Receiving a citation for a commercial vehicle lane violation can be frustrating. Often, prevention is the best medicine, as they say. Therefore, understanding what a lane violation is and what the consequences are can help to clarify things.
Commercial vehicle drivers are held to a higher standard on the road due to the size and potential danger of their vehicles. One of the critical rules regulating commercial vehicles is lane usage, and failure to abide by these regulations may result in a moving violation conviction. Understanding these laws, the implications of a violation, and your rights as a driver can be crucial to maintaining your livelihood and reputation.
What Are Commercial Lane Violations?
Commercial lane violations typically involve improperly using specific lanes designated for commercial vehicles or failing to adhere to lane restriction laws in California. These include driving in prohibited lanes, improper lane changes, or not staying within the lane markings (although these are more often charged as an unsafe lane change, an FMCSA “serious offense”) and others. With the increased scrutiny of commercial vehicle operations, such violations are often easily spotted by law enforcement or reported by other motorists.
“A vehicle subject to Section 22406 shall be driven in a lane designated pursuant to Section 21655, or if a lane has not been so designated, in the right-hand lane for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb. When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, the driver shall use either the designated lane, the lane to the immediate left of the right-hand lane, or the right-hand lane for traffic as permitted under this code.”—CVC Section 22348 (c).
However, a commercial driver accused of a commercial lane violation must ensure that the traffic citation is issued as a lane violation under CVC 22348 (C). If their ticket is quoted as violating CVC Section 22107, Turning and Stopping and Turning Signals, consult a traffic attorney immediately to ensure you are not saddled with an FMCSA “serious offense.” However, consulting a traffic attorney about every moving violation in your CMV or privately owned vehicle is prudent.
Lane Violations Are Moving Violations
Unlike some other traffic tickets, lane violations are classified as moving violations, carrying hefty fines, points on your driver's record, and a possible increase in insurance premiums.
These violations are particularly crucial for fleet managers who strive to maintain or reduce fleet insurance costs. Each moving violation, like a lane violation, directly impacts the price of insurance premiums. Although it may be transparent to most drivers, if a fleet manager sees their premium increasing, they might terminate the driver with the latest moving violation.
Moreover, the DOT FMCSA takes these violations seriously, attributing Compliance, Safety, & Accountability (CSA) severity points for each conviction of a moving violation. This directly impacts the fleet’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) percentile.
An SMS percentile over 75 can result in all users of the fleet's DOT number getting pulled into weigh stations for inspections and other FMCSA interventions, which can be time-consuming and hamper the operation's efficiency.
It’s really all about numbers. A driver fresh out of school has no “history of moving violations.” You could have years of safe driving and only one moving violation.
What Are Your Options?
Fortunately, you're not without options if you're a commercial driver facing a lane violation charge. Contesting the allegation in traffic court is one of the most effective ways to mitigate the potential consequences of the violation.
Hiring an experienced CA traffic attorney to represent you can be highly advantageous. It may seem like an additional expense, but considering the broader implications—increased insurance premiums, CSA severity points, and potential DOT FMCSAS interventions—the cost is justified and often cheaper than you’d think.
A knowledgeable traffic attorney can help you dispute the charges in court, saving your driving record from additional points and your fleet from increased scrutiny. They can assess the specifics of your case, devise an effective defense strategy, and represent you in court. They may be able to argue for a lesser charge, a reduced non-moving penalty, or even a dismissal, depending on the circumstances of your violation.
Commercial lane violations, though labeled “minor infractions,” have far-reaching, long-lasting implications. However, you have rights and options to contest these allegations. Enlisting the assistance of a commercial traffic attorney is a proactive measure that can protect your livelihood, your fleet's reputation, and the efficiency of your operations in the long run. Remember that the immediate expense of legal help could save you and your fleet from long-term financial burdens and operational headaches.
A Truckstop survey found that 50% of owner-operator truck drivers travel with their pets for emotional support. And 46% would consider a different occupation if they could not travel with their pet(s).—A Public service announcement from Work Truck.
Consult a CA Traffic Attorney Firm That Practices in Woodland, CA
Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
The DMV Portal CA Commercial Driver Handbook.
The worktruckonline.com article, Fleet Stories to Brighten Your Day: June 2023.