The Colorado Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is a specialty driver’s license for those who wish to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in Colorado. A CMV is defined by federal and state laws and includes trucks or other large vehicles, or any combination of vehicles, that weigh more than 26,000 pounds, any passenger vehicle able to carry 16 or more people, including the driver, and vehicles transporting hazardous material. You must pass a written knowledge test, a pre-trip vehicle inspection, and an on-road driving test to qualify for a CDL license.
You should review Colorado’s Commercial Driver License Manual and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Commercial Carrier Code for more detailed information.
Federal law imposes a duty of care on any person in possession of a CDL who will use federal highways. The duty of care establishes a driver's obligation to follow road laws and to never act carelessly or negligently leading to the endangerment of the lives or property of others. Colorado, like most states, has adopted the federal laws as state laws for commercial vehicles and drivers. There are certain violations considered to be serious that may lead to a license suspension or license revocation. They include the following:
- Failing to have a valid CDL as required by law.
- Driving more than 15 miles over the speed limit.
- Following another vehicle too closely.
- Reckless driving.
- Unsafe or erratic lane changes.
A first offense will lead to a fine. A second offense within a 3-year time period will lead to a 60-day license suspension. A third offense within a 3-year time period will lead to a 120-day license suspension. If you violate an out-of-service order, you may lose your license for at least 90 days or more than 3 years based on the number of violations within a certain time period.
Colorado also has a points system for defined driving offenses. The CDL penalties just described are in addition to possible points that may be assigned to a driver’s license. Points charged against a personal driver’s license will impact the CDL license. If you earn 12 points in 12 consecutive months or 18 points within 24 consecutive months, your personal and CDL license may be suspended.
Points are assigned for acts like driving under the influence, evading an officer, reckless or careless driving, speeding or failing to produce proof of insurance.
The CDL-specific violations carry additional penalties that may lead to license suspension or revocation. Your CDL will be suspended for one year or more on a first offense if the driver:
- Knowingly leaves the scene of an accident while driving a CMV.
- Uses a CMV during the commission of a felony.
- Drives a CMV without a valid CDL in force.
- Is negligent while driving a CMV, causing a fatality.
The CDL will be suspended for 3 years if any of the violations occur while transporting hazardous materials. The CDL is revoked for a lifetime if you get a second offense or use a CMV to commit a felony involving a controlled substance. There are also separate laws concerning railroad crossing offenses. A CDL holder is required to obey all railroad crossing signs, stop or slow down at a crossing, and to never stop on the tracks.
- 60-day license suspension for the first violation.
- 120-day license suspension for the 2nd violation in a 3-year period.
- 1-year license suspension for the 3rd violation in a 3-year period.
Additional CDL-Specific Violations
In addition, you may be ticketed and fined for violations specifically applicable to commercial vehicles and CMV laws, such as the following:
- Exceeding the legal truck weight.
- Running a red light or other road signs.
- Driving without appropriate or no insurance.
- Driving a truck that is over length or width limit.
- Failing to placard a hazardous materials truck on all 4 sides.
- Loading cargo so that it creates a hazardous condition or not securing cargo properly.
- Overloading the truck and/or trailer based on current state maximums for gross vehicle weight, gross combination and/or axle weight.
- Violating the logbook record keeping rules.
- Failing to follow federal Hours of Service limits.
The law in Colorado requires the CDL holder to notify an employer of a violation within 30 days no matter what state the violation occurred in.
At the time you qualify for a CDL, you are also agreeing to take a blood alcohol test if requested. Anyone operating a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .04 or higher is considered to be driving under the influence (DUI).
The CDL will be suspended for one year or more if the driver:
- Drives with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .04 or higher.
- Drives while under the influence of alcohol.
- Drives while under the influence of a controlled substance.
- Refuses to take a blood alcohol test.
The CDL will be suspended for life when committing a second offense involving alcohol or a controlled substance. If the BAC is higher than .10 percent, your driver’s license will automatically be revoked by the Department of Revenue in addition to possible criminal charges.
Protecting Your Rights Through Legal Representation
It is important to consult with an attorney whenever you are ticketed or charged with a misdemeanor or felony because the CDL represents your livelihood. You can challenge a CDL violation including the DUI license revocation at a Department of Motor Vehicles administrative hearing. This is in addition to any possible criminal hearing.
You can plead guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere. Nolo contendere means you are not pleading guilty or not guilty but be aware that the administrative judge will actually treat a nolo contendere as if you are pleading guilty. This will put your CDL license at risk of suspension or revocation.
An attorney experienced in CDL offenses will review the circumstances of your violation and work to get the violation thrown out or downgraded if it’s a serious offense. An experienced attorney can also request that you be assigned a hardship license so you can continue to work.