about overweight tickets in NY.
Cell Phone Tickets Given to CDL Drivers
Commercial drivers are subject to tighter regulations for cell phone use than people driving cars. These regulations are twofold. Commercial truck drivers are subject to state-level regulations, which are just the ordinary traffic laws, and federal regulation by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
One way in which New York’s state law treats CDL drivers differently in the cell phone ticket context is that unlike ordinary drivers, commercial drivers are not permitted to use their mobile devices while their vehicles are temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic light, or other momentary delays.
In addition, for CDL drivers, it’s illegal to press more than one button to dial out or answer an incoming call even if the phone is not in their hand. CDL drivers are also deemed to be using their mobile telephones when they are:
“…holding a mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, the user's ear, or dialing or answering a mobile telephone by pressing more than a single button, or reaching for a mobile telephone in a manner that requires such person to maneuver so that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position.”
By contrast, non-CDL drivers are only presumed to be using their mobile telephones within the meaning of the law when they hold the telephone to their ear.
Driving While Intoxicated
Just as cell phone usage is stricter for commercial truck drivers, those who hold a CDL are also held to a higher standard when it comes to alcohol consumption. Although a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% is both the nationwide and New York threshold, a BAC level of .04% constitutes grounds for a DWI charge for CDL licensed drivers if suspected of drunk driving while operating a commercial vehicle. Also note that driving a commercial vehicle implies consent to a sobriety check, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): “Any person who holds a CDL is considered to have consented to such testing as is required by any State or jurisdiction…”
Fighting CDL Violations
In many cases, it will be nearly impossible for a driver to avoid the sting of a CDL violation without the help of a skilled traffic ticket attorney.
But a commercial driver should fight a suspension he/she believes was issued unfairly or unjustly. For example, federal law requires state licensing authorities to suspend CDLs when a driver commits two major traffic offenses within three years. However, in some cases, a miscalculation can result in an unwarranted suspension.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires states to use the date of conviction rather than the date of the violation when determining the three-year timeframe. However, if a judge uses the conviction date for the first offense and mistakenly uses the violation date for the second offense, a driver can be unjustly suspended. This can be corrected by working with an attorney to file an appeal.
A driver may also appeal a CDL suspension if police broke procedure or mishandled evidence during a traffic stop, particularly those involving DWI in New York. An officer who fails to make certain disclosures to drivers, such as explaining that refusing a breathalyzer can result in an automatic suspension, can open the door for a reversal upon appeal. However, enough evidence needs to be presented in order to ensure that this argument is airtight.
For more information on appealing a suspended CDL, see our article here.
Case Law Analysis
According to Brady v. Dept. of Motor Vehicles, 778 NE 2d 532, your driver’s license can be suspended or revoked for any VTL violation so long as your conduct amounted to “gross negligence,” and a court conviction is not necessary for the revocation or suspension to result.
However, a judge cannot capriciously or haphazardly suspend your license. He or she must ground the suspension in New York law. Consequently, what often happens is the judge concludes that your conduct rose to a level serious enough to warrant the suspension (i.e. “gross negligence” in violation of VTL 510-3e).
This proves quite scary for CDL license holders. Although it is done quite rarely, a judge has the discretion to call your conduct “gross negligence” and slap you with a suspension even if the VTL you originally were ticketed for could not bring about a suspension. (See Matter of Barnes v Tofany, 27 NY2d 74).
The reason gross negligence could be ascribed to a CDL driver is because of the higher standard of care that the law attributes to you. The law presumes that those who are driving passengers and/or cargo should be held to a higher standard of scrutiny than a regular driver.
Therefore, when a CDL holder drives erratically or extremely negligently, a judge will be given the discretion to take that driver’s license away.
What does all this mean for you as a CDL driver? It is in your best interest to hire an attorney who can successfully negotiate with the prosecutor before you even have to worry about going before a judge who could suspend your license.
It’s important to note that some traffic offenses and other violations will result in a CDL disqualification and not a suspension. While the terms are often used interchangeably, they are different. A disqualification allows the driver to continue operating a standard vehicle but not a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). A suspension means the driver may not operate any kind of vehicle. For more on the differences between the two, see our article here.
Notice: There is a difference between having one’s CDL suspended and disqualified. A disqualification means the license can still be used to drive a personal vehicle but not a commercial vehicle. A suspension means no driving of any kind during the suspension period.
Who Should You Contact?
If you are a CDL driver and received a New York traffic ticket, your livelihood might be at stake. The Rosenblum Law has a successful track record of fighting CDL cases and getting our clients the results they want. Email or Call the Rosenblum Law today at 888-883-5529.
- CDL holders are held to a higher standard by the law, police, and judges due to the size of the vehicles they drive and the risk such vehicles pose to other drivers when operated unsafely.
- Judges have wide latitude to claim that a traffic violation is “gross negligence.”
- A CDL holder can have his/her license suspended if deemed to have committed “gross negligence.”
- This can happen even if the violation itself would not have resulted in a suspension.
Common Questions About Commercial Driver’s Licenses
- How many points to suspend a CDL license in New York?
New York State’s point system affects a commercial license the same way it affects a regular license: a conviction for 11-points-worth of traffic violations within 18 months and the license is suspended. Regardless of points, a conviction for two or more “serious violations” in a three-year period can mean a suspension of the CDL (but not the personal license).
- How long does a speeding ticket stay on your CDL?
A speeding ticket counts against a commercial license for 3 years. This is true even if the state in which the ticket is issued drops it from the driver’s license in less time.
- Will a speeding ticket affect my CDL?
It depends. A speeding ticket for driving 15 miles per hour or more over the limit is considered a “serious violation,” and two such violations in a 3-year period can result in a suspension of one’s commercial license.
- Do you lose your CDL if you get a DUI?
A DUI conviction can result in a one-year suspension of a CDL. If the offense occurs while driving one’s personal vehicle, then the suspension is for 90 days.