A Commercial Driver License (CDL) is required by New York State to drive a vehicle weighing more than 26,000 pounds, vehicles accommodating 15 or more passengers, including buses, or any vehicle used to transport hazardous material.
A CDL is only necessary when the above types of vehicles are used for a commercial or business purpose, and not a personal purpose. For example, a CDL is not required in order to drive a big U-Haul truck loaded with one’s personal belongings.
Speeding Tickets Put Your CDL and Job at Risk
Commercial drivers depend on keeping their CDL in order to earn a living and keep their jobs. Commercial drivers risk losing their license for 60 days if they are convicted of two “serious traffic violations” within a 3-year period while operating a commercial vehicle. This includes any ticket for speeding 15 miles or more over the limit.
It is important to note that the convictions must be the result of two separate incidents. If the two violations happen at the same time, the 60-day suspension will not be applied. For example, if a CDL holder is pulled over and the officer issues a ticket for speeding and another for an unsafe lane change, this single traffic stop will only be counted as one serious traffic violation.
If a commercial driver is convicted of 3 serious traffic violations during a 3-year period, the suspension will be increased to 120 days.
Commercial driving frequently involves crossing state lines, and it is imperative that CDL holders realize that the above license suspensions apply whether the violations occur out-of-state as well as within New York State.
Which Violations are Considered Serious Traffic Violations?
CDL holders are held to a stricter standard than drivers with regular licenses. Offenses that are usually considered run-of-the-mill traffic tickets for regular drivers are classified as “serious traffic violations” for commercial drivers.
The following offenses are examples of those considered serious traffic violations:
- Speeding 15+ miles per hour over the limit
- Unsafe lane changes
- Traffic violations involving a fatal traffic accident
- Driving a commercial vehicle without a CDL
Certain offenses will result in losing one’s CDL for an entire year, or 3 years in when transporting hazardous materials. These offenses include:
Driving a commercial vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of .04% or higher (half the usual legal limit)
Operating a commercial vehicle with a revoked, suspended, or canceled CDL.
Committing a felony involving the use of a vehicle
Although the general rule is that traffic offenses committed while driving one’s personal vehicles do not affect a CDL, there are a few notable exceptions to that rule. Convictions for leaving the scene of an accident, violations related to alcohol and drugs, and felonies involving a motor vehicle will result in a one-year suspension of a CDL for a first offense and a lifetime CDL ban for a second offense. This is in addition to the consequences on one’s personal driver’s license.
Commercial drivers who have been ticketed are strongly advised not to risk suspension or revocation of their CDL. Instead, they should hire a competent attorney to advocate for their rights.
1180(g) Speeding Tickets for CDL Drivers
Vehicle and Traffic Law 1180(g) is the statute specifically for speeding in vehicles that weigh 18,000 pounds or greater. The points associated with this statute are the same for regular speeding tickets, which are as follows:
- 1-10 miles an hour over the speed limit = 3 points.
- 11-20 miles per hour over the speed limit = 4 points.
- 21-30 mph over the speed limit = 6 points.
- 40 mph + over the speed limit = 11 points and suspended a license
For the most part, there is no difference between the fines and points associated with VTL 1180(g) and most other types of speeding tickets. A commercial driver who is issued a speeding ticket under VTL 1180(d) (the most common speeding ticket), VTL 1180(b) (exceeding the state limit of 55 mph), or VTL 1180(g) could still lose his/her commercial license if it is for going 15 miles per hour or more over the limit and is the second serious violation in 3 years.
Why Commercial Drivers Need an Attorney to Protect Their CDL
It hardly needs stating that the loss of a CDL can be financially devastating. The inability to drive for 60 days or more can be a serious hardship on a driver and his/her family who depend on it for income. As such, any and every traffic violation, especially a speeding ticket, should be challenged or negotiated down to an offense that is not considered “serious” by federal standards. Even if the ticket is not a serious offense, a driver for a private firm can be fired over a speeding ticket. An experienced traffic ticket attorney can ensure that any traffic offense is reduced to the lowest possible charge so as to minimize or eliminate the potential impact on the CDL and the driver’s employment status.
Commercial drivers ticketed for speeding or other violations in NY should keep in mind that a traffic court judge has the authority to suspend a license even in cases in which there have been no other violations in the past 3 years. Brady v. DMV established that any act deemed by a judge to be “gross negligence” is sufficient to authorize a suspension of the CDL. Thankfully, in most cases involving NY tickets, an attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to reduce the ticket without taking the matter before a judge.
How a Speeding Ticket Can Lead to Criminal Charges (Pretextual Stops)
In New York, police are allowed to conduct what is often called a pretextual stop. This means an officer pulls over a commercial driver for a minor traffic violation and then investigates a potential criminal offense. As such, when an officer pulls over a CDL holder for speeding, he/she may also be on the lookout for evidence of criminal activity that may be in plain sight. This could include the presence of drugs (prescription or illegal) or weapons. An officer does not need a warrant to secure evidence that can be observed in plain sight, which can often lead to commercial drivers being charged with criminal charges such as drug possession or weapons possession.
Common Questions About CDLs and Speeding Tickets
Yes, a speeding ticket can potentially cost a commercial driver his/her CDL. Regardless of points, a driver who is convicted of speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the posted limit while driving a commercial vehicle is considered to have committed a “serious traffic violation.” Two such convictions within a 3-year period and one’s CDL will be suspended for 60 days.
By law, a commercial driver must report any traffic convictions to his/her employer within 30 days. The driver is not required to inform the employer of a speeding ticket until he/she has been convicted or pleads guilty (which happens when one pays a ticket).
The question of whether one should report a speeding ticket prior to conviction is another matter. This will depend on the company policy and the driver’s rapport with his/her superiors. Keep in mind that even if the ticket gets reduced or dismissed, most private employers can legally fire a driver over a traffic infraction.
State laws vary, but for the most part, a private company can fire any commercial, TLC driver, or other person for whom driving a vehicle is a part of the job over a speeding ticket or other traffic violation. This may be true even if the speeding ticket gets dismissed in court.
CDL holders are subject to the same point system as other drivers in New York: 11 points within 18 months can result in a suspension of a NY license. Drivers whose license is issued in another state can have their right to drive in NY suspended should they be convicted of 11 points-worth of traffic violations in 18 months.
Regardless of points, a CDL holder can have his/her commercial license (not the personal license) suspended upon conviction of two or more serious traffic violations within 3 years.
A speeding ticket conviction can count against a commercial driver for up to 3 years, even if the state in which one is ticketed drops it from the record sooner.
Attending traffic school is always beneficial, but it is not likely to help commercial drivers avoid a suspension or revocation of the CDL. In New York, a DMV-approved driving course will increase the point threshold needed for a suspension (it does not actually eliminate the points). In NY and most other states, traffic school can also help slightly reduce one’s personal (non-CDL) auto insurance rates.
However, federal CDL requirements look only at the number of convictions within a 3-year period. Since traffic schools do not change or eliminate those convictions, it is not likely to help commercial drivers avoid a suspension of the CDL.
Who Should You Call to Protect Your CDL from a NY Speeding Ticket Conviction?
If you or a loved one has been caught speeding in a commercial or personal vehicle, it is imperative that you hire experienced legal representation to avoid a suspension, termination, or other consequences that can come with a conviction. The attorneys at Rosenblum Law are skilled New York traffic ticket attorneys who are experienced in handling speeding and driving-related offenses for commercial. Call 888-434-0406 or email Rosenblum Law today for a free consultation about your case.