Requirements for Commercial Driver’s Licenses

Close-up view of a truck driver holding the steering wheel in the truck cabDriving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safely requires a much greater level of skills and experience than the skills and experience needed to drive an ordinary passenger car. Applicants wishing to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) are therefore required to pass both skills and knowledge tests geared toward meeting these higher safety standards.

Commercial Driver’s License Requirements

Drivers operating a CMV in the pursuit of interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce are required to obtain and hold a CDL. CDL requirements were first instituted on April 1, 1992. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created a set of standards that each state is required to meet when testing and licensing CDL holders. These standards permit the states to issue CDLs to a CMV driver only after he has successfully passed state-administered knowledge and skills tests. The tests are specific to the type of vehicle the driver intends to operate. Drivers should take the skills test in the same type of vehicle they are being licensed for, in order to avoid having any restrictions placed on the CDL.

Obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License

Getting a CDL requires the completion of several steps:

  • The driver should obtain a copy of his state’s CDL manual. Each state has its own processes that must be completed in order to qualify for a CDL.
     
  • The driver must determine which type of vehicle and what kind of driving he needs a license for.
     
  • The driver must obtain a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). This permit only authorizes him to practice on public roads while he is being accompanied by a qualified CDL holder. Before the driver can obtain his CLP, the last ten years of his driving record must be checked in all fifty states and in the District of Columbia. He must also provide state-required proof demonstrating that he is medically qualified to drive a CMV. Most types of CDLs require a Department of Transportation (DOT) medical card, which in turn necessitates a DOT physical.
     
  • The driver must possess his CLP for at least 14 days before taking the CDL skills test. Some states require the successful completion of CDL training prior to taking the skills test. The driver must pass all three parts of the skills test: the vehicle inspection test, the basic controls test, and the road test. In some cases he must also pass a written test for the class of CDL that he needs. Failure to pass all required tests may result in the driver having restrictions on his license.

Commercial Driver’s License Classifications

States issue CLPs and CDLs to drivers according to the following license classifications:

  • Class A: Any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of 26,001 pounds or more, whichever is greater, inclusive of a towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating or a gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 pounds, whichever is greater.
     
  • Class B: Any single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight that does not exceed 10,000 pounds.
     
  • Class C: Any single vehicle or combination of vehicles that doesn’t meet the definition of Class A or Class B, but is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or is transporting material designated as hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and is required to be placarded under subpart F of 49 CFR Part 172 or is transporting any quantity of materials listed as select agents or toxins in 42 CFR Part 73.

You Need a Lawyer

The potential for bodily injuries and damage to vehicles is much greater for accidents involving trucks than for collisions between passenger vehicles. CDL holders are therefore held to a much higher standard, and anyone driving without a valid CDL is a danger to the public welfare.

If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of a truck driver, you deserve compensation. Contact GriffithLaw by using the form on this page.