If My License Was Suspended, Can I Get a CDL?

You can get your CDL after a prior suspension. Learn more here.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Bellina Gaskey
You can eventually get a CDL if your license was suspended, but first you need to wait out your suspension period and/or pay the reinstatement fee. Rules vary by state, so it’s important to ask your local DMV how it works in your area.
  • You must be a CDL holder to legally operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
  • You can still earn the driving privileges of a CDL with a previously suspended license.
  • You may need to pay fees, file paperwork, and/or wait out your suspension to get a CDL.
A license suspension is one of the most difficult things to deal with as a driver. Here’s a guide to whether you can get a CDL if your license was suspended and how to reinstate it.
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Can you get a CDL with a suspended license?

If you’ve had a license suspended, you must have it reinstated before you can get a CDL. The rules vary by state, so you should call your local DMV for more information.
You must get your license reinstated or otherwise resolve any suspensions or revocations to get your CDL. If you have an ongoing license suspension, you cannot get a CDL. 
The process of earning a CDL varies slightly by state. You may need to apply for a commercial learner’s permit (CLP), attend driving school, and research the specific type of CDL you wish to earn. 
For example, a Class A license gives you the right to haul trailers that weigh over 10,000 pounds and drive vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds. If you wish to transport hazardous materials, you will need to earn a special endorsement. 
It might be difficult to get hired as a commercial driver if you have a past license suspension on your record. Why? Because it’s a liability concern. The insurance company may simply refuse to insure a trucker based on their driving history, and a suspended license is a strong indication of risky driving behavior.
It’s best to tell the truth about your driving record on your job application. Disclose to the employer any moving violations or license suspensions to avoid issues down the line.
MORE: 9 common reasons your license can be revoked

Violations that can result in CDL disqualification

There are several kinds of violations that may trigger the revocation of your CDL license.
Here are some of the violations that are deemed serious by the federal government. 
  • Improper lane changes
  • Reckless driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Excessive speeding
  • Following too closely
  • Driving a CMV without a CDL
  • Any violation that results in a fatality (death)
If you commit two of these traffic violations within a three-year period, you will lose your CDL for a minimum of 60 days. Commit three of these violations in three years, and you’ll lose your CDL for a minimum of 120 days.
Note that the above violations will be counted against you even when committed with your personal vehicle or outside your home state.
On top of federal regulations, state laws may add additional violations to this list. For example, fleeing the scene of an accident (i.e., a hit-and-run) could trigger a 12-month CDL suspension in some states.
You must also adhere to the laws regarding railroad crossings and “out-of-service orders.” Failure to observe these laws could trigger a two-month, four-month, or even 12-month license suspension.
The possession and use of alcohol and controlled substances are highly regulated for truck drivers. It is impossible to drive safely under the influence of alcohol.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that no driver may go on duty or operate a commercial vehicle within four hours of having alcohol. Furthermore, the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) for commercial drivers is much lower than for other drivers. 
In many states, the BAC limit for CDL holders is 0.04 percent. Break this law and you can be charged with a DUI or DWI.
MORE: How to get cheap commercial truck insurance

How to reinstate a CDL after a license suspension or revocation

There are many financial penalties associated with a license suspension or revocation. 
The first step to regaining your license is to pay your fees. If you have overdue traffic tickets or fines that are causing the suspension, you should submit payment ASAP to lift the suspension.
Your next steps depend upon the unique circumstances of your suspension. If you have a 30-day suspension period, for instance, you can reinstate your CDL by waiting 30 days and then paying the termination or reinstatement fee. There may be reinstatement paperwork involved, too. Contact your local DMV or Department of Transportation for more information.
You may be eligible for a conditional license. This may not be used to operate commercial vehicles, but it can help you legally drive to and from approved locations while you wait out your suspension period. 
Any alcohol-related convictions within the past five years make you ineligible for a conditional license.
You could also be eligible for a restricted license if this is the first time your license has been suspended. If you can lift the suspension by paying a fee, you are not eligible for a restricted license. A judge will decide whether you may operate a commercial vehicle with a restricted license.
Either way, be prepared to show
proof of insurance
or financial responsibility as part of the reinstatement process.
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Some felonies and serious traffic violations can disqualify you from getting a CDL, and the restrictions vary by state. DUIs, DWIs, reckless driving, improper handling of a railroad crossing, hit-and-runs, and unlicensed operation of a CMV are the most common disqualifying events.

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