Can You Lose Your CDL for an Accident?

A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is a requirement for many shipping and transportation jobs in the United States. For example, every truck driver in the country must obtain a CDL to perform truck driving duties for work. Since CDL holders must complete specialized job training and operate some of the most dangerous vehicles on the road for work, they must hold to a higher standard of care than other drivers on the road.

CDL drivers that fail to uphold their professional standard of care behind the wheel can experience severe professional consequences if they cause truck accidents and harm other drivers. Tractor-trailers and large commercial trucks are much larger than most other vehicles on the roads and can easily cause devastating injuries and substantial property losses. When a CDL driver causes an accident, the circumstances of the accident dictate whether they will lose their CDL and, consequently, their job.

How Long Does an Accident Stay on Your CDL?

Whenever any driver causes an accident, the record of the accident remains attached to their driver’s license for a certain amount of time. In the event a CDL driver causes an accident, the record of the accident remains on their record for three years. However, depending on how the accident occurred, the CDL driver could lose their license entirely.

What Happens If a CDL Driver Gets in an Accident?

When a CDL driver has an accident, the subsequent investigation will proceed along similar lines to any other type of vehicle accident. The police who respond to the scene of the crash will gather physical evidence and take statements from the CDL driver and other drivers involved. Any accident involving a CDL driver operating a commercial vehicle will likely lead to investigations from relevant insurance companies as well.

These investigations aim to determine the main cause of the accident and the responsible parties. If the investigations determine the CDL driver was not at fault, the driver will still carry the record of the accident on their CDL. However, they will likely remain legally able to continue driving professionally. If the CDL is found responsible for the accident, they could face significant legal penalties and may even lose their CDL.

Can You Get a CDL With a Bad Driving Record?

Anyone who applies for a CDL will likely face a ten-year background check. Applying for a CDL generally requires as clean of a driving record as possible. While a driver with a spotty record can obtain a CDL, their past bad driving will significantly limit their job prospects. Modern trucking companies aim to minimize risk when hiring new drivers, so any company is highly likely to refrain from hiring a driver with a bad record.

In the event a trucking company or other organization hires a driver with a bad record or fails to conduct an adequate background check on a driver, it is very likely the employer will incur vicarious liability if the driver causes an accident in the future. The legal term “vicarious liability” refers to any situation in which one party absorbs liability for the actions of another party. If a company hired a driver without performing an appropriate driving record check, they could be responsible. Vicarious liability will almost certainly come into play if the driver causes an accident due to lack of experience or negligence.

What Can Cause You to Lose Your CDL?

CDL drivers may cause accidents due to honest mistakes. When they cause accidents due to clear negligence, they will likely lose their CDLs and find themselves unable to secure employment as professional drivers in the future. Some of the actions that can cause a CDL driver to lose their CDL include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, including prescription medications if they have the chance of causing disruptive side effects like sleepiness, disorientation, or confusion.
  • Driving at excessive speeds, typically 15 miles per hour or more over the speed limit.
  • Leaving the scene of an accident too soon, or actively fleeing the scene of an accident the CDL driver caused, which is also known as “hit and run.”
  • Using a commercial vehicle to commit a crime.
  • Using a commercial vehicle to intentionally harm another driver.

These are only a few examples of how a CDL driver could lose their CDL.

If You Lose Your CDL Due to an Accident, Can You Get it Back?

When a CDL driver causes an accident, or if they commit serious violations while using their CDL, they may have their CDL suspended for a period of 60 days or more. During this period, they will be unable to use their CDL or operate commercial vehicles. Under federal law, three serious violations within the span of three years will result in a 120-day minimum suspension of the driver’s CDL. Some states uphold additional restrictions for CDL offenses.

In the event a CDL driver commits a major offense such as causing an accident while under the influence of alcohol, their CDL will likely be revoked entirely. Some states allow CDL drivers who have had their CDLs revoked to apply for reinstatement after ten years. A second major offense can lead to permanent disqualification from holding a CDL ever again.

Determining Liability for a Truck Accident

Truck accidents involving tractor-trailers, commercial delivery trucks, and other large vehicles are not only significantly more dangerous than accidents involving smaller vehicles, but they are also more difficult to manage from a legal perspective. The concept of vicarious liability often comes into play in truck accident cases, and determining liability for such a case can take quite a long time. Some of the parties that may be held liable for a truck accident include:

  • The truck driver. In the event an investigation finds a CDL driver completely at fault for causing a truck accident, it is very likely they will not only absorb full liability for the resulting damages but also lose their CDL, possibly permanently.
  • The trucking company or driver’s employer. Vicarious liability can come into play if an investigation determines a truck driver’s employer did not follow proper procedures or violated industry regulations in the hiring, training, and assigning jobs to the driver.
  • A maintenance company. If a third party is responsible for the care and maintenance of a truck and a mechanical failure causes a truck accident, the party responsible for truck maintenance will absorb liability for the incident.
  • Third parties. It is not uncommon for private drivers to cause truck accidents when they drive aggressively, drive under the influence, or commit moving violations near large commercial trucks.

These are just a few examples to demonstrate how challenging it can be to clearly determine liability for a commercial truck accident. Ultimately, if an investigation into an accident reveals that the truck driver is in any way at fault for causing it, the driver will likely face CDL suspension. They could even face total revocation of their CDL.

If you or a loved one recently experienced injuries and economic losses from a truck accident, hiring a Palm Desert truck accident attorney is one of the best ways to protect your legal interests and secure compensation for your losses. The Law Offices of Susan Handel has successfully represented many clients facing difficult truck accident cases throughout the Palm Desert area, and we know how to approach these challenging cases. Contact us today for more information about the legal services our firm can provide to you and your family after a truck accident.