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Commercial Drivers license can I get one after a DUI?

Recently on our DUI forum a user asked, “I have never driven an 18 wheeler truck, but I think I might be interested in getting my commercial drivers license and giving it a try. One problem- I got a DUI a few years back. Will this eliminate my right to drive a truck?”

Who regulates commercial drivers license laws?

Headquartered in Washington, DC, and established as a separate administrative arm within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on January 1, 2000, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is dedicated to “improving the safety of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) and saving lives.” To accomplish this goal, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration institutes policies and regulations which they hope will “lower the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.” When investigating whether you will be able to operate a commercial vehicle it’s important to understand the FMCSA and the current laws and regulations for operating a truck. Because bus drivers, truck drivers, and other professionals with a commercial driver's license (CDL) are held to a higher standard than non-commercial drivers, the rules that apply to a standard license will be different than those which apply to a commercial drivers license CDL.

Rules which apply to commercial drivers license

Due to the increased risk of operating a commercial vehicle, commercial drivers have increased requirements which do not apply to other drivers. Specifically, commercial drivers:
  • Must not operate a commercial vehicle within four hours of using alcohol
  • Must submit to random alcohol testing (i.e. after an accident or if there is reasonable suspicion)
  • Must not operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 or higher (as opposed to 0.08% for other drivers)

Commercial drivers will also receive:

  • Harsher penalties for refusing to submit to chemical test after DUI arrest
  • Longer license suspensions for DUI
Drivers must also notify their employers of violations within 30 days from the date of the charge (including personal car violations). And if their license is suspended for DUI they are barred from operating a commercial vehicle.

Getting Commercial Drivers License (CDL) after DUI conviction

Now, back to the driver’s question. As mentioned above, control and the rules regarding the issuance for a commercial drivers license (CDL) is highly regulated by the federal government as outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs). According to the revised code, if you have been charged with one DUI (in a private or commercial vehicle) this charge will generally result in a one year disqualification. After the one year suspension, however, you should be able to regain your commercial drivers license. Commercial drivers who are arrested a second time for DUI, however, will have their CDL banned for life and will not be able to reinstate their commercial drivers license.

Applying for a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)

If you want to apply for a commercial drivers license in your state you will need to contact the Division of Motor Vehicles (or the equivalent office in your state) and find out the requirements. For example, in the state of Texas, you need to contact the Department of Public Safety and fill out an application. You will have to provide a variety of documents, pass the vision test, pass the knowledge and skills tests, pay the required fees, and pass the driving test. Recent articles: Felony DUI or misdemeanor what are the charges?