Accidents Involving Non-CDL Drivers


Most commercial truck drivers are required to have commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), but there are occasions in which non-CDL drivers may operate certain commercial vehicles in more limited circumstances. Non-CDL drivers may be using vehicles for commercial purposes, and CDLs may not be required for the operation of certain trailers or other utility vehicles.

The commercial vehicles being operated may still be subject to state or federal regulations, with the primary consideration often being a vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Under 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 390.5, a commercial motor vehicle is defined as being any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle:

  • Has a GVWR or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers, including the driver, for compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, but not for compensation
  • Is used to transport hazardous material

Department of Transportation (DOT) post-accident testing is only performed when commercial vehicles required CDLs. Non-CDL operated vehicles are generally not subject to DOT testing.

Handheld Devices, BAC Levels, and Hours-of-Service Restrictions for Non-CDL Drivers

Non-CDL drivers are still subject to many of the same restrictions placed on CDL drivers, primarily the ban on handheld devices such as cell phones during the operation of a commercial vehicle. Non-CDL drivers are also prohibited from using drugs or alcohol before driving, and still face the same lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits that apply to truck drivers under federal law.

The federal Hours of Service rules also apply to non-CDL drivers, but the one major catch with non-CDL drivers is that they are not required to maintain daily logs. There is a common exception provided for short-haul drivers who operate only within 150 air-mile radiuses, as employers only must keep records of when employees reported for work and were released.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) told the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in June 2013 that there could be benefits to requiring 10-year driving history reviews for non-CDL holders, but the agency did not have information or data to quantify such safety benefits. FMCSA also stated that motor carriers employing non-CDL drivers can reasonably set higher standards for the employment background checks on these drivers and request a 10-year employment history.

All trucking companies still need to properly vet their non-CDL drivers, including performing criminal and employment background checks, reviewing motor vehicle certifications, and performing pre-employment drug screening. Safety programs can also be beneficial for non-CDL drivers to encourage safe performance and also offer some level of training for drivers who receive citations or are involved in accidents.

Employers who do not keep records for their non-CDL drivers may be in violation of federal law. There can also be some concern about non-CDL drivers who drive for multiple employers and may then be operating in violation of Hours of Service rules because employers may be unaware of previous time that a driver was operating a vehicle for another company.

Contact a New York Truck Accident Lawyer

Were you hurt in a collision with a commercial truck driver who did not have a commercial driver’s license? You could be owed significant compensation, but securing it could be challenging. Be sure to hire a legal team with the right experience to handle your case correctly. Contact the New York and Long Island truck accident lawyers of Finz & Finz, P.C., at 1-855-TOP-FIRM to schedule a free case evaluation to discuss your case.

  • About the Author
  • Latest Posts

Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.