Before operating a bus or other vehicle carrying more than 16 passengers, a truck weighing more than 26,001 pounds or a vehicle carrying hazardous materials, you generally need to obtain a commercial driving license, or CDL. There are several state and federal requirements for obtaining a CDL, including a clean driving record. There are also state and federal requirements for drivers to maintain a clean driving record to keep their CDL.
You cannot qualify for a CDL if you have had a driver's license suspended or revoked in any state. Each state has different rules for when to suspend or revoke a driver's license. In general, your license can be suspended for offenses such as accumulating too many points; driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; driving without insurance; refusing to submit to a breath test when stopped by a law enforcement officer; or a court-ordered suspension or revocation for a failure to appear, or another offense.
Federal law requires all states to run a series of checks on anyone who applies for a CDL. These checks are done through the Commercial Driver's License Information System -- CDLIS -- and the National Driver Register -- NDR. These systems will flag up any applicant who was disqualified from driving in the previous 10 years or who possesses a license from another state. Drivers with a CDL cannot possess a license from more than one state. Anyone who provides false information on their CDL application is subject to having their CDL, or CDL application, canceled or revoked.
Once you have your CDL, you will be licensed to drive both commercial vehicles and non-commercial vehicles, such as a personal car. If you commit an offense while in a personal vehicle that results in the revocation of your driver's license, you will lose all of your driving privileges, including your CDL. If you commit an offense that results in a revocation of your CDL, such as driving a commercial vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, you may lose your right to drive a non-commercial vehicle as well. If your CDL is revoked, you may be able to apply for the right to have your non-commercial license restored, depending on the rules in your state and the offense.
Testing and Driving Record
Federal law requires all applicants for a CDL to pass state skills and knowledge tests before being granted a license. States are allowed to exempt applicants with good driving records from the skills-testing portion of the CDL licensing process. A good driving record includes not having had a license suspended, revoked or canceled; not having any convictions for a major motoring offense; not having violated any laws in connection with a traffic accident, such as leaving the scene; and having no accidents in which the driver was at fault.
- United States Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: Commercial Driver's License Program
- CDL Digest: Commercial Drivers License (CDL) Disqualifying Offenses
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011 Edition: Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales Workers
- Car Insurance: How far back can employers check CDL driving records?