August 11, 2022

CDL License – About The Commercial Drivers License

Thinking about driving a commercial motor vehicle? The Commercial Drivers License (CDL) permits you to get behind the wheel in a wide variety of commercial vehicles, such as school and commuter buses, taxicabs, dump trucks and tow trucks, and tractor trailers.

Cdl License

Your state DMV is responsible for administering the required skills and knowledge tests as well as all the paperwork associated with that state’s CDL licenses, but the U.S. Department of Transportation provides some initial requirements and oversight.

Types of CDLs

There are three classes of commercial motor vehicles that require CDL licenses:

• Class A vehicles have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26001 pounds or more. This must be a combination of vehicles, where the one being towed weighs over 10,000 pounds. Examples include tractor trailers and some truck/RV combinations, among others.
• Class B vehicles indicate a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26001 pounds or more. This can be a single vehicle or a vehicle towing another, where the one being towed is less than 10,000 pounds. Examples include dump trucks, tow trucks, some RVs.
• Class C vehicles carry 16 or more passengers, like a school bus or transit bus, or vehicles that transport hazardous materials.

CDL License Endorsements

Because the types of commercial motor vehicles and their loads can be so variable and for the safety of U.S. roadways, the U.S. Department of Transportation established additional skills tests, called “endorsements,” that can be added to any CDL.

• H – hazardous materials transport
• N – tank trucks
• P – passenger vehicles (16+ passengers)
• S – school buses (11+ passengers)
• T – tractor trailers with two or three trailers
• X – combo tank and hazardous

Requirements for a CDL License

Requirements for a commercial drivers license are established on a state-by-state basis with the initial requirements as noted above. For example, some states set age restrictions on CDL licenses, such as minimum age of 18 for a license and additional restrictions for highway driving. Best advice: find out in advance what your state’s department of motor vehicles requires for a CDL license.

• Minimum age (usually 18 or 21)
• No licenses in other jurisdictions
• Medical tests if required
• Skills test
• Knowledge test
• Required endorsements (hazardous materials, passenger, tanker trucks, multi-trailer trucks, etc.)

Safety and CDL Licenses

Believe it or not, before 1986—when the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 was enacted into federal law—there were few requirements and restrictions for driving many types of commercial vehicles. If you had a regular drivers license in good standing, you could get behind the wheel of a tractor trailer, haul a wide variety of loads, and drive the U.S. interstates, no questions asked.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act has made the roadways considerably safer by ensuring only the most qualified drivers get their CDL licenses to operate on the nation’s roadways.