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If you are in the trucking industry in the United States, you know the effort behind how to prepare for the CDL permit test, and it’s not easy. Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) drivers are trained to drive Commercial Motor Vehicles(CMV). Special, strict rules bind all CDL drivers, and violating them can result in penalties or disqualifying their CDL. 

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the trucking industry in the United States. The primary mission of FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities, including large trucks and buses.

To keep this simple, FMCSA sets the rules, and USDOT enforces them. Every state has its own set of DOT enforcement, which implements the regulations on the state and federal levels.

In every state, you must see the state DOT ‘Weigh Station’; when a commercial vehicle pulls into a weigh station, it is driven over a scale to ensure they are not over the permissible manufacture weight rating for its specific vehicle. Every transportation company has a USDOT number to track driving history. 

DOT officer inspections include:

  • Insurance Paperwork
  • Mechanical inspection 
  • Breaks
  • Tire Tread and Tire Pressure 
  • Lights
  • Suspension 

Though some drivers get disqualified on health grounds, many CDL drivers get disqualified for violating laws. Are you aware of what violations can disqualify your CDL Drivers?

Let’s understand more about the kind of violations that can disqualify your CDL driver!

What are CDL Disqualifications?

As a fleet operator or owner of a trucking business, you must know that each truck driver needs to meet a specific set of requirements before being granted their CDL. Even after being granted their license, drivers must follow several rules to continue possessing their license. There can be many reasons, such as an accident while driving a CMV or the driver’s own personal vehicle, for instance, that can impact a driver’s CDL.

When is a CDL Driver Disqualified from Driving?

There are two main categories under which a CDL driver may be disqualified:

For driving-related offenses

A CDL driver who has lost their driving privileges due to revocation, suspension, withdrawal, or denial of his operator license or permit stands disqualified from driving until his license has been restored. They are legally permitted to drive again. As a trucking business owner, a CDL driver disqualified from driving a CMV must inform them until his license or permit has been restored or returned to him.

For criminal or other offenses

According to American State and Federal Regulations, a driver who is convicted of (or forfeits bond or collateral upon a charge of) a disqualifying offense specified in paragraph (c)(2) of 49 CFR 391.15 is disqualified for the period specified in paragraph (c)(3) of 49 CFR 391.15.

Therefore, you need to conduct a thorough background check of the drivers you hire to ensure they are not disqualified from driving or have their CDL revoked due to criminal or other offenses.

Things Drivers Should Look into If Driving For any Small Trucking Company.

Work Beyond working hours: 

The maximum working hours limit for the US is 11 hours; for Canadian drivers, it is 13 hours a day. Suppose you are driving beyond the hours. Never falsify your logs because you will get a violation of running over your logs and falsifying your logs.

Operating Defective Equipment: 

While doing a pre-truck inspection for both truck and trailer and you hook up, if you see some minor violation, major violation, or defective equipment, you should let your company know that something needs to be done about it.

If you ask to run defective equipment and something happens on the road, you will be responsible for that. Even if you have informed the company, it’s your CDL, and you are liable for whatever happens on the road.

Delivering While Off-Duty: 

Delivering and picking up loads when you are off duty is something done intentionally. If something happens during the last hours, your whole day logbook will be checked, and there will be severe consequences; you might be in prison. 

Using Personal Conveyance: 

Most of the time, drivers are asked to use personal conveyance. The driver should never use personal conveyance to get to your pickup or delivery; personal conveyance is meant for personal use only. 

Bypassing Scales:

When a company tells you to bypass your scale, it’s a big no-no! 

Don’t ever bypass your scale; bypassing your ranking means something is wrong with your logbook and your driving equipment.  

Types of Violations that Can Disqualify Your CDL

The government of the USA has designated violations or offenses that can disqualify your CDL driver into two broad headings– Serious and Major.

