Getting a commercial driver’s license is not a permanent privilege. You can lose your CDL just like a doctor can lose their medical license. If you want to preserve your stream of income, it’s important to maintain your license. Read on to learn why CDLs get revoked or suspended. 

How CDL Drivers Lose Privileges – Revoke, Suspend or Disqualify

There are several ways to lose CDL driving privileges. Some forms of discipline last longer than others, which will impact how long you’re without a license. 

CDL revocation means that your license can be restored once you complete a certain task. For example, if you have an expired medical record, your license can be reinstated with a current one. 

CDL suspension involves a specified period of time, such as 60 days, one year, etc. After the time period passes, the license is automatically reinstated. This is similar to a standard driver’s license getting suspended, but in this case, it may impact your ability to work. 

CDL disqualification is similar to suspension, but the driver loses all driving permissions during the disqualification period. With a suspension, a driver may continue operating their personal vehicle. With disqualification, they cannot legally drive until the period is over. In both situations, permissions are restored after the timeframe expires. 

Reasons Your CDL May Be Revoked or Suspended

Each state and agency have different regulations regarding CDL suspension. It’s best to check with the laws in your area for an exact reflection of local guidelines. 

Here are some possible reasons your CDL may be revoked or suspended:

  • Failure to provide medical records when requested
  • Not passing a required exam
  • Committing an illegal act that triggers revocation
  • Operating a vehicle with a suspended, revoked or denied license
  • Fraudulently use someone else’s license
  • Driving a commercial vehicle under the age of 18
  • Being involved in an accident that resulted in significant physical harm or property damage
  • Committing multiple serious traffic violations
  • Leaving the scene of an accident

Will I Lose My CDL for a Failed Drug Test?

Up until now, failing a DOT drug test will not cause you to lose your CDL. However, FMCSA has announced that starting in November of 2024, drivers who test positive will be placed on a “prohibited status”. They will lose their commercial driver licenses and not be issued learning permits until they complete the federal return-to-duty process.

“A CDL license will remain prohibited until FMCSA has received notification that the driver has satisfied and completed the return-to-duty process,” according to the FMCSA. “Subsequently, FMCSA removes the violation from the Clearinghouse.”

A Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who helps DOT regulated employees return to work after a DOT violation has occurred, such as a failed drug and/or alcohol test or a refusal to test.

The Department of Transportation has specific rules regarding drug and alcohol testing, but your employer may have additional protocol to abide by. The DOT does not decide if you maintain your job after failing a drug test. That is up to your employer. 

How to Restore Your CDL Privileges

If your CDL was disqualified or suspended, you simply need to wait for the suspension period to expire. Your privileges will restore on their own after that. 

If your CDL was revoked, you need to complete whatever task is necessary for restoration. If you are unable to work because of a failed or refused drug test, you’ll need to complete the Return-to-Duty process to start working again. Find a SAP with American Substance Abuse Professionals – they have thousands of DOT-qualified SAPs throughout the United States.


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