I HAVE A COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S LICENSE IN TEXAS
Can I still work?
We make a living by what we get,
But we make a life by what we give.
In recent years, the Federal Government has taken steps to ensure uniform requirements for Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) throughout the United States. By threatening to withhold federal highway money from the States, the Federal Government is forcing the States to pass new laws or amend current laws to toughen penalties for commercial drivers. Texas has conceded to this pressure and amended Texas’s laws concerning commercial drivers to be almost identical to the federal regulations. There are also some portions that are even more restrictive.
Under these new laws, even if your charge is dismissed with payment of court costs or you receive a deferred sentence resulting in no conviction, the charge will be counted as a conviction for purposes of your CDL. Also, if you enter a guilty plea or a no contest plea, the charge will be counted as a conviction for purposes of your CDL.
So, if you get a conviction for DWI in Texas or in another state, who is going to tell your boss? The law says you do. Under the Federal Regulations, you have thirty days to report your conviction to your employer and the Department of Public Safety from the day you are convicted. In Texas, you have seven days to report this conviction to both your boss and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The Texas Department of Public Safety will also suspend your CDL for a period of one year if you are operating a commercial vehicle with a blood or breath alcohol level of .04 or more. If you refuse to take a chemical test while operating a commercial vehicle, your CDL will also be suspended for one year.
Your CDL will be suspended if you are operating any motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substances or combination thereof. This means if you are driving your personal vehicle and receive a DWI, the State will suspend your CDL for one year.
If you are driving a commercial vehicle which requires a placard for hazardous material and your CDL is suspended for the reasons outlined in the previous two paragraphs, the suspension period is increased to three years. If it is your second conviction for DWI, your CDL will be banned for life.
The Texas Department of Public Safety will suspend your Commercial Driver’s License in Texas for 60 days if you receive a second conviction within a three year period for a serious traffic offense while operating a commercial vehicle. If it is your third conviction within a three year period, the suspension will be for 120 days and is consecutive to any other suspensions for serious traffic offenses.
A serious traffic offense includes speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, erratic or unsafe lane changes, following too close, and not possessing your CDL or proper endorsements. These violations must have occurred in a commercial vehicle.
Once you receive notice that your commercial license is disqualified, you have until the end of that business day to tell your boss about it. Texas laws make it illegal for your employer to have you drive a commercial motor vehicle with a disqualified commercial license. Thus, legislators make it illegal for you not to notify your employer.
You are thinking “no big deal, it’s my first one so I can get an occupational license.” Not true. Texas only provides for occupational licenses for Class C (operator’s) driving privileges. There is no statutory or legal avenue to get your CDL in Texas. If you are convicted of DWI and have a CDL, you will not be able to work for one year or perhaps your lifetime if your job requires a CDL.
One last point of distinction, even though your CDL is banned for a year or life, the operator’s or Class C portion of your license will only be suspended for the same amount of time as a person without a CDL. If the suspension of your Class C portion is 180 days, it can be modified to allow you to drive your non-commercial vehicle with an ignition interlock device installed for the 180 days. Only then can you have your Class C privileges reinstated for the remainder of the year that your CDL is disqualified.
As you can see, your livelihood is at stake. A conviction for DWI can have a lifetime effect on your ability to make a living. Most lawyers do not understand the complexities of the requirements for a CDL, so it is important to speak with skilled lawyers who understand them.
Hope is not lost, however. A skilled DWI attorney can challenge the revocation and criminal case resulting in the prevention of a conviction and license loss.