What New Drivers Need To Know About Commercial Driver's License (CDL):
Most drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV's), or those wanting to, will be required to obtain some class of Commercial Driver's License (CDL).
CDL drivers are required to get a CDL from their declared state of residency, and state laws vary on residency requirements.
While licensing is done by states, the Federal government sets minimum testing and licensing requirements.
Pulling certain types of freight, or certain types of trailers, will require drivers to test for and obtain additional license "endorsements".
Military CDL drivers are exempt from having to get a CDL , and individual states are authorized to exempt emergency, farm, and government workers, as well as drivers of recreational vehicles. These exemptions may vary state-to-state.
Do I Need A Commercial Driver's License (CDL)?
Driver's will need a CDL in order to operate any of the following vehicles or combination vehicles:
- A single vehicle with a GVWR over 26,000 lbs.
- A combination vehicle with a GVWR over 26,000 lbs, towing a unit over 10,000 lbs GVWR.
- A passenger vehicle designed to carry 16 or more people, including the driver.
- Any size vehicle requiring hazardous material (Hazmat) placards, or carrying a select agent or toxin listed in 42 CFR Part 73.
What Are The Classes Of CDL's Required To Operate CMV's? As a Class A license with all available endorsements will allow you to legally drive any commercial motor vehicle , TruckingTruth highly recommends getting them all as soon as possible to increase your job opportunities.
Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight of 26,001 pounds or more, with trailer(s) weighing 10,000 pounds or more.
Any single vehicle having a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing another weighing 10,000 pounds or less.
Any vehicle or combination of vehicles not meeting the definition of Class A or Class B, designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded to carry hazardous material:
Many states issue a "Class D" license, which is not part of the FMCSA standards. Some use it to classify regular, passenger car drivers licenses, while some use it to classify specific weights or types of vehicles. This varies from state-to-state.
How Do Drivers Get Their CDL?
See Also: Steps to getting your CDL
Decide That You REALLY Want To Become A Truck Driver:
As with many career changes, it is a life-altering process, and drivers need to be prepared both mentally and physically.
Choose Your Method Of Truck Driver Training:
Most new drivers will have attended either a private trucking school or a company-sponsored driving school. Getting a CDL on your own is generally not recommended, and may make it more difficult to find a job driving trucks.
Written CDL Knowledge Exam:
Drivers will be required to pass a written CDL knowledge exam.
CDL Skills Test:
The physical driving test, inside an actual truck. Just like any other driving test, but on a much bigger scale.
The FMCSA has issued guidelines on the physical requirements for over the road (OTR) CDL drivers. Additionally, regular drug and alcohol testing should be expected.
Why Is A CDL Required to Drive Commercial Motor Vehicles?
Driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) requires a higher level of knowledge, experience, skills, and physical abilities than that required to drive a non-commercial vehicle.
These higher standards require passing a higher level of knowledge and skills tests, and hold CDL drivers to higher standards when operating a CMV.
Piloting an 80,000 pound vehicle down the road is a definite public safety concern. Before 1986, CDL standards were set by individual states, and many drivers held CDL's in several states to spread out any violations.
The FMCSA has devised a specific set of rules regarding CDL drivers and the requirements for interstate driving of Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV's), as well as standards, restrictions, and penalties for alcohol and drug use and testing.
The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act (CMVSA), along with the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS), standardized CDL requirements that had varied wildly from state-to-state.
Who Is Exempt From Getting a CDL?
FMCSA regulations specifically exempt only military personnel with comparable safe-driving experience from getting CDL's. States are authorized to provide exemptions for the rest of the following at their own discretion: States are also allowed to waive hazmat requirements for part-time drivers in the pyrotechnics industry. If you're doing that, you pretty much rock too hard to be bothered with a CDL, anyways.
Military Vehicle Operators:
States must exempt individuals who operate vehicles for military purposes from the requirements for CDL drivers. This exemption includes active military, reserves and members of the National Guard. This exception does not apply to U.S. Reserve technicians.
Service members who are or were employed within the past year (12 months) in a military position requiring the operation of a military motor vehicle equivalent to a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) and who want to drive CMV's in civilian life can apply for a Skills Test Waiver to get their CDL.
See Also: Military Skills Test Waiver
Farm Equipment Operators:
Covering actual farm-to-market operations, not commercial grain haulers. Drivers must be 21 years old, and vehicle must have farm plates. Farm workers are not required to have a CDL to operate vehicles:
- Controlled and operated by a farmer, a member of his family, or an employee.
- Used to transport farm products, equipment or supplies to or from a farm.
- Used within 150 air miles of the farm.
- Used in a nursery or agricultural operations.
- Not used in the operations of a contract motor carrier.
Firefighting Equipment Operators:
Those who operate CMV's necessary to preserving life or property, or performing emergency governmental functions, have signals that can be seen and heard, and are not subject to normal traffic laws. These include fire trucks, foam or water transport trucks, police SWAT team vehicles, ambulances and any other emergency vehicles.
Recreational Vehicle Operators:
Drivers operating recreational vehicles (RV's) for their own non-commercial use can be exempted from CDL requirements.
Township or Government Workers Exemptions:
Many states will have specific CDL exemptions that apply to workers in smaller towns or to state and local government employees in general. You will have to check with your specific state regulations.
Types Of CDL Endorsements And How To Get Them:
Pulling certain types of freight and trailers will require CDL drivers to hold certain license endorsements. As always, TruckingTruth recommends getting every available endorsement in the interest of having more job opportunities.
- Double/Triple Endorsement
- Passenger Endorsement
- Tank Vehicle Endorsement
- Hazardous Materials
- School Bus
- Hazardous and Tank Combined
- Metal Coil Endorsement (New York State only)
See Also: CDL Endorsements and Restrictions.
CDL drivers can also have certain restrictions placed on them, depending on circumstances such as taking their skills test in a vehicle without air brakes, or with automatic transmission, or in a lower class vehicle.
Endorsements and restrictions will appear as a letter code on a drivers license.
See Also: CDL Endorsements and Restrictions.