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Colorado could soon have lowest penalty in the country for driving an 18-wheeler without a commercial drivers' license

Colorado could have lowest penalty in U.S. for driving 18-wheeler without CDL
Colorado could have lowest penalty in U.S. for driving 18-wheeler without CDL 02:16

Under a bill that could be headed to Gov. Jared Polis' desk as early as this week, Colorado could soon have the lowest penalty in the country for driving a tractor-trailer without a commercial driver's license, or CDL, despite being one of the most dangerous states to drive an 18-wheeler, due to steep grades and narrow winding roads.

The bill comes almost a year after a truck driver -- who wasn't properly licensed -- crashed his semi on Interstate 25, killing five of Desiree Everts' family members, including her granddaughter, who would have turned 1 last month.

"We don't celebrate holidays. We don't do a lot things we used to do. All the negligence of it just sickens me," Everts said.

Desiree Everts

State lawmakers' response, she says, is sickening too. They're poised to pass a bill making driving without a CDL a traffic infraction with a $100 fine.

"We've equivocated driving an 80,000-pound vehicle with a penalty of actually driving a Prius," said Greg Fulton with the Colorado Motor Carriers Association. Previously, the penalty was a misdemeanor with possible jail time. Fulton says a CDL not only ensures training but drug testing.

Republican State Rep. Matt Soper, co-sponsor of the bill, agrees with Fulton. He says his intent in carrying the bill was to simply fix an oversight in current law where the charge didn't align with the penalty. But instead of raising the charge and penalty, lawmakers lowered them.

"I'm going to wait until next session to be able to put everything back together and to have comprehensive stake-holding to really try to get it across the finish line," Soper said.

Fulton says the stakes are too high to wait: "For God's sake, public safety should be at the top of our agenda down here."

Everts wonders what it will take to get lawmakers' attention: "How would they feel if it was their kids or their grandkids or their family members? How many more lives have to be lost for them to see it should be something bigger?"

The bill passed the State Senate and will likely pass the House this week. The Teamsters also oppose it and are urging people to put pressure on lawmakers.

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