Maryland CDL Traffic Violations: Commercial License Issues

The Maryland Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is a special license that gives the holder the right to drive or tow vehicles based on specified weight limits or passenger totals. The state uses a penalty point system for traffic violations, and there are severe consequences for convictions for serious traffic violations or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) convictions no matter whether you are driving a commercial or private vehicle. License suspensions and re-instatements for the CDL are handled by the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration.

Defining Requirements for the CDL

You are required to have a Maryland CDL in the following situations:

  • The vehicle you drive has a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000.
  • The Trailer you drive has a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000.
  • You drive a vehicle that can hold 16 or more people.
  • You drive a vehicle that transports hazardous materials.

To obtain a CDL, you must pass a rigorous pre-trip inspection, a written test and a skills maneuver test and accept responsibility for adherence to state and federal laws.

License Suspension or Revocation

There are major offenses that will lead to the suspension of the CDL license for one year on a first offense and revocation of the license on a second offense. If the vehicle was transporting hazardous material at the time of the violation, the driver's CDL will be suspended for at least 3 years on a first offense and permanently for a second offense. In addition, there is a lifetime license disqualification if you use a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) to make or distribute controlled substances and are convicted of a felony.

Major offenses include the following:

  • Operating a commercial vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is registered at .04% or higher.
  • Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer or substance test when required by law.
  • Leaving the scene of an accident.
  • Committing a felony that involves a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Driving or towing a vehicle requiring a CD when your CDL has been suspended or revoked.

Traffic Violations

There are some traffic violations that have been specifically defined by law as having more serious consequences. You can find the requirements in the Maryland Commercial Driver License Manual and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Commercial Carrier Code.

The rules require:

  • A 60-day license suspension if you commit 2 serious traffic violations within a 3 year period.
  • A 120-day license suspension if you commit 3 serious traffic violations with a 3 year period.
  • A 60-day or more license suspension for a first time conviction for violating railroad-highway grade crossing rules.
  • A 120-days or more license suspension for a second conviction for violating railroad-highway grade crossing rules.
  • One year or more license suspension for third conviction for violating railroad-highway grade crossing rules.

The serious traffic violations include operating a CMV without a proper license or possessing a CDL from more than one state. Other serious violations include the following:

  • Driving more than 15 miles over the speed limit.
  • Reckless driving.
  • Operating the commercial vehicle in a way that endangers others.
  • Making improper lane changes.
  • Tailgating another vehicle.
  • Being convicted of a traffic offense that leads to a fatality.
  • Violating railroad-highway grade crossing rules, including not slowing down and checking the tracks for trains or running a crossing stop sign.

There are also penalties for violating out-of-service orders that include 90 days for first violation, 1 year for a second violation within 10 years, and 3 years for a third violation within 10 years. Traffic violations not considered “serious”, like driving less than 15 miles over the speed limit will earn you penalty points on your driver's license. Five to seven points earned in a 2-year period means you must attend a driver improvement program and possibly a Point Systems Conference. Eight to eleven points earned in a 2-year period leads to a license suspension. Twelve or more points lead to a license suspension.

In Maryland, the CDL driver’s manual states that as of 2005, "any convictions you receive for moving violations will be viewed as a cause to disqualify you from driving a commercial vehicle” It goes on to state that this policy applies whether you are driving a commercial vehicle, a non-commercial vehicle or a private vehicle.

CDL Specific Violations

The Maryland Commercial Driver License Manual explains the responsibilities of a CDL holder. Violating the following rules may result in tickets and/or fines:

  • Not placing a placard on a hazardous materials truck as required.
  • Exceeding the legal weight of the truck or trailer.
  • Running a red light or stop sign.
  • Driving without required minimum insurance.
  • Exceeding the federal Hours of Service limitations.
  • Loading cargo in a hazardous manner.
  • Not securing cargo properly.
  • Overloading the truck and/or trailer so that the gross vehicle weight, gross combination and/or axle weight exceeds maximums allowed by law.
  • Failing to keep logbooks up-to-date per the federal Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 (CMVSA/1986).

DUI Charges

Maryland has very strict Driving Under the Influence (DUI) laws and imposes severe penalties that can impact your ability to earn a livelihood. You automatically give your consent to alcohol testing by accepting a CDL. You may lose your CDL license for a minimum of one year if you are convicted of the following:

  • Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .04 or higher
  • Refusing to take a blood alcohol test
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance

A CDL carrier charged with having measurable alcohol that is under .04 percent will be issued a 24-hour out-of-service notice. If you are convicted of a DUI a second time with no time limits, you will lose your CDL for life. You can lose your CDL for 3 years if while driving a CMV approved for transporting hazardous materials, you commit the listed offenses for the first time. A second hazardous material transport offense leads to a loss of license for life.

Auto and Commercial Driver's License Suspension

In addition to the penalties described, the law requires a CDL to be suspended or permanently revoked if the driver is convicted of serious moving violations as listed earlier while driving an automobile. If your auto driver’s license is cancelled, suspended or revoked for a serious moving violation then you will also lose your CDL for 60 to 120 days.

Options for Defense

When your license is suspended or revoked, you are losing your ability to earn a living as a commercial driver. You will need to request and attend a MVA administrative hearing. Therefore, it is important to retain the services of attorney experienced in CDL laws as soon as possible for non-serious and serious traffic violations, CDL specific charges or DUI charges. The attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed, charges lowered and/or penalties reduced based upon a review of the evidence. If your CDL is suspended, an experienced attorney may also be able to help you obtain a hardship license so that you can continue working.

In Maryland, you can plead nolo contendere in some cases, which means “no contest.” You may also plead guilty or not guilty. You should not decide how to plead until you get legal advice because the end result of your case can determine if you will retain the use of your CDL license, the amount of your fines, the kind of conviction recorded on your driving record, and in some cases, whether you must serve jail time.

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