Operating a Commercial Vehicle Without a Valid CDL in New York

By: Adam H. Rosenblum Esq. | Last Updated:

Commercial drivers, bus drivers and truckers know that a special license and often specific endorsements are needed to legally operate different classes of vehicles in New York. However, the sheer number of vehicle classes and endorsements means that sometimes a driver may accidentally (or knowingly) find themselves behind the wheel of a vehicle they are not properly licensed to drive. This is a serious violation. A person caught operating a commercial vehicle without the proper CDL in New York can be charged under both federal and state law. Penalties include hefty fines and possible jail time.

commercial vehicle without the proper CDL

Federal Penalties for Operating Out-of-Class CMV

Most of the CDL class requirements are set by Title 49 of U.S. Transportation law. The federal penalty violating CDL requirements is a civil penalty of $2,500. In aggravated cases, a person can be fined up to $5,000 and serve 3 months to 1 year in jail. Employers who knowingly allow unlicensed or improperly licensed drivers to operate a CMV can be subject to a $25,000 fine.

New York State Penalties for Operating Out-of-Class

New York Vehicle and Traffic Law also punishes individuals for driving commercial vehicles they do not have the proper license for. Under VTL 509-2 – Operating out of class, drivers can be ticketed for $75 to $300. In addition, the driver will be responsible for a state surcharge of $88 or $93, depending on where the ticket was issued. Fortunately, the offense carries no points.

CDL Classes and Endorsements

You need an New York CDL when you operate the following vehicles:

  • Class A CMV. Combination vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) more than 26,000 pounds and a GVWR of the vehicle being towed (trailer) of more than 10,000 pounds. A driver with a Class A CDL can also operate all vehicles included in Class B, C, and D.
  • Class B CMV. Includes single or combination vehicles where the GVWR of the single vehicle is more than 26,000 pounds. The vehicle being pulled must be less than 10,000 pounds. A driver with a New York Class B CDL can also legally operate all vehicles in Class C or D (but not A).
  • Class C CMV. Any single or combination vehicle that is neither part of Group A nor Group B, but which is designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or is used in the transportation of materials found to be hazardous (as per 49 CFR part 172, subpart F).

In addition, drivers can earn endorsements for specific vehicle types. Each endorsement requires separate testing and qualification. New York issues 11 different endorsements:

  • Farm Class A Vehicles (F endorsement)
  • Farm Class B Vehicles (G endorsement)
  • Hazardous Materials (H endorsement)
  • Metal Coil (M endorsement)
  • Tank Vehicles (N endorsement)
  • Passenger Transport (P endorsement)
  • Recreational Vehicles GVWR over 26,000 lbs. (R endorsement)
  • School Bus (S endorsement)
  • Doubles/Triples (T endorsement)
  • Tow Truck (W endorsement)
  • Tank/Hazmat (X endorsement)

A driver with a CDL who does not have the proper endorsement for the vehicle he/she is operating can be subject to the penalties mentioned above.

Driving a commercial vehicle when the driver has been issued an out-of-service order, or when the CDL has been suspended, revoked, canceled or disqualified can result in the driver being disqualified from driving a CMV for one year (cumulative with any existing disqualifications). Two convictions for such an offense can mean a lifetime disqualification from operating commercial vehicles.

Defenses to Driving A CMV Out of Class or Without the Proper Endorsements

A solid legal defense to driving a commercial vehicle without the proper CDL or endorsements will depend on the facts of the case. In many situations, the best defense may be to negotiate with prosecutors to reduce the charge to an offense that will not result in a disqualification of the CDL. To do this requires the help of a skilled traffic ticket attorney. Hiring an attorney ensures that one is getting the best possible defense to the charges. In some cases, it may eliminate the need to show up to court to fight the ticket, meaning the driver can continue to work while the attorney appears in court and handles all negotiation.

Who Should I Contact for Help with My CDL Ticket?

If you or a loved one has been ticketed for driving out of class, operating a commercial vehicle without a CDL or the proper endorsements, or for any other traffic ticket in New York, consult with an attorney before paying the ticket. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law are experienced CDL traffic ticket attorneys with offices in New York and New Jersey. Email or Call 888-883-5529 for a free consultation about your case.