CDL holders can suffer dire consequences from seemingly innocuous tickets.
Commercial drivers depend on their license to make their living. Commercial driver’s licenses (“CDLs”) require those who hold them to operate their vehicles with a higher standard of care. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation closely monitors them to assure that they do.
Even seemingly minor traffic tickets can have profound effects on someone who holds a commercial driver’s license. Some offenses can even result in lifetime disqualification for the first offense.
How Will a Traffic Violation Impact My CDL in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, a driver can be disqualified from holding a CDL because of two types of convictions: Major offenses or serious traffic offenses.
A single conviction of a major offense, regardless of whether the CDL holder was driving a commercial vehicle or their personal vehicle, can lead to disqualification for one year and up to the remainder of their life. Two convictions for major offenses will result in a lifetime ban.
Major offenses include:
- Driving under the influence (i.e., DUI or DWI)
- Refusing to submit to chemical testing
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Using a vehicle to commit a felony or a felony involving controlled substances
- Driving a commercial vehicle with a revoked, suspended, cancelled, or disqualified CDL; and
- Causing a fatality through the negligent operation of a commercial vehicle.
Disqualification may also result if a driver is convicted of more than one serious traffic offenses within a certain time.
Serious traffic offenses include:
- Reckless driving,
- Improper lane change
- Following too closely
- Failure regarding duties in maintenance areas or in safety corridors
- Texting while driving a commercial vehicle, and
- Use of a handheld phone while driving a commercial vehicle.
The determination of whether an offense will count as a serious traffic offense may change based on the circumstances of the offense.
Other offenses relating to railroad crossings might also jeopardize someone’s ability to hold a commercial driver’s license.
What Should I Do if I’m Charged with a Traffic Offense?
These consequences are dramatic. They can practically destroy a commercial driver’s ability to make a living for months or years. The law, however, treats them as collateral consequences of a conviction. That means that the law does not require anybody — neither the judge nor the driver’s lawyer — to make the driver aware of the potential consequences of a guilty plea to a serious traffic offense or a major offense. Nobody has to tell the driver that they will lose their commercial driver’s license before the driver enters their plea.
If you hold a commercial driver’s license, and you are charged with a traffic offense, you need to be careful and find diligent representation. Call Pyfer Reese and ask to meet with either attorney Dan Bardo or Chris Patterson.