Beware! your CDL could be in jeopardy even when not driving your truck

There are clear cut rules enumerated in Title 23 of the Vermont Statutes that state that operators of trucks requiring a Vermont Commercial Driver’s License may not operate them with a Blood Alcohol Contents of .04 or more.  However, there is also a blanket “influence” provision in the Statute, stating that if the driver of a truck in Vermont is “under the influence” they can still be charged with DUI even if their BAC is below .04.

“Under the influence” is a term used to define impairment “to the slightest degree”.  Which means that if the State can show any form of impairment they have met their evidentiary threshold to secure a conviction on a DUI.

This impairment threshold does not just apply to just CDL DUIs but also those for motorist driving private vehicles.  And, although the holder of a CDL may be driving their own vehicle, not their truck, they can still face serious penalties that will reach not only their regular driver’s license, but their CDL as well.

Beyond a DUI itself, other “major traffic infractions” such a Careless and Negligent Operation Conviction or an Excessive Speed Conviction can, when added together result in suspension of a Vermont CDL, even, like in the DUI, these convictions do not have anything to do with the operator driving their commercial vehicle.

As a result, it is important when facing such charges, to try and mitigate or eliminate the overall exposure that these Vermont traffic infractions may bring.  If ignored, these tickets can lead to serious long term consequences well beyond what many may have contemplated when they took a plea.

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.