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How do I know if I need a CDL?

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For our purposes here, most drivers will be interested in driving your every day, average tractor-trailers requiring a CDL Class A license.

There are, however, various types of circumstances and vehicles that will require either a lower class of CDL, or not require a CDL at all.

Those in the farming industry, military, or emergency response fields may not be required to have a CDL.

What kinds of vehicles require me to have a CDL?

You will be required to have a CDL in order to operate any of the following types of vehicles. Keep in mind that each individual state may have different rules and definitions:

  • A single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more.
  • A combination vehicle with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, if the vehicle(s) being towed is over 10,000 pounds.
  • A vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
  • Any size vehicle which requires hazardous material placards or is carrying material listed as a select agent or toxin.

What do the different CDL classes mean?

The FMCSA defines 3 different classes of CDL, depending on what definition the CMV meets:

  • Class A:

    Any combination vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 lbs or more, with the vehicle being towed weighing more than 10,000 lbs.

  • Class B:

    Any single vehicle with a GVWR of more than 26,001 lbs., or combination vehicle as such towing less than 10,000 lbs.

  • Class C:

    Any single or combination vehicle that is not classified under either Class A or B, but is designed to carry either placarded hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers, including the driver.

What types of vehicles are exempt from the driver needing a CDL?

Drivers operating emergency response vehicles or snow and ice removal vehicles are generally exempt from needing a CDL. Most military drivers are also exempt from the requirements, with the exception of the U.S. Reserve.

Operators of farm vehicles that meet certain criteria do not need a CDL. They must be driving a vehicle specifically used for farming, not be driving for a carrier, and stay within 150 miles of their farm.

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