Traffic Violations and Your CDL: How Legal Insurance Can Help

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If your livelihood depends on maintaining a clean driving record, even a seemingly minor traffic violation can set you back, causing a loss of both money and time. Even if you’ve been a professional driver for years and do all you can to avoid trouble on the road, you may still be faced with legal issues from time to time. Additionally, commercial drivers are held to higher standards when operating any type of vehicle and are more likely to be cited than the average non-commercial driver.

There’s good news, though: A legal insurance plan can help keep you behind the wheel with a range of features that protect your CDL. 

At U.S. Legal Services, our comprehensive CDL Defender™ legal insurance plan offers commercial drivers these benefits and many more:

  • Defense against citations: Whether you have been improperly cited for an ELD issue or need to ensure that a proper data review request is made on your behalf, your U.S. Legal Services legal insurance plan provides assistance in defending against citations.
  • Representation from local attorneys: Experienced commercial drivers are well aware that every time they cross a state line, a new set of laws and regulations may be in effect. When you’ve been cited, having an attorney who is familiar with the laws that govern the state in which your traffic violation occurred can be a significant advantage. U.S. Legal Services has developed a broad network of experienced attorneys that gives our plan members quick access to legal representation nationwide.
  • Assistance with DataQs challenges: Our legal insurance plan coverage includes expert assistance that helps keep points off of drivers’ records. With FMCSA policies allowing for violations to be removed from the MCMIS in the event of a positive courtroom outcome, we help members submit Requests for Data Review (RDRs) via the DataQs system to ensure a driver’s record is accurate.
  • Full coverage of attorneys’ fees: For both moving and non-moving violations, U.S. Legal Services pays 100 percent of all attorneys’ fees.
  • Personal driving coverage: Our CDL Defender™ plan not only covers you while you’re on the job—it also provides coverage when you or your spouse is in your personal vehicle.
  • Additional coverage: Your CDL Defender™ legal insurance plan goes beyond your time on the road, including a range of valuable features and additional coverage, such as financial coaching and discounts on legal services for personal matters.
  • Identity theft protection: When you spend long stretches of time away from home, you may not be aware of fraudulent credit card charges or identity theft until a great deal of damage has been done. The CDL Defender™ includes coverage for identity theft occurrences, with expert Fraud Resolution Specialists standing by to assist you in resolving problems and restoring your good credit.

Traffic Violation FAQ

Our customer service team often fields questions from CDL Defender™ plan members, particularly those who are new to commercial driving or to our legal insurance benefits plans. These are some of the most frequently asked questions about traffic violations and CDLs, as well as questions about the CDL Defender™:

Will a ticket affect my CDL?

Similar to when you are ticketed for a traffic violation in your personal vehicle and earn points against your driving record, points will be assessed for violations committed in a commercial vehicle. Here’s an example of how many points may be assessed for violations:

  • Excessive speeding: three points
  • Following too closely: two points
  • Improper lane change: two points
  • Driving while CDL disqualified: two points
  • Failure or improper signal: two points

In addition, the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) tracks safety violations and assigns them a severity weight (or “points”). These are added to the score for the fleet to which the commercial vehicle belongs. Some of the violations for which points will be assessed include:

  • Operating a commercial vehicle while texting
  • Failure to obey traffic control device
  • Failing to dim headlamps when required
  • Inattentive driving
  • Lane restriction violation
  • Failure to maintain lane
  • Improper passing
  • Using or equipping a commercial vehicle with radar detector

Note that each state has its own laws, ordinances and regulations that commercial motor vehicle drivers must obey, regardless of where the vehicle is registered. This relates to an important advantage of CDL Defender™ plan coverage: When you are cited for a traffic violation, you have access to one of our network attorneys who works where the infraction occurred. He or she will be familiar with the laws in that jurisdiction.

What can cause you to lose your CDL?

There are a number of serious offenses that may cause a commercial driver to face license suspension or license revocation, including:

  • Operating a commercial vehicle while under the influence of drugs or while intoxicated: Depending upon the state in which the offense was committed and whether there were prior similar offenses, commercial drivers may have their licenses suspended for a defined period or revoked.
  • Fleeing the scene of an accident: This offense may result in a driver being permanently disqualified from having a CDL.
  • Causing a fatality due to negligence: Due to their size and weight, nearly all commercial vehicles are more likely to cause a fatality than a smaller passenger vehicle. If a commercial driver causes a fatal accident and is proven to have been negligent, the driver may face not only license revocation, but also criminal charges and/or a lawsuit. 
  • Using a commercial vehicle in the commission of a felony: If a driver’s vehicle is used to commit a felony, such as distributing narcotics, the driver may be disqualified from holding a CDL for life.

Other violations that can impact a driver’s ability to maintain qualifications for a CDL include:

  • Reckless driving
  • Improper or erratic lane changes
  • Following too closely
  • Driving 15 miles per hour or more above the posted speed limit
  • Driving a commercial vehicle without having a CDL in the driver’s possession
  • Driving a commercial vehicle without the proper CDL for that specific vehicle type

Do non-moving violations affect a CDL?

Although the consequences are not as severe as they may be with serious offenses such as operating a commercial vehicle while intoxicated, non-moving violations can have an adverse effect on a CDL. Being repeatedly cited for non-moving violations within a certain time period, for example, may result in losing your CDL. What may arguably be a more important consequence of non-moving violations is how they may influence decisions related to insurance and being hired by a new employer. A pattern of violations may result in not being able to obtain insurance for a commercial vehicle. 

Can I get a commercial driving job with points on my CDL?

The answer may depend on the trucking company you’re applying to, since hiring policies can vary. There are other variations as well, such as in the number of points assessed for speeding according to the number of miles per hour over the posted speed limit.

Generally, however, you can expect that a trucking company will have requirements such as these:

  • No reckless driving convictions within the last three years
  • No failed or refused alcohol or drug tests in the last three years
  • No more than three moving violations in the last year or no more than four in the last three years
  • No felony convictions within the last seven years
  • No violations for driving under the influence of drugs, driving while intoxicated, or open container within the last three years
  • No fraud or theft misdemeanors

How long can my CDL be suspended?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provides these guidelines for CDL disqualification:

  • First traffic violation: suspension of 60 to 120 days
  • Two or more violations within a period of three years: suspension of 90 days to five years
  • One or more violations of an out-of-service order with a period of 10 years: suspension of one year
  • A DUI, use of a commercial vehicle to commit a felony, or leaving the scene of an accident: suspension of three years

How can I sign up for CDL Defender™ from U.S. Legal Services?

Signing up is easy! Just complete the online CDL Defender™ new member enrollment form. You may apply even if you are not affiliated with a company. If you would simply like to learn more about this comprehensive coverage for commercial drivers or have questions, please call us at 800-356-LAWS. Our customer service representatives will be happy to help you.

How do I access CDL Defender™ benefits once I’m a member?

Members of all U.S. Legal Services legal insurance plans have fast, easy access to their benefits. Once you become a member, you will be able to use our convenient mobile app (for both iOS and Android) to search for an attorney, request assistance with a legal matter, access a legal document library, view your account information and ID number, and much more. You may also reach us at 800-356-LAWS.