A look at the car insurance mandatory disclosure regarding Vermont moving violations; inside the details

When a motorist is issued a traffic ticket, there are two major concerns; points on license, and, insurance consequences.  Although some may hope that since they live outside Vermont, their home state insurance adjuster may not pick up on the violation.  Although there have been instances of missed violations in the past, a recent look at consumer mandatory disclosures of insurance companies, tell a different story, one that may not be noticeable at first, but over time can lead to substantial financial penalties; the gradual rate increase.

Most insurance companies place drivers in “risk tiers”.  This determination is based on a variety of factors such as driving and accident history, location of residence, age and even credit history.  In the mandatory disclosures it is revealed that “at renewal we review your payment, claim, driving and policy change history to determine if we will adjust your risk tier.”  

Driver history checks however, do not only occur during renewal periods.  The mandatory disclosure further explains that “once we’ve determined your tier, we look at additional information to refine and finalize your rate.”  

This leaves open the possibility for insurance companies to check driving histories at different times during a policy period pursuant to their right to “refine” risk tiers, which they can use as a basis to increase rates.

A Right to Gradually Rise

Although it is clear from the disclosure that “rate[s] will generally change when you “move to a new location, have an accident [or] receive a violation…” what is not clear is exactly how much a motorist’s insurance rates will be impacted.

A closer look at the disclosure reveals that insurance companies may not raise rates significantly at first.  Instead, they reserve the right to “gradually increase rates over time”.  

Certainly there are benefits to gradual increases however, if the rate increase continues to rise, when does it actually stops rising? This is a question with no answer on the consumer disclosure.

Lives can be busy, hectic and sometimes chaotic.  Most of the time, we just want things to work, without us expending too much effort in understanding the details.  Although understandable, the value of understanding your rights as a consumer and the rights reserved by car insurance companies may come in handy if you are ever issued a Vermont moving violation.

Driving conduct that will result in a Vermont CDL suspension

There are two different ways in which an individual who holds a CDL can face suspension in Vermont based on driving a regular motor vehicle.

(1) operating, attempting to operate, or being in actual physical control of a commercial motor vehicle on a highway with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more or under the influence, as defined in section 1218 of this title;

(2) failure to stop for an accident that the trucker is involved in;

(3) using a motor vehicle in the commission of any offense under State or federal law that is punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.  This can be anything from transporting a small amount of drugs to firearms to unlicensed chemical waste;

(4) refusal to submit to a test to determine the operator’s alcohol concentration, when suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol;

(5) operating, attempting to operate, or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on a highway with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more or under the influence of intoxicating liquor or other substance;

(6) operating, attempting to operate, or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on a highway when the person is under the influence of any other drug or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug to a degree which renders the person incapable of driving safely.  This can include being under the influence of marijuana, which can be detected if a Vermont Drug Recognition Expert finds that the operator is impaired to the slightest degree;

(7) operating or attempting to operate a commercial motor vehicle while the license is revoked, suspended, cancelled, or disqualified;

(8) operating a commercial motor vehicle in a negligent manner resulting in a fatal injury.

Beyond the listed offense, there are also offense defined as “serious traffic offenses that can result in CDL suspensions if a trucker is convicted of two of them on separate occasions.  These offenses include:

1)  Careless and Negligent Operation of any motor vehicle (does not have to be a big rig-can be a personal vehicle);

2)  Gross (operating well beyond the normal standard of care) Negligent Operation of any motor vehicle;

3)  Excessive Speed (traveling 20 mph or more over the posted speed limit);

There are also specific 60 day disqualifications for trucker’s failing to adhere to railroad crossing signs, with enhanced punishments for every subsequent violation.

The basic fact of the matter, is that every alleged violation in the State of Vermont can pose significant hardships for those who rely on their CDL to make a living.  Thus is it important to challenge each violation so as to minimize the damage it can cause in both the short and long term.

The difference between a Vermont CDL ticket and administrative hearing

Many equate a CDL ticket hearing in the State of Vermont to be the same as requesting an administrative hearing through the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.  However, this common misconception can cause serious problems if one is facing a Vermont CDL ticket that may have a serious impact on a trucker keeping their CDL license.

What is a CDL ticket hearing?  A CDL ticket hearing is the initial procedure in which a trucker who is accused of a traffic infraction or a violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations.  This hearing, administered through the Vermont Judicial Bureau is where evidence can be presented to refute the allegation and is a trucker’s best opportunity to eliminate or minimize their exposure.  This hearing allows for witnesses to be called, for video evidence to be presented and for all parties to testify under oath as to the circumstances of the stop.  Although the rules of evidence or relaxed in these hearings, there are still certain requirements that must be met for evidence to be considered by the Vermont Assistant Judge who presides over the case.

What is a CDL Administrative Hearing?  A CDL administrative hearing is a process afforded by the Vermont DMV to confirm that the convictions on a trucker’s CDL license are in fact what they purport to be.  This hearing, which is customarily held over the telephone allows a trucker to present evidence to support that the conviction record is wrong, but does not allow a trucker to contest previous tickets that have already been adjudicated, either through the payment of the fine, or through the CDL ticket hearing as described above.  Although an administrative hearing can stay the execution of a CDL suspension, the chances of prevailing in these hearings is sufficiently less than during a CDL ticket hearing.

There are numerous avenues to challenge your Vermont CDL ticket.  However, knowing where your best opportunity is and how to leverage this in order to reach a favorable resolution can ensure that truckers are able to stay on the road even when their driving record is less than ideal.