Commercial Driver's Licenses in New Jersey--Getting Them and Losing Them

New Jersey statutes relating to the Commercial Driver's License begin at N.J.S. 39:3-10.9. The New Jersey Legislature adopted these statutes in response to the federal Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, 49 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq., and federal regulations that followed. New Jersey first adopted its statutes in 1990.

The New Jersey Commercial Driver's License is typically referred to as a “CDL.” Three different classes of CDL's exist in New Jersey. They are (very imaginatively) designated Class A, Class B, and Class C. A page on the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission web site explains these classes. In addition, separate requirements must be met to obtain any one of six different CDL endorsements. A different page on the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission web site explains endorsement requirements. Persons seeking a New Jersey CDL should download and familiarize themselves with the New Jersey Commercial Driver License Manual.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (“MVC”) can revoke or suspend a CDL through administrative action for any Title 39 motor vehicle violation. The MVC may also suspend the CDL for any other ground it deems reasonable. A court must suspend a CDL after the first conviction for certain motor vehicle offenses committed while driving a commercial vehicle. These mandatory suspension offenses include drunk driving, and refusal to submit to a breath test.

New Jersey statutes concerning the commercial driver's license contain a laundry list of situations for which the MVC will suspend a CDL. The table that follows lists suspension periods that correspond to the various violations. The information in this table, however, is only a synopsis of the statutes themselves. The statutes themselves provide more complete information.

Events Causing Suspension of CDL Driving Privileges in New Jersey
Statute Description of Event Length of Suspension
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20a(1) DUI (N.J.S. 39:4-50) in a commercial vehicle 1 to 3 years
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20a(2) Leaving the scene of an accident, N.J.S. 39:4-129, in a commercial vehicle 1 to 3 years
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20a(3) Using a commercial vehicle in the commission of any crime 1 to 3 years
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20a(4) Refusal to take a breath test, N.J.S. 39:4-50.2, in a commercial vehicle 1 to 3 years
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20a(5) Operating a commercial vehicle during period tdat CDL or driver's license refused, or not valid 1 to 3 years
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20a(6) Committing a traffic violation that results in a fatal accident 1 to 3 years
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20b Any of the offenses listed in N.J.S. 39:3-10.20a (just above) while transporting hazardous material, or while in a vehicle displaying a hazardous materials placard 3 years
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20c Any second offense involving any of tde offenses listed in N.J.S. 39:3-10.20a (above), or N.J.S. 39:3-10.20j (below) Life, but with possibility of shortening to ten years, under N.J.S. 39:3-10.20d
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20e Use of any vehicle in connection with the commission of various specified drug offenses Life
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20f(1) Multiple serious traffic violations 60 days or more, if second violation within 3 years; 120 days if third or more within 3 years
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20f(2) Any of various violations relating to operation of motor vehicles at railroad crossings. The actual statute lists the specific violations included. 60 days or more; 120 days or more if second offense within three years; 1 year or more if third offense within 3 years
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20f(3) Violation of an out-of-service order when not carrying hazardous materials 180 days to one year; 2 to 5 years if second offense within 10 years; 3 to 5 years if third offense within 10 years
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20f(4) Violation of an out-of-service order when carrying hazardous materials, or if committed in a vehicle designed to carry 16 or more passengers, including the driver 180 days to 2 years first offense; 3 to 5 years if second or subsequent offense within 10 years
N.J.S. 39:3-10.20j Non-commercial vehicle conviction of: Driving while intoxicated (DWI), N.J.S. 39:4-50; or leaving the scene of an accident, N.J.S. 39:4-129; or refusal to take a breath test, N.J.S. 39:50.2; or using a motor vehicle in the commission of a crime 1 year

N.J.S. 39:3-10.20f(1), above, makes reference to “serious traffic violations.” N.J.S. 39:3-10.11 defines what constitutes a serious traffic violation. These violations are considered serious traffic violations only if committed while operating a commercial motor vehicle. The violations are:

  • Exceeding the speed limit by 15 or more miles per hour;
  • Reckless driving;
  • Improper or erratic lane changes;
  • Following too closely (“tailgating”);
  • Any moving violation committed in connection with a fatal accident;
  • Any other violation determined by the federal Department of Transportation to be “serious”;
  • Driving a commercial vehicle without a commercial driver's license in possession;
  • Driving a commercial vehicle while not having the proper CDL endorsement for the type of vehicle being driven.

A driver operating a commercial motor vehicle can be convicted under N.J.S. 39:3-10.13 for drunk driving, DUI or DWI, with a blood alcohol concentration as low as .04%. This is one-half the alcohol concentration required to support a DUI conviction in the case of a driver operating a non-commercial vehicle. And the penalties faced by the holder of a CDL for DUI while operating a commercial motor vehicle are substantially greater than those for DUI by a non-CDL holder operating a non-commercial vehicle. For example, the minimum drunk driving CDL license suspension for a first offense is one year, whereas it can be as little as three months under the regular drunk driving statute.

A CDL holder can sometimes be subjected to double penalties for a single DUI conviction. Under certain circumstances the CDL holder would be required to pay the fines and penalties and suffer the loss of their personal driver's license for violating N.J.S. 39:4-50, the drunk driving statute applicable to everyone; and also have to pay the fines and penalties and suffer the loss of their commercial driver's license for violating N.J.S. 39:3-10.13. A CDL holder operating a commercial vehicle is exposed to similar double punishments on conviction for refusal to submit to a breath test. The same double punishments apply if a CDL holder driving a commercial vehicle is convicted for leaving the scene of an accident. The law requires a lifetime CDL loss if a commercial vehicle operator has a second DUI conviction or a second refusal conviction, or a second conviction for leaving the scene of an accident, regardless of whether the accident involved death, or just property damage.

Operating a commercial motor vehicle while one's CDL is suspended or revoked carries significant penalties. The same applies to operating a commercial motor vehicle with a CDL that lacks a required endorsement. These penalties may include a fine of up to $5,000.00 and a 90 day jail term. The jail term and fine both become mandatory if while operating a commercial vehicle a driver with a suspended CDL is involved in an accident in which another person suffers bodily injury.

Allan Marain and Norman Epting, Jr. are New Jersey driver's license lawyers. They have been successfully handling criminal and motor vehicle matters for a combined total of over sixty-five years. They are available to provide skilled representation for your CDL situation. If your CDL is in jeopardy, call them. They can help.

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