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Who’s Got Your Ear?

Let’s get back to the basics. It seems among the general trucking population, including the unschooled law enforcement officers, there’s a disconnect between those who truly need a CDL and those who do not. Despite the many resources available, everyone the ITEA encounters who has an incorrect stance on the subject has shoehorned their trucking practices into some version of the exceptions.

The difficulty becomes, when you rely on others advice you’ve chatted with at the local breakfast diner, or at the grain elevator, or from the “experienced” employee that came from a larger company, it could end up costing your pocket book big!

It is easy to understand the large tractor-trailers on the road, hauling commodities from one side of these United States to the other, need CDL licenses. But what of the much smaller flatbed, ball-hitched trailers, over-state line grain haulers or RV driving weekenders?

There are two main violations to address: Operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) with no CDL and operating without the correct license class when no CDL is required.  Though each is a violation of law, there’s a big deference between them, mainly: jail time

When a non-CDL driver operates a vehicle which requires a CDL, whether the cause is ignorance, misinformation or blatant intent, the penalty is the same: a misdemeanor violation likely resulting in a custodial arrest, towing of the CMV for no less than $300 an hour to the towing company, fingerprints, mug shots and a long-lasting criminal history.

The second violation, when a non-CDL driver operates a non-CMV without the proper license class is much different. Very simply, the violation is a petty offense which alone, cannot result in jail time though can still impact the pocket book.

Some officers have discretion afforded to them by their respective departments who allow non-custodial enforcement of misdemeanor violations where a conviction could result in jail time. Others do not.

All officers however have been well educated in the art of liability mitigation, otherwise known as “C.Y.O.A.”  When an officer chooses to allow a driver to continue down the road when that driver doesn’t possess the proper license class or CDL and that same truck crashes into a family, the penalty is the same: liability for their department, their family, and themselves. It is irrelevant whether the cause was ignorance, misinformation, or blatant intent.

This aversion to liability means one thing to truck drivers found in violation: your truck likely isn’t moving!

Now, who is exempt in Illinois from having to have the proper license classification? Most likely you are not! The only people who are exempt from license classification are those who are exempt from possessing a license in the first place!

If you are required to have a license, you must have the proper license class for the vehicle you drive, regardless of whether a CDL is required.

Now, who needs a CDL? Time to get technical… drivers who operate:

  1. vehicles with a total weight or combined rated weight of 26,001 lbs or more *and* a trailer over 10,000 lbs actual or rated weight,

  2. a vehicle with a total weight or rated weight of 26,001 lbs or more,

  3. a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more people, including the driver, or

  4. a vehicle hauling hazardous materials.

If you’re using your vehicle commercially and it fits one is those above categories, you very likely need a CDL to drive that vehicle. Are there exceptions?  As with any law, ABSOLUTELY. Check back in a few weeks to learn whether you fit one of the exceptions.

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