CDL Federal Requirements

Federal CDL Regulations

The Federal Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act ensures that drivers of commercial vehicles are qualified, and removes unsafe drivers from the highways. The Act didn't require federal driver licensing―states still license commercial drivers―but it required states to upgrade their programs.

Before the Act was passed, many commercial vehicle drivers operated vehicles they weren’t qualified to drive. Drivers weren’t tested in the types of vehicles they would be driving. States must now test commercial drivers according to federal standards, to ensure that drivers know how to operate the trucks or buses they intend to drive.

Record Checks & Testing

When you apply for a commercial driver's license (CDL) in your state, your driving record will be checked in state and federal databases to ensure you haven't been disqualified from having a CDL. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also does not allow for you to have a CDL in multiple states.

The state will also access your driving record for the past 10 years in every state you've held a driver's license.

Depending on which state you live in, you will need to undergo various knowledge and skills test which meet the minimum federal standards.

For more information, visit the FMCSA website.

Drunk Driving Laws

If you are driving a commercial vehicle, you will be charged with driving under the influence if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04% or higher. Your CDL may be disqualified and you may also lose your non-commercial driving privileges.

Notifying Your Employer of Convictions

If you receive a traffic violation conviction, federal law requires you notify your employer within 30 days of the conviction. This does not apply to parking violations.

If your CDL has been suspended, revoked, or canceled, you must notify your employer by the end of the following business day after receiving the disqualification.

When you are applying for a commercial vehicle operator, your potential employer will request your employment history for the previous 10 years. For more information, visit the FMCSA website.

CDL Disqualifications

Your CDL can be disqualified for:

  • Major offenses.
  • Serious traffic violations (second offense).
  • Railroad-highway grade crossing offenses.
  • Violating Out-of-Service orders.
  • Violating Implied Consent laws
  • Operating a CMV with a CDL from a decertified state

For a complete list of violations leading to CDL disqualifications, visit the FMCSA website.

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