Alabama CDL Traffic Violations: Commercial License Issues

Obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL) requires additional skills on top of those needed to drive a regular passenger vehicle. Because commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are significantly larger and heavier than passenger cars, because they can transport large numbers of people, and because they can carry hazardous materials, it is imperative that the people operating them have sufficient knowledge of how to do so. Drivers of CMVs are also held to higher standards than drivers of passenger vehicles. While some of these standards vary from state to state, many states have the same laws, as they have adopted the Federal Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986. Alabama is one such state that has adopted this act. The following gives some information about laws regarding commercial driver licenses in Alabama.

Alabama Violations and Points

Alabama expects drivers to obey the rules of the road when they are driving a commercial vehicle. Failure to do so can result in violations or a record of offenses that can lead to loss of a commercial driver's license. For example, one type of violation is called a Serious Traffic Violation.

  • Serious Traffic Violations include excessive speeding (driving more than 15 miles over the posted limit), improper or erratic lane changes, reckless driving, following a vehicle too closely, and traffic offenses committed in a CMV that are connected to traffic accidents that caused a death.
  • If a driver commits two Serious Traffic Violations in any three year period, his CDL will be suspended for 60 days.
  • If three or more violations occur within a three year period, the license will be suspended for 120 days.

Alabama also imposes a point system on drivers caught violating traffic and driving safety rules while in a commercial vehicle. Under Alabama's point system, points assigned for various offenses include:

  • Driving recklessly: 6 points
  • Illegally passing a school bus that is stopped: 5 points
  • Not yielding the right of way when required: 5 points
  • Driving above 85 miles per hour: 5 points
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road: 4 points
  • Passing illegally: 4 points
  • Tailgating: 3 points
  • A speeding violation: 2 points
Too many points can result in the loss of a CDL.

CDL Specific Violations

There are a number of requirements that apply only to those with a commercial driver's license. Many of these requirements are set on the federal level. For example, CDL drivers must follow the International Registration Plan and the International Fuel Tax Agreement, both of which are federally mandated programs. Drivers can also be penalized for the following CDL related offenses:
  • Overweight: Vehicles must have specific permits if they carry an oversized load. Permits can be issued annually or per-trip and cannot be transferred from vehicle to vehicle.
  • Log Books: CDL drivers must have a log book that is up to date and that reflects hours driven. Falsifying or failing to keep a log book can result in federal penalties and is punishable by up to six months in jail.
  • Speeding while towing a trailer: If driving above 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, this can result in suspension of a license.
  • Grade restrictions: A commercial driver who drives on a road where he or she is not permitted due to its grade (steepness) can be subject to penalties up to a 60 day license suspension for a first offense.

Drivers are also not allowed to have more than one CDL. If you are found having multiple CDLs from different states, you may be fined up to $5,000 and jailed. The court can also keep your home state license, and will return licenses from all other states.

DUI Charges

Driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the most dangerous things a driver can do. If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .04 percent or higher in Alabama, operating a commercial vehicle is against the law. You will lose your CDL for at least one year for a first offense for driving with a BAC higher than the legal limit, driving a CMV under the influence of alcohol, refusing to be tested for alcohol in your bloodstream, driving a CMV under the influence of a controlled substance, leaving the scene of an accident involving a CMV, or committing a felony involving a CMV. Your license will be removed for at least three years if you commit any of these violations while operating a CMV placarded for hazardous materials.

Personal Violations

Committing a violation in your personal vehicle can also affect your commercial driver's license. The Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 states that drivers with a CDL will have their CDL disqualified if they are convicted of certain types of moving violations in their personal vehicle.

  • If a driver loses his license to operate his personal vehicle, whether by having it suspended, canceled or revoked, and the cause was a serious speeding violating, he will lose his CDL from somewhere between 60 and 120 days.
  • If the personal vehicle license is revoked, suspended or canceled due to an alcohol violation, the CDL will be lost for one year. The CDL will be lost for life if the driver receives a second alcohol conviction, even if the offense was committed in is personal car. Something called a "hardship" license to operate a CMV exists, but drivers may not obtain one of these if they have lost their license to operate personal vehicles.

If you are convicted of any traffic violation other than parking violations, regardless of what type of vehicle you are driving, you must tell your employer of that within 30 days.

Getting Help

If you have been ticketed or issued a CDL violation in Alabama, you may have defenses available to you. You may be able to argue that the issuance of the ticket was improper, for example, because it was a violation of your search and seizure Fourth Amendment rights, or because the officer used faulty equipment to test your sped. It is in your best interests to hire a lawyer as soon as you are facing a CDL violation, as an attorney can explain your options and help you to explore potential defenses.

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