Compliance, Safety, And Accountability Points And Your CDL: What You Should Know

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If you hold a commercial driver's license (CDL) and make your living as a truck driver, you need to understand how the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) point system attached to your driver's license can affect your ability to get -- and keep - employment.

This is what to keep in mind about "points" on your license:

1. Every state uses a slightly different point system, so getting a ticket for speeding in one state at 10 miles per hour over the posted limit in one state could attach 2 points to your license in one state and 3 points in another.

2. It isn't uncommon for states to penalize you differently depending on what you are driving at the time you are caught breaking a traffic law. If you're in a passenger car, you can expect the standard points to apply. If you happen to be in your truck, the same traffic violation may net you one and a half times the usual number of points. For instance, if you would get 3 points for speeding in your own car, the same speeding offense in your truck would give you 4.5 points.

3. Your points are not separated into "those earned while driving a personal vehicle" and "those earned while driving your commercial vehicle." In other words, even if you are an extremely careful driver when you are in your commercial truck, a lax attitude or daredevil approach to driving while you're in your own car could still cost you your job.

4. There are no "work privileges" for a suspended CDL license. If your license is suspended for any traffic violation, you cannot get an exemption that will allow you to keep working.

5. In most states, the courts are also not allowed to let someone with a CDL defer their sentence and complete a diversion program instead of taking the fine and points. Nor are they allowed to let a driver enter a driver improvement program in lieu of points if the driver has a CDL.

6. You may not have any other choice except to fight a traffic ticket if you want to keep your CDL -- and your job. While it can be tempting to just accept a traffic ticket, especially if it's in a state other than the one you spend most of your time in and it's your first offense, that first offense can come back to haunt you if you make a traffic mistake even 11 months later. In many states, 2 offenses within a year's time are enough to suspend your CDL. In Missouri, for example, just 8 points in 18 months -- which could be two small speeding violations -- could get your CDL suspended.

Your good driving record is what makes your CDL so valuable. Don't let a minor traffic violation deprive you of your good reputation, your CDL, or your occupation. Talk to a traffic law attorney instead.