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CDL, DUI: Understanding Commercial DUI

A sad commercial driver inside his commercial vehicle with a cdl dui

Let’s face it, driving under the influence (DUI) is reckless and irresponsible. When you hold a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), the stakes rise exponentially. Lives and livelihoods depend on your safe operation of large, powerful vehicles. So, what happens if you make the grave mistake of having a DUI conviction while being a CDL holder?

Commercial vehicle driver facing DUI charges

Facing the Fallout: Commercial DUI Penalties

Prepare for a bumpy road. A commercial DUI triggers a cascade of repercussions, hitting you personally and professionally.

The immediate consequences for a commercial DUI are:

CDL Suspension

This is the most immediate consequence, and it’s no minor one. On your first DUI, CDL drivers will face a minimum one-year suspension of your commercial driver’s license, meaning your trucking career comes to a screeching halt. This applies even if the DUI occurred in your personal vehicle or even a noncommercial vehicle.

A second DUI will result in even harsher penalties, including longer license suspension and increased jail time.

Criminal Record

Depending on the state and the severity of the offense, you could face misdemeanor or felony charges. This can lead to jail time, ranging from a few days to several months, and steep fines, potentially reaching several thousand dollars.

DUI Penalties

With bigger responsibility on the road, CDL holders face harsher penalties . Brace yourself for steeper fines and fees compared to a regular DUI offense. Depending on the state, expect charges ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 or more. Jail time is also a possibility, with sentences varying from several days up to six months.

Higher Insurance Rates

Prepare for your insurance premiums to skyrocket, potentially making insurance unattainable for commercial driving roles.

After all of these, the long-term consequences of having a DUI on your record are:

Difficulty Regaining Your CDL

The path to getting your CDL back is long and arduous. After the initial suspension, you’ll need to:

  • Retake driving skills and knowledge tests.
  • Complete alcohol and drug education programs.
  • Attend a formal hearing to demonstrate your fitness to drive commercially again.
  • Pay additional feesassociated with reinstatement.
Skyrocketing insurance premiums

Employment Challenges

Even after regaining your CDL, finding employers willing to overlook your DUI charge can be tough. Many companies have strict policies against hiring drivers with a DUI case.

Commercial driver giving a thumbs up

Reclaiming the Road: Getting Your Commercial Drivers License Back

The path to regaining your commercial license is long and arduous. Here’s a list of what you need to do after getting a DUI charge:

  • Serve Your One-Year Suspension: No shortcuts, but some states offer hardship licenses for emergencies.
    • A hardship license (sometimes called a restricted driver’s license) is a special permit that might be issued under specific circumstances to someone whose commercial driver’s license has been suspended but who demonstrates a critical need to drive for essential purposes.
  • Complete Court Requirements: Fines, programs, and maybe therapy – check your sentence.
  • Ace Reinstatement Tests: You’ll likely need to undergo re-examination of your driving skills and written knowledge tests. Some states mandate additional alcohol and drug education programs.
  • Convince the DMV: Attend a hearing and prove you’re a safe driver again. Lawyer up if needed.
  • Pay the Reinstatement Fees: Prepare for a formal hearing where you must demonstrate your fitness to drive commercially again. Expect additional fees associated with reinstatement.

How to Avoid a Commercial DUI

Preventing a CDL DUI is about making responsible choices and prioritizing safety for yourself, others, and your career. Here are some key strategies to keep in mind:

Never Drink and Drive: This is the golden rule that applies to everyone, especially those entrusted with the responsibility of operating large vehicles. It might seem obvious, but the temptation can arise in various situations. Stay committed to zero tolerance for alcohol while driving.

Plan Ahead: Anticipate situations where you might be offered alcohol. Arrange for alternative transportation beforehand, whether it’s a designated driver, rideshare service, or even staying overnight. Remove the temptation and avoid putting yourself in a vulnerable position.

A driver against drunk driving
Commercial drivers seeking support

Speak Up: Don’t feel pressured to drink just because others are. It’s perfectly okay to politely decline and explain your commitment to responsible driving. Your career and safety are more important than pleasing others.

Stay Informed: Know the DUI laws and regulations specific to your state for CDL holders. Understanding the legal limits and potential consequences for driving under the influence can serve as a powerful deterrent.


Seek Support: If you struggle with alcohol dependence, reach out for help. Addiction is a treatable condition, and there are numerous resources available to support you in overcoming it. Talking to a therapist, joining a support group, or seeking professional treatment can empower you to make healthy choices and prevent future incidents.

Promote a Safety Culture: Advocate for safety within your workplace and industry. Encourage colleagues to prioritize responsible choices and speak up against unsafe practices. Collective awareness and support can create a stronger culture of safety for everyone.

Utilize Resources: Many resources are available to help CDL drivers stay safe and avoid DUI charges. Check out safety programs offered by trucking companies, driver associations, and government agencies. These programs can educate you on the dangers of alcohol impairment, provide coping strategies, and offer support for maintaining responsible driving habits.

Remember, a CDL DUI is a serious offense with far-reaching consequences. Make responsible choices, prioritize safety, and keep your career in the fast lane, not the ditch.