In order to legally operate a motor vehicle in the state of Tennessee, a driver must possess a valid driver’s license. The same is true for anyone who operates a semi-truck, tractor-trailer, or other large commercial vehicles—however, the standards they must meet to obtain a commercial driver license (CDL) are even higher than those required for people who want to drive passenger vehicles.
Acquiring a CDL in Tennessee requires passing strict background and medical checks, as well as the ability to demonstrate safe driving skills and pass written exams that test knowledge of things like traffic laws and common scenarios faced by truck drivers.
5 Important Facts about Truck Driver Qualifications and Licenses
At Matt Hardin Law, our Nashville truck accident attorneys know that being involved in a truck accident can be both frightening and extremely stressful. In addition to potentially suffering serious injuries, your vehicle also may be totaled and you may be unable to work for weeks, months, or even years.
After a tractor-trailer accident, understanding a few important facts about how truck drivers are licensed and qualified for their positions can help you take the best course of action in terms of filing a claim for compensation:
#1-Companies sometimes attempt to save money by hiring unqualified and unlicensed drivers.
Although most trucking companies abide by the rules and hire the best and most experienced drivers they can find, others try to save money by hiring drivers with medical issues, a history of traffic violations and expired or non-existent CDLs. Drivers who aren’t fully licensed and qualified to operate tractor-trailers are significantly more likely to cause accidents than drivers who keep their licenses up to date and have thousands of hours of experience behind the wheel.
#2-Inexperienced drivers are more likely to be unaware of truck driving rules and guidelines.
Seasoned and veteran truck drivers are more likely to know and understand the ins-and-outs of the industry than drivers who aren’t fully licensed. That includes things like following the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s requirements for maximum hours behind the wheel in a single day or week and mandatory rest periods. Drivers who aren’t aware of these requirements may drive far beyond the maximum limit, putting themselves and other motorists at risk due to sleepiness and fatigue.
#3-Truck drivers with CDLs may still be unqualified to drive certain vehicles.
Not all CDLs are created equal. Truck drivers in various industries often need additional testing and endorsement on their CDLs in order to safely and legally drive certain types of commercial vehicles. Common endorsements include the following:
T: Double or triple semi-trailer
P: Passenger vehicle (tour bus, city bus)
S: School bus
N: Tanker truck
H: Hazardous materials
X: Combination of tanker truck and hazardous materials
The requirements for obtaining these endorsements include written examinations, driving tests, and background checks through the Transportation Security Administration.
#4-Truck drivers must be U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
In order to pass their background checks and be eligible to drive a tractor-trailer, applicants must be able to prove that they are United States citizens or are authorized to legally reside in the country on a permanent basis. When applying, applicants must provide the following documents:
Valid DOT Medical Card
Proof of Social Security Number
Valid Tennessee driver’s license or valid license/CDL from another state
Proof of residence in Tennessee
Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status
These strict requirements help verify the identities of all truck drivers and prevent them from using multiple forms of identification.
#5-Drivers can be disqualified from operating semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles.
Acquiring a CDL and the required endorsements to drive a tractor-trailer doesn’t mean that a driver is set for life in his or her career. Drivers are required to maintain clean and safe driving records for the length of their careers in order to stay on the road without interruptions in their employment histories.
The FMCSA can revoke CDLs and commercial driving privileges for a number of reasons, including the following violations:
Driving a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .04 or higher
Refusing to undergo breath or blood test and violating implied consent laws
Leaving the scene of an accident
Using the commercial vehicle to commit a felony, including manufacturing or distributing controlled substances
Negligent driving resulting in someone’s death
CDL suspensions can be lengthy. First-time offenders may have their CDLs disqualified for one year and up to three years if they were transporting hazardous materials. Second offenders may have their CDLs disqualified for life with a chance at reinstatement after 10 years.
After a Truck Accident, Get an Experienced Legal Team On Your Side
A common cause of truck accidents is poor judgment and careless driving mistakes, which are often due to unlicensed and unqualified drivers. All drivers are at an increased risk of accidents and serious injuries when they share the road with truck drivers who shouldn’t be allowed behind the wheel due to negligent hiring practices and employment standards.
If you or someone you love was injured in a truck accident, the Nashville truck accident attorneys at Matt Hardin Law can investigate the crash and determine whether any FMCSA violations occurred leading up to the collision. Finding proof of violations, such as unlicensed drivers, drivers who are banned from holding CDLs, and drivers without proper endorsements can serve as valuable evidence when we build claims for innocent victims like you.