South Carolina CDL Traffic Violations: Commercial License Issues

The South Carolina Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is a separate driver's license from the one given for driving non-commercial vehicles. The CDL gives permission to drive commercial motor vehicles (CMV). A CMV is defined by federal law and includes trucks or other large vehicles or combinations of vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds, any vehicle able to carry 16 or more passengers, buses or vehicles transporting hazardous material. You must pass a comprehensive written test and road test to earn the CDL.

Following both federal and state laws on driving, vehicle and trailer loading, record keeping and many other CDL specific laws is necessary in order to keep the CDL. The rules are more stringent than rules for automobile drivers in many cases, such as in the case of a DUI.

Following are the major CDL specific laws and regulations. You should consult South Carolina'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

Federal law imposes a duty of care on CDL holders. The duty of care establishes an obligation to adhere to all federal and state CMV and road laws and to never drive in a way that endangers property or lives. There is a list of what are called "serious violations" that will lead to a license suspension or revocation. Serious violations include:

  • Failing to obtain and have in possession a valid CDL
  • Reckless driving
  • Speeding more than 15 miles per hour over the speed limit
  • Unsafe or erratic lane changes
  • Following another vehicle too closely

A first offense will lead to a fine. A second offense within a three-year time period will lead to a 60-day license suspension. A third offense within a three-year time period will lead to a 120-day license suspension.

South Carolina has a points system for certain driving offenses. The CDL penalties just described are more stringent than those for a personal driver's license, but points apply to the personal license and the CDL. Two points is the penalty for speeding 10 MPH above the posted speed limit, making an improper land change, operating a defective vehicle, driving 10 MPH too fast for road conditions, improper backing, driving in the wrong lane and failing to dim lights.

You will be penalized 4 points for speeding 10 to 25 miles over the speed limit, failing to stop at a stop sign or traffic light, illegal passing, making an illegal turn, following too closely, illegal turning or passing, failing to use a signal, driving through a safety zone, ignoring a train signal or railroad sign, ignoring a traffic director or failing to yield a right of way.

You are penalized 6 points for speeding more than 25 MPH, passing a school bus or reckless driving. An accumulation of 12 or more points will lead to a license suspension.

CDL Specific Violations

A CDL license 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 for the commission of a felony
  • Drives a CMV without a valid CDL in force
  • Is negligent while driving and a manslaughter homicide occurs

The CDL will be suspended for three years or more for a second offense of any of the listed charges.

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.

A first offense will lead to a 60-day suspension of driving privileges (out-of-service order). A second offense within three years will lead to a 120-day license suspension. A third offense within three years will lead to a disqualification for one year.

Violating an out of service order will result in the following penalties.

  • 1st offense – 90-day suspension
  • 2nd offense within 10 years – 1-year suspension
  • 3rd offense within 10 years – 3-year disqualification

In addition, you may be ticketed/fined for:

  • Exceeding the legal truck weight
  • Running a red light
  • Driving without insurance
  • Driving a truck that is over length or width
  • 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.

The law in South Carolina requires the CDL holder to notify his or her employer within 30 days of a traffic violation conviction. If you get a traffic ticket in another state you are required to inform your employer and the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.

DUI Charges

At the time you qualify for a CDL you are agreeing to take a blood alcohol test if an officer requests it. 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 three years or more for a first offense of any of the listed charges if hazardous materials are being transported. The CDL license will be suspended for life if the driver is convicted of a second DUI while driving any vehicle, including a personal automobile.

Impact on Commercial Drivers License

In addition to the penalties described, a CDL will be suspended or revoked if you are convicted of a violation of traffic control laws while driving your personal vehicle and the conviction leads to a suspension or revocation of your personal vehicle driver's license. If the charge is a DUI, you will lose your CDL for a period of one year if your personal license is suspended or revoked. It it's a second violation in your personal vehicle, your CDL is revoked for life.

Options for Defense

It is important to consult an experienced attorney whenever you are ticketed or charged with any offense, because points and tickets on your driving record may threaten your livelihood. Some trucking employers will automatically terminate drivers who get tickets. You can plead not guilty, guilty or nolo contendere in South Carolina. Nolo contendere means you are pleading no contest. An attorney experienced in CDL offenses can work to have your charges dismissed or to obtain a lesser offense charge.

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