Suspended CDL in Tennessee

Commercial Driver License (CDL) Suspension in Tennessee

Both state and federal laws regulate commercial motor vehicle operators, and Tennessee leans heavily on federal regulations.

The Tennessee Department of Safety (DOS) can suspend or disqualify your commercial driver's license (CDL) for the following reasons.

  • Serious traffic violations and major offenses (explained below).
  • Railroad-highway grade crossing (RRHGC) offenses while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
  • Violating out-of-service orders (OOSO) while operating a CMV.

Because you cannot legally operate a commercial vehicle with a suspended commercial driver's license, it's important to reinstate your Tennessee CDL as soon as possible.

See below for information on disqualifying offenses, penalties, and reinstatement options.

About Your Suspended CDL in TN

As mentioned above, the TN DOS mostly relies on federal regulations for commercial drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets forth these regulations.

Read below for the specific penalties based on the type of offense.

NOTE: You are required to notify your employer within 30 days of any traffic conviction. You must also notify them within 2 business days if your license is suspended, revoked, or cancelled. Lastly, you must submit all information on driving jobs you've had in the past 10 years; you'll also need to do this when applying for a commercial driving job.

Major Offenses

Under state and federal laws, major offenses include:

  • Alcohol- and drug-related offenses, such as:
    • Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04%.
    • Refusing a breath or blood test (violating implied consent laws).
  • Leaving an accident scene.
  • Using the commercial vehicle to commit a felony.
    • This includes the manufacturing and distributing of a controlled substance.
  • Negligent CMV operation causing a death.
  • Operating a commercial motor vehicle while you have a disqualified, suspended, or revoked commercial driver's license.*

Whether operating a CMV or non-CMV, major offenses bring the following penalties:

  • 1st violation: CDL disqualification for 1 year.
    • 3 years if transporting hazardous materials.
  • 2nd violation: CDL disqualification for life.
    • Possible reinstatement after 10 years.

* If you drive without a valid CDL, you may be subject to steep penalties – possible fines of up to $5,000, and even jail time imposed by the court. Employers who allow or require drivers to drive a CMV without a valid CDL may also face fines or jail time.

Serious Traffic Violations

Per state and federal law, serious traffic violations include:

  • Reckless driving or excessive speeding.
  • Improper lane changes.
  • Driving too closely behind other vehicles.
  • Violating any motor vehicle traffic control law that results in a fatal accident.
  • Operating a CMV without a CDL or a commercial endorsement.

You will serve the following penalties consecutively:

  • 1st violation: No disqualification.
  • 2nd violation within 3 years: CDL disqualification for 60 days.
  • 3rd violation or any subsequent violations within 3 years: CDL disqualification for 120 days.

Serious violations committed while driving in a non-commercial vehicle are not included UNLESS the violation leads to the suspension, revocation, or cancellation of your TN driver's license or regular (non-commercial) driving privileges.

RRHGC Violations

RRHGC, or Railroad Highway Grade Crossing violations, refers to offenses involving improper crossing of a railroad in a commercial vehicle.

Examples of such violations include:

  • Failing to slow down and check that the tracks are clear.
  • Failing to stop when required.
  • Driving across the tracks when there isn't sufficient space for the commercial vehicle.

RRHGC violations will result in suspension of your TN commercial driver's license for varying lengths of time, depending on how many offenses you've had:

  • 1st violation: Minimum of 60 days.
  • 2nd violation (within 3 years: Minimum of 120 days.
  • 3rd violation (within 3 years): At least 1 year.

OOSO Violations

OOSO violations, or Out-of-Service Orders violations, are divided into Category 1 and Category 2 offenses.

Category 1 includes violations related to hazardous materials and vehicles designed to transport at least 16 passengers. The length of time your CDL is disqualified will be based on the number of offense:

  • 1st violation: Between 180 days and 2 years.
  • 2nd violation or any subsequent violations within 10 years: 3-5 years.

Category 2 includes violations by drivers NOT in Category 1. The amount of time your CDL will be disqualified is determined by the number of offense:

  • 1st violation: Between 180 days and 1 year.
  • 2nd violation within 10 years: 2-5 years.
  • 3rd violation or any subsequent violations: 3-5 years.

OOSO violations can also come with civil financial penalties:

  • 1st violation: Minimum $2,500 fine.
  • 2nd violation: Minimum $5,000 fine.

For more detailed information on CDL penalties, you can refer to:

Check Your Driver License Status

Are you worried about the status of your license, or looking for information regarding your driving history?

You can order a copy of your Tennessee driving record to get the details of your history of driving in TN. You'll find information such as:

  • Your driver license status, including whether your CDL is suspended or disqualified.
  • Information about:
    • General traffic tickets, e.g., speeding tickets.
    • Serious traffic violations, e.g., DUI or DWI.

DUI CDL Suspensions in Tennessee

State and federal laws impose harsh penalties for DUI (driving under the influence) offenses by commercial vehicle drivers.

CDL DUI offenses are considered major offenses and include:

  • Operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or more.
  • Operating a CMV under the influence of a controlled substance.
  • Refusing TN's implied consent law (i.e., refusing a blood or chemical alcohol test).

As with any other major offense, if you commit any of the above violations, even in a non-commercial vehicle, you face CDL suspension:

  • 1st violation: 1 year.
    • 3 years if transporting hazardous materials.
  • 2nd violation: Lifetime disqualification.
    • Possible reinstatement after 10 years.

Head to our Tennessee DUI page for more information about DUI penalties in the state.

Reinstate Your Tennessee CDL License

Generally, CDL reinstatement in Tennessee requires:

  • Waiting until your suspension or disqualification period has expired.
  • Meeting all special requirements, such as alcohol or substance abuse counseling.
  • Paying all related fines and other costs, including your reinstatement fee.

For information more specific to your CDL suspension or disqualification, contact your local TN DOS office.

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