According to the Federal government, ‘serious’ violations that can disqualify your CDL are:

  • Speeding 15mph or over the usual speed limit
  • Erratic lane changes
  • Following another vehicle too closely
  • A traffic violation that is a result of a deadly or near-deadly accident
  • Driving a commercial truck without a CDL license
  • Driving a CMV without having the CDL license 
  • Driving a wrong class or category of a truck than what is permitted in the driver’s CDL
  • Driving recklessly
  • Driving distracted– texting or speaking to someone on the phone or eating while driving

While Federal law is all-encompassing throughout the USA, many states add a few more violations to the list mentioned above, making it stricter. Such violations include failure to provide help or aid in a hit-and-run case or possessing alcohol in the vehicle without a permit.

According to the Federal government, ‘major’ violations that can disqualify your CDL include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Driving under the influence of drugs
  • Using a vehicle to commit a crime
  • Driving a truck or a CMV while their CDL has been revoked
  • Negligence that leads to a CMV accident
  • Driver refusing a chemical test 
  • Leaving an accident scene

How Are CSA Scores Calculated?

The Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) score is based on inspections provided by DOT and any accidents that may occur—graded between 0-100%, with 100% being the worst possible score. 

CSA score helps insurance companies to determine if they will renew or not any insurance policy. 

The score also provides information for brokers and shippers. Allows them to see if they should do business with the transportation company. 

Major Demerit Points That Can Increase Your CSA score:

  1. Inadequate Vehicle Maintenance Program
  2. Inadequate Compliance Program
  3. Inadequate Understanding of Rules and Regulations

One Demerit Points Per Violation

  • Operating hours violation
  • Maintaining improper log/form
  • Failing to secure load, windshield and glass scratches
  • Fuel system issue

Two Demerit Points Per Violation

  • Rear impact guard issues
  • Not wearing seatbelts 
  • Shortage of emergency equipment

Three Demerit Points Per Violation

  • Operating or driving a truck on the closed roads
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Failing to obey a stop sign
  • Failing to follow a traffic control device
  • Failing to follow the Railroad crossing

Four Demerit Points Per Violation

  • Speeding over 15 miles per hour
  • Following too closely
  • Failing to stop at a pedestrian crossway

 Six Demerit Points Per Violation

  • Careless Driving
  • Racing
  • Exceeding the Speed limit by 40 km/hr or 25 MI/hr 
  • Failing to stop for a school bus

Seven Demerit Points Per Violation

  • Running away from the scene of a crash
  • Failing to stop when signaled or asked by DOT officer
  • Reversing on the highway, you will be fired with immediate effect

Eight Demerit Points Per Violation

  • Tire problems
  • Proper marking on external components
  • Improper material and load handling
  • Operating a commercial motor vehicle without a CDL

Ten Demerit Points Per Violation

  • Driving under the influence of drugs
  • Speeding in under construction zone

You can reduce your demerit point in some of the points mentioned above. If you didn’t break the rules intentionally, you are aware of the rules and regulations. If you have a clear driving record, try negotiating with the DOT officer because it will affect your overall CSA score in the long term.

You might need to hire a lawyer to get you out of the mess if you did any vast violations. You may not get hired by any reputed trucking companies. 

How Long Does a CDL Driver Remain Disqualify?

Based on the number of times a driver has violated traffic rules, their CDL disqualification varies.

  • Two ‘serious’ traffic violations in separate incidents within three years can get the driver a minimum 60-day period of CDL disqualification.
  • Three ‘serious’ traffic violations, in separate incidents, within three years can get the driver a 120-day disqualification.

Violation of an Out-Of-Service Order

Suppose a CDL driver violates an out-of-service order. In that case, they and the CMV are off the roads until the violation has been corrected. 

  • If the violation is made for the first time, the CDL driver stands disqualified for 90 days to 1 year.
  • If a CDL driver commits their second offense in 10 years, they stand disqualified for 1 to 5 years.
  • A third offense in 10 years and the CDL driver stands disqualified for 3 to 5 years.

Wrapping it up

Hiring CDL drivers with experience and no violations at the time of hiring is advisable for all trucking companies and owner-operators businesses to reduce any chance of legal trouble. To do so, you must adequately check your new hires and teach a safe culture within your company. 

Drivers must keep their CDL license and driving record clear because continuous violations can ruin their reputation and trucking career. To get a job with a CDL and clear driving record, you must know about the types of trucking jobs available and start applying for jobs that suit your driving preference. 

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Did you find these interesting? Let us know your on-road experience in the comments!

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