You need a CDL for that?!

A customer called me a few weeks back. His driver had been driving a Hot Shot load through Pennsylvania; The truck and trailer combined were under 26,001 lbs. This was just a 1 ton dually and a smaller gooseneck trailer. Now just to be clear, the truck was maybe 12,000 lbs GVWR and the trailer was roughly 12,000lbs GVWR. The registered weight was 28,000lbs. This particular customer has a few trailers and that day the driver just happened to be pulling one of the smaller ones. Now, this Ol’ boy from Louisiana was as perturbed as you might think when he called me. The Pennsylvania DOT had given his driver a $1000 ticket for 2 things. No CDL, and log falsification. Here is the story I got.

“My driver got pulled over in Pennsylvania. The cop told him that because the registered weight of the vehicle is 28,000 lbs he had to have a Class A CDL. So he got a ticket. He looked at the driver’s log books and said he wasn’t allowed to be “Off Duty” when he was sleeping in his truck, so he got a ticket for falsifying his log book too. Is that right? Can he do that?”

My answer to his question

Nowhere in the FMCSA regulations does the definition or requirements for a CDL or the definition of a CMV for that matter involve the registered weight of the vehicle. A Class A CDL is required when the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating/GVWR or Gross Combination Weight Rating/GCWR is over 26,001 lbs, and that is only when the trailer being towed is over 10,000 lbs. If it is under 10k, the driver only needs a Class B CDL.

Just for reference so you can look it up for yourselves here are the codes:

  1. 49 CFR Part 383.5 – definition of a CMV for CDL requirement purposes
  2. 49 CFR Part 390.5 – definition of a CMV for the GVWR purposes.

If you looked it up, did you see anywhere in there anything about the registered weight? NO… Because it isn’t there!

How I helped my customer

Ok, back to my story/rant…. So I got copies of the ticket that the driver had received and decided I would call on this officer myself. Now, I am not someone who yells much anymore or gets angry or really takes anything real personal for that matter. I left a message for the officer to give me a call and decided to call the State Trooper office after the lady at the courthouse had told me that the officer was recently trained. (I always do the research first)

Well, that did not go well at all. I thought I had been pretty respectful when I asked why the officer would issue a violation for no CDL. I wasn’t telling him he was an idiot, I wasn’t saying he was a liar either. All I said was I think there may have been a mistake. The trooper blew up on me…. “Don’t you try to tell me my damn job; I know what the hell I’m doing”…..etc., etc., etc. He went on for a minute and I said “Wait a minute, can we just try to reset this conversation? I am not trying to be disrespectful here; I just want to understand why the ticket may have been issued”. That didn’t sit well with him either. He all but told me to go screw myself. Apparently, all the troopers in Pennsylvania think that “registered weight” matters when it comes to FMCSR’s. At least that is what the trooper had implied as he was yelling at me like I was his teenaged daughter that just got caught sneaking out of the house.

So, on to the conversation with the actual officer who gave the ticket. That conversation went far better than the other. This time I figured I would not imply anything but just ask questions and repeatedly say “I have to respectfully disagree with you”. I explained my points and referred to the actual codes where both definitions are. I used the “how does that make any sense” argument for If it was just the pickup by itself according to his interpretation the driver still would have to have a Class A CDL to drive it; and If the owner registers it for less to match only the smaller trailer than he risks getting an overweight ticket if he wants to pull the larger trailer.

Pursuing all possible sources

Here is my point, which you are probably wondering if I have one. Sometimes no matter how much you know you are right and you have the proof to back it up. It doesn’t matter if the person you are trying to talk to doesn’t want to be wrong. Sometimes you just have to pursue other sources. The trooper was absolutely not willing to hear anyone else’s point on the matter at all. Conversely, the officer who issued the ticket never yelled at me, he didn’t act like an egomaniac, he listened, told me some other issues that he had regarding the situation and was trained that way. He absolutely believed that he was right. I asked him to please look into it further and try to get a final answer somewhere other than where he was trained. A couple of weeks later, our customer called me back and said the officer called him to apologize and dropped the ticket.

Do you have other CDL related questions?

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DOT Readiness Group
(432) 653-0104
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Tyna Bryan

Founder and primary consultant for DOT Readiness Group. She's been deeply involved in the compliance side of multiple FMCSA regulated companies; as well as consulting and training on D.O.T. compliance and regulations for twenty years.
Tyna Bryan