Rhode Island CDL Traffic Violations: Commercial License Issues

The Rhode Island Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is a special license that gives you permission to drive a commercial motor vehicle or combination of vehcicles including semi-trucks and trailers weighing more than 26,000 pounds, buses, any vehicle capable of carrying 16 or more passengers, or vehicles transporting hazardous materials. You must pass rigorous written and road tests to earn the CDL and then adhere to all federal and state laws in order to keep it.

Unlike many other states, Rhode Island does not use a point system, but it does vigorously enforce the CDL laws. Drivers must comply with the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 and Rhode Island laws. Though the federal government has established safety regulations for states, only the state can actually issue the CDL.

CDL traffic violation penalties can be severe and some, like the DUI laws, are stricter than equivalent laws for operating an auto. Following are the major CDL specific laws and regulations concerning the CDL. You should consult Rhode Island's Commercial Driver's License Manual and the rules and regulations issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in the Commercial Carrier Code for more detailed information.

Moving Violations

Serious moving violations will lead to penalties. Serious moving violations are defined as:

  • Driving 15 mph or more over the speed limit
  • Reckless driving
  • Erratic lane changes
  • Traffic offenses connected to a fatal traffic accident
  • Following a vehicle to closely

You will lose your CDL license for a period of time if any of the following conditions exist:

  • 60-day loss if you commit two listed traffic violations within a three-year period while driving a CMV
  • 120-day loss if you commit three listed traffic violations within a three-year period
  • 60 days for a first violation of the rules regarding slowing and/or stopping at a railroad crossing
  • 120 days for a second violation within a three-year period of the rules regarding slowing and/or stopping at a railroad crossing
  • One year for a third violation within a three-year period of the rules regarding slowing and/or stopping at a railroad crossing

CDL Specific Violations

You will lose your CDL license for a minimum of one year if you:

  • Leave the scene of an accident
  • Commit a felony that involves the use of a commercial motor vehicle
  • Are convicted of a DUI or driving under the influence of a controlled substance

You will lose your CDL for three years if driving a CMV approved for transporting hazardous materials and you commit the listed offenses. If it's a second offense, you will lose your license for life. A conviction for committing a felony that involves controlled substances will lead to a permanent loss of the CDL.

In addition, you may be ticketed or fined for:

  • Exceeding the legal truck weight
  • Running a red light
  • Driving without insurance
  • Failing to placard a hazardous materials truck on all four sides
  • Loading cargo in a way that creates a hazard 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
  • Violation of logbook record keeping requirements per the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 (CMVSA/1986)
  • Failure to follow federal Hours of Service limits

The CMVSA/1986 requires a logbook as the record of duty to be current for the previous six days and the day of examination at any time. The driver is expected to comply with the Hours of Service limits defined by federal law.

In Rhode Island, some bridges have a maximum posted weight limit for trucks. Crossing the bridge when the truck is overweight can lead to a $3,000 fine for a first offense and $5,000 for a second offense.

The law in Rhode Island requires the CDL holder to notify his or her employer within 30 days of a traffic violation conviction. In addition, if you get a traffic ticket in another state you are required to inform your employer and the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles.

DUI Charges

Rhode Island has strict DUI laws. You give your consent to alcohol testing by operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). You will lose your CDL license for a minimum of one year if you:

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

If you are convicted of a DUI a second time, you will lose your CDL permanently. You will lose your CDL for three years if driving a CMV approved for transporting hazardous materials and you commit the listed offenses. If you take a breathalyzer test and there is a detectable amount of alcohol that is under .04 percent, you will lose your right to drive the CMV for 24 hours.

Impact on a Commercial Driver's License

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 regular driver's license is cancelled, suspended or revoked for a serious moving violation, you will also lose your CDL for 60 to 120 days.

You are only allowed to hold the Rhode Island CDL. You cannot be licensed out of state. If you are found to have multiple licenses, you can be fined an amount up to $5,000 or you can be given jail time and lose all your licenses.

Options for Defense

A commercial truck driver should contact an attorney as soon as possible if faced with a substantial penalty for moving violations or CDL specific violations. You can plead guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) in Rhode Island. If you plead not guilty, the attorney can attempt to have the charge dismissed based on the evidence or circumstances. This will prevent an offense being recorded against your CDL license. In some cases, even when guilty, the fine can be reduced.

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