Before drivers are allowed to get behind the wheel of a 40-ton, 80,000-pound semi-truck to haul goods, regulations require that they obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The process of applying for, gaining, and retaining a CDL is a relatively intensive one, with rules and regulations designed to ensure that only qualified drivers are allowed to operate such large and dangerous machinery.
As an automobile driver, here’s what you should know about the CDL process, including how it works, the gaps in the process that can let unqualified drivers on the road, and what to do if you’re involved in an accident with a commercial truck.
How Getting a CDL Works in Texas
The CDL process is managed by each individual state, so the process can vary based on state rules. In Texas, it is managed by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Drivers must apply for a Commercial Learner Permit, submit a medical certification, take several written knowledge tests, and complete several practical skills examinations, based on the class of vehicle they wish to operate and any endorsements they wish to earn.
There are three classes of CDL available for those who wish to operate commercial vehicles. Briefly, those classes include:
- Class A. A Class A is required for most truck drivers to drive vehicles such as tractor-trailers (semi-trucks), tanker trucks, flatbed trucks, and livestock trailers.
- Class B. This class typically allows for the operation of vehicles like straight trucks, large or segmented buses of over 24 or more passengers, box trucks, and small dump trucks.
- Class C. Drivers of large passenger vans or other vehicles that hold between 16 and 23 passengers, small hazardous material carrying vehicles, and other vehicles not included in the other license classes carry a class C licenses.
Many drivers need endorsements on their CDL to cover specific types of cargo or equipment, such as driving a tanker truck, carrying hazardous materials, or hauling more than one trailer at a time. Some drivers may have restrictions placed on their commercial license, as well.
Restrictions can require a driver to only use an automatic transmission, disallow the use of vehicles with air brakes, restrict the driver to passenger vehicles or school buses, or disallow operating a vehicle with a “fifth wheel” connection. Medical restrictions can also be placed on a license, requiring the driver to gain additional medical clearance before being allowed to drive.
When a CDL Driver Is Disqualified
After a truck driver causes an accident on the road, sometimes it comes to light that the driver wasn’t actually qualified to operate the vehicle.
This could be the result of lying during the CDL application process, such as on a medical certification form, and can result in the driver getting in big trouble if caught—and serious civil or even criminal liability if that lie hurts or kills somebody in an accident.
Drivers may also lie on job applications or to their employer about the class of license that they hold, endorsements, or restrictions on their CDL, and end up driving a class of vehicle that they are not trained appropriately for or legally permitted to operate. In cases like this, it exposes not only the driver to legal liability after an accident, but the employer, as well. Trucking companies have a duty to ensure that their employees are operating legally, or they can be held responsible for any injuries that happen as a result of their negligent hiring practices.
Get Legal Help After a Trucking Accident
Commercial truck driving laws are complex, governed by a variety of state and federal regulations. Determining who is liable for injuries and property damage after an accident can take a lot of in-depth knowledge of the law, as well as some serious investigative work to determine whether the truck driver was truthful and had the appropriate qualifications to operate the vehicle at the time of the crash.
The attorneys at Wayne Wright LLP have the legal experience and knowledge to help those who have been injured in commercial truck accidents seek the justice that they deserve in a court of law. Our no-obligation consultations are free, and we work on a contingency basis, so you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case or a settlement is reached. To talk to a legal professional about your accident situation, call us by phone today, use our online contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page right now.