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What is a CDL driver?

CDL stands for Commercial Driver’s License. A CDL driver must hold a valid commercial driver’s license to drive a commercial motor vehicle in the United States. 

There are several different types of CDL licenses: 

  • Class A CDL: Drivers are required to operate any combination of vehicles with a weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. This includes tractor trailers, truck and trailer combinations, livestock carriers, flatbreads, tankers, and most Class B and Class C vehicles. 
  • Class B CDL: Drivers can drive any single vehicle that isn’t hitched to a trailer with a weight greater than 26,000 pounds. These include straight trucks, large buses, box trucks, dump trucks, and some Class C vehicles.  
  • Class C CDL: Drivers are required to operate a single vehicle with a GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds. These include double tripe trailers, buses, tanks trucks, and hazmat vehicles. 

How to get a CDL

After fully understanding your state’s Commercial Driver’s License manual, first obtain a commercial learner’s permit. This will authorize you to practice driving on public roads with a qualified CDL holder sitting next you. 

Next, complete entry-level driver training with a registered training provider prior to testing. 

After possessing the CLP for 14 days, you’ll be eligible to take the CDL skills test. You must pass all three parts of the Skills Test: the Vehicle Inspection Test, Basic Controls Test, and Road Test.

For more information, read How do I get a Commercial Driver’s License.

Who needs a CDL?

If the vehicle is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, the driver is required to have a CDL. This includes school and church bus drivers. 

If the vehicle meets the definition of a CMV, the driver requires a CDL. This