As a commercial truck driver, you’re held to a relatively high standard when it comes to driving. Tickets can add points to your commercial driver’s license, and these points could eventually result in your CDL being revoked, effectively ending your career.
Getting a ticket as a truck driver, especially when it’s your first, is perhaps one of the most annoying and worrying situations you can find yourself it, even more so if you believe the ticket was issued faultily. Let’s take a look at what you should do before, during, and after you receive the ticket to reduce your stress and potentially save your license.
How To Deal With Your Ticket
- Make sure you always have your CDL in your possession when operating your truck. The last thing you want is to be charged for operating something you don’t have an endorsement for (at least from the officer’s perspective: if it’s not there, it doesn’t exist). This is a very serious offense, and one that can so easily be prevented.
- Make sure your CDL is not suspended or expired. Always have your permit book updated and organized with all needed documents and endorsements (such as for hazmat, etc.)
- Ensure your equipment is always within regulation, whether this is having weight properly distributed, having proper tie downs for flatbeds, etc.
- Most importantly, never speed, drive under the influence of any substance, or do anything that is otherwise illegal (obviously). It’s the only 100% way to prevent getting a ticket for a real violation. Of course everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but having less mistakes will show the judge that you are a safe, responsible driver who just had a bad day.
During the Stop
- NEVER ever, ever unbuckle your seatbelt before the officer can clearly see that you had it on! In fact, just keep it buckled altogether, you’re probably used to it enough by now anyways. The last thing you need is an officer who can add another thing to ticket you for.
- Obviously, be polite to the officer. Even if you feel the officer made a mistake, this is not the time or place to fight it. It certainly won’t help your case later if the officer was recording and you were cursing him out.
- After the officer pulls away, take detailed notes on the entire event from immediately before you were pulled over to the very end. You’ll need these notes later, especially if you feel the ticket was unjustified. Make note of specifically what the officer said you did wrong and what documentation he requested. While it might be hard, ensure this is as objective as possible: your attorney who will be representing you needs to know the whole story and nothing but the truth.
- Speaking of documents, never offer to show additional documents unless the officer specifically requests them.
- When asked if you know why you are being stopped, never saying anything that can be used as an admission of guilt. You don’t want another reason to get ticketed, especially if you were guessing why you got pulled over.
- Answer questions in the shortest and most honest form possible. Long, drawn out answers can lead to misspeaking and can subject you to probing for further violations.
- If the violation is in relation to your equipment, take detailed pictures, especially if you believe your equipment was fine, preferably with the officer present. The camera on your phone should work perfectly. This should help your case later.
After: Protect Your CDL!
- NEVER “just pay the ticket”, regardless of what the officer or some other law enforcement official says. That doesn’t help you or your license, even if you think it’ll put the ordeal behind you faster. Your CDL is your career.
- Do NOT plead guilty; you cannot have your charge “plead down”. (This is when accused of a crime, you plead guilty to make the process easy for the legal professionals, and, in exchange, you are given a lesser charge). Sometimes, if the police officer does not show up to court, the charge will be dismissed without hassle.
- Take the fight to court. It’ll be worth protecting your commercial driver’s license as that’s what brings the bread and butter home. The CDL is essentially your life, and like your life, you only have one!
- Protecting your CDL means always fighting a ticket, even if you deep-down know it was your fault that you were accidentally speeding down a hill. There are plenty of excellent legal teams out there, such as the American Truckers’ Legal Association and Drivers Legal Plan.
- Don’t just hand an attorney some money and your ticket and assume it will be taken care of. Make sure you choose someone to represent you that will keep open communication.
- If all else fails, ask for a trial de novo (a “new trial” by a different tribunal) to review the case again.
What Can I Get a Truck Driver Ticket For?
According to DMV, these are major infractions:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI)
- Driving under the influence of a controlled substance
- Fleeing the scene of an accident
- Causing a fatality due to negligent driving
- Refusing an alcohol test
- Having a blood alcohol content higher than the state limit (state laws vary, and your charge will depend on the state in which you are ticketed, not the state in which you have your CDL)
- Using the vehicle to commit a felony
- Using the vehicle in manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance
- Driving while your CDL is suspended, revoked, or cancelled.
Other traffic offenses include:
- Following too closely
- Speeding 15 miles per hour or more above the posted speed limit
- Improper lane changes
- Operating a CMV (commercial motor vehicle) without a CDL in your possession
- Careless driving
- Driving a rig without proper endorsement. According to DMV.org, HAZMAT drivers are held to even stricter standards than regular truck drivers and the penalties are magnified.
What Happens If I Get a Ticket?
Conviction can result in suspension or revocation of your CDL. Once (if) you are allowed to resume driving, license reinstatement fees are expensive. Chances are, you’ll be able to reduce your charges somewhat, if your infraction was minor.
Getting tickets also puts points on your license and eventually lead to loss of driving privileges as well as temporary or permanent job loss, higher insurance rates, fines, and possible jail time (dependent on the nature of the violation).
Even if a single ticket isn’t a major infraction, these points add up. Because this is handled state-by-state, you should consult your CDL manual to see what the specifics are regarding points and violation penalties.
Hopefully, you will never have to deal with receiving a ticket, but if you do, follow these tips to keep your license and stay on the road.