October 26, 2020

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.

CDL License – All About The Commercial Drivers License

A Commercial Drivers License endorsement on a driver’s license can be parlayed into a variety of good paying jobs. The federal government has their guidelines regulating CDL license; in addition every state has their own training rules and application processes. In general, training for a CDL is completed through a driving school specializing in readying drivers for CDL testing.

Commercial Drivers License

The complexity of rules and guidelines for obtaining a CDL can make it confusing for those seeking the training to become a licenses commercial driver. Before signing up with any school that offers CDL training, prospective students should research the types of CDL available and decide what sort of training they need. Only then should they sign with a school.

Tip: It is very important to make sure that the training facility is a certified facility. Nothing could be worse than to pay a large amount of money for training only to find that the training is not recognized (certified). Check local colleges as many of them offer reasonable priced CDL training courses.

In the United States a CDL is a requirement for those driving any sort of vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating in excess of 26,001 pounds. When these vehicles are used to transport hazardous materials that require a hazard warning placard, when a driver transports more than fifteen passengers and for commercial use the operator is required to possess a current CDL. For example, bus, gasoline tanker and all tractor trailer drivers must have a CDL.

To ensure that truck drivers using the highways are actually qualified to operate big rigs and that bus drivers are qualified to transport large amounts of passengers, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 was made into law. With this act the federal government created minimum requirements necessary to obtain a CDL. The intent of this Act was to increase safety on highways by eliminating those drivers that were not qualified and considered unsafe. Each state retains the right to issue CDLs under this Act.

Formal training is not necessary to obtain a CDL. However, every applicant is required to take written and practical tests and pass both to get the CDL endorsement.  Furthermore, applicants are required to take the practical test in the type of vehicle they will be operating. For instance, an applicant intending to be a long haul tractor-trailer operator must take the test in a comparable rig. In essence, applicants must prove that they are knowledgeable about highway laws, DOT regulations, vehicle operation and maintenance and be able to exhibit that they can safely operate the type of vehicle they will be driving.

There are three basic types of CDLs: Class A, B and C. Additional endorsements may be obtained with additional testing; these include semi-trailer, hazardous material, passenger vehicle, school bus and tank truck or any combination of these.

A CDL license opens the door to job opportunities aplenty. Anyone interested in obtaining a CDL will need to look closely at the types and determine which is appropriate for their needs and then get the education and experience to successfully test for their CDL license.

Additional resource links: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration-licensing/cdl/cdl.htm