In order to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) such as a truck, you need to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). A potential CDL disqualification is a big issue for any company driver, so it’s extremely important to know the limits of the law and stay within them.

What’s even more important – all of these rules were set in place in order to maximize road safety, so, by following them, you are also keeping yourself and other motorists safe. In this article, we tried to summarize all the offenses that could lead to a commercial driver losing their license, in hopes of educating newcomers to the industry and keeping the roads safe for everyone.

Understanding CDL Disqualifications

CDL disqualifications come as a consequence of committing driving offenses. These can be categorized as major or serious offenses. How harsh the penalty will be, depends on the type of offense, as well as the driver’s previous offense record.

What are Major CDL Disqualifying Offenses?

Major offenses have harsher penalties, with a minimum of 1-year CDL suspension. This means the driver can lose their license for an even longer period.


Driving under the Influence of Alcohol

Drinking and driving is extremely irresponsible, and it is rightly penalized with strict measures. If you get pulled over and your blood alcohol concentration is .04% or more, your license will be suspended.

Cdl Disqualification Driving Under The Influence Of AlcoholSource: Freepik

Refusing to Take an Alcohol Test

If you are driving under the influence of alcohol, you can’t get away with it by refusing to take a test. Drivers who are not willing to take the test are assumed to be under the influence, so they will get their license suspended as well.


Driving under the Influence of Drugs

Driving under the influence of illegal drugs will result in losing the CDL. Marijuana is among these substances, even though is legal in some states. Once again, using these substances while on duty is very irresponsible, so potential penalties are the least of your reasons to avoid them. If you are using a controlled substance prescribed by a doctor, be sure to disclose this to both your employer and the doctor.

Driving Under The Influence Of DrugsSource: Freepik


Leaving a Scene of Accident

If a CMV driver is involved in an accident, he is required to wait for law enforcement to arrive. Leaving the scene before getting permission from the police will cause the driver to lose their license.


Committing a Felony

Committing a felony will get you to lose your CDL, even if the felony accrued in a non-commercial vehicle. Your license will be suspended for at least a year, given that this is your first major offense. If it’s not, you might get a lifetime ban. Of course, committing a felony will also affect other aspects of your life, but we are focusing only on the problems regarding your CDL.

Committing A FelonySource: Freepik


Driving with a Suspended License

If your CDL license is already suspended, getting caught driving again is obviously going to make the problem even bigger. The new penalty will be harsher, and you will lose the license for more than the minimum of one year.


Transportation of Illegal Substances

Any use of a commercial vehicle for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing illegal substances will get the driver a lifetime CDL disqualification. And, since trucking involves crossing state lines, it might also get them in prison.

What Are Serious CDL Disqualifying Offenses?

Serious offenses are traffic violations that require a minimum disqualification of 60 days. Still, repeated serious offenses will get you harsher penalties, as will driving while your license is suspended on the grounds of a serious offense. Also, when hiring an OTR driver, a recruiter will check your moving violation history, so it might compromise your chances of getting the job you want.


Excessive Speeding

Driving 15 mph or more above the speed limit constitutes a serious offense. It will only affect a driver’s CDL if the speeding was committed while driving a CMV. Regardless of the penalty, going over the speed limit is a big safety hazard, and we at Extra Mile use every chance to advocate against it.

Cdl Disqualification Excessive SpeedingSource: Adobe Stock


Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is defined as driving with no regard for consequences or the safety of others. A reckless driver will get a CDL disqualification for 60 days, and in some states, they might be taken into custody.


Improper Traffic Lane Changes

Erratic lane changes are counted as a serious offense because they are a potential safety hazard. Some forms of improper lane changes are changing a lane without signaling, weaving between traffic, passing in lanes prohibited for commercial vehicles, etc.

Improper Traffic Lane ChangesSource: Freepik

Driving a CMV without a CDL

Driving a commercial vehicle without a CDL is a serious offense, and will not only suspend your license but also get you major fines.


Texting and Driving

This is yet another practice that is a big safety hazard, and we strongly discourage it. Getting caught texting while driving a truck is a serious offense, as is talking on the phone while driving. A general driving tip is to only use your phone in hands-free mode, and even this should be kept to a minimum.

Cdl Disqualification Texting And DrivingSource: Adobe Stock

What are the Period of Disqualification and Out-of-Service Violations?

Many violations won’t get you a permanent disqualification. The period of disqualification can be 60 days in case of 2 serious violations that occurred in different incidents over a period of three years. In case you make 3 serious violations on different incidents over a period of three years, you can get your privileges reinstated after 120 days.


A CMV driver can get disqualified for violations committed while driving a non-commercial vehicle if their license was suspended. These out-of-service violations, if repeated, can lead to disqualifications of up to 5 years.

We cannot stress enough that the rules which lead to CDL disqualification are meant to keep everyone on the road safe. This is definitely the biggest reason that you should abide by them. Having your license suspended will also put your business at risk if you’re an owner operator, so be sure to be familiar with the rules and follow them. For more tips, follow us on our YouTube channel Extra Mile International Inc Trucking Company, and visit our Instagram profile @extramiletx.

Fleet Manager & Recruiter at Extra Mile International | + posts

Mia is a Fleet Manager and Recruiter at Extra Mile International, based in Chicago. Mia is over 5 years in the trucking industry while driving trucks for more than 3 years.