Commercial driver in the cockpit of his truck
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By Jarome Gautreaux

Given the size of many types of commercial vehicles, you may wonder whether state and federal law holds commercial drivers to higher standards than ordinary motorists. The complexity of operating a commercial vehicle means that a single mistake can lead to a devastating accident. As a result, laws and regulations ensure that commercial drivers have the knowledge, skills, and physical ability to operate their vehicles safely. 

Requirements for Commercial Drivers

In most cases, a commercial driver must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) from their home state to operate a commercial vehicle. Federal law requires drivers operating a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds in interstate commerce to hold a CDL. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration created standards for states to follow in testing and licensing commercial drivers. These standards ensure that written knowledge and road skills testing can prove an applicant’s ability to operate a commercial vehicle. In addition, states have specific knowledge and skills tests based on the type of vehicle a commercial driver intends to operate. 

Commercial drivers must obtain a class of CDL consistent with the type of vehicle they want to drive, such as a single-vehicle commercial vehicle or a combination vehicle (e.g., a tractor-trailer). Drivers may also need endorsements to operate specific types of commercial vehicles or haul certain kinds of cargo. Drivers may also have restrictions placed on their CDL if they pass their skills test using a vehicle that lacks specific kinds of equipment.

Many commercial drivers must obtain a medical certificate that reflects their fitness to operate a commercial vehicle. A driver obtains a medical certificate by passing a physical examination conducted by a certified medical examiner. The examiner will check to see if the driver can physically perform all the tasks of commercial driving. They will also review the driver’s medical records and history for any health conditions that may put the driver at risk of a medical emergency behind the wheel, such as severe high blood pressure, diabetes, or conditions that require medications with adverse side effects. 

Steps to Become a Commercial Driver

A person who wants to become a commercial driver must first obtain a commercial learner’s permit from their home state’s department of motor vehicles. A CLP allows a driver to practice operating a commercial vehicle under the supervision of a qualified licensed commercial driver. Drivers applying for a commercial driver’s license must also complete entry-level driver training with a registered training provider before taking the skills test. 

After holding a CLP for at least 14 days and completing entry-level driver training, an applicant can take the skills test, which has three parts: the vehicle inspection test, the basic controls test, and the road test. The skills test examines whether an applicant can correctly perform a pre-trip vehicle inspection, operate the equipment on their commercial vehicle, and drive their vehicle safely on public roads. 

In certain circumstances, a commercial driver must also obtain a medical certification after passing a physical exam before operating a commercial vehicle. 

Commercial Driver DUI Laws

Commercial drivers also face higher standards under state DUI laws. In Georgia, the law imposed a blood alcohol limit of 0.08 percent on drivers operating personal vehicles. A driver found to have a BAC at or above the legal limit may face a DUI conviction. However, commercial drivers have a lower legal limit of 0.04 percent when operating a commercial motor vehicle. In addition to the standard penalties for a DUI conviction, commercial drivers may face additional consequences from a conviction, including the suspension or revocation of their commercial driver’s license. 

Contact a Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyer

After suffering injuries in a collision with a commercial vehicle, you deserve to recover compensation for your harm and loss. An experienced commercial vehicle accident attorney can help you pursue financial recovery and accountability from a negligent driver or trucking company. Contact Gatreaux Law today for a free, no-obligation consultation with a commercial vehicle crash attorney to discuss your legal options.

About the Author
Jarome Gautreaux is a personal injury trial lawyer. He represents people who have been seriously injured, as well as the families of people killed because of carelessness or negligence. For over 20 years, he has successfully recovered more than 100 million dollars in a variety of Macon personal injury cases. Jarome’s reputation for client focus and case success has led to other lawyers requesting his assistance with complex personal injury litigation. What drives Jarome every day is his strong belief that the amount of money someone has should not dictate the justice they receive. It is for this reason that he has never worked for corporations, insurance companies, or other interest groups. Instead, he thrives on helping the people who need it most- people who have suffered at the hands of others and deserve compensation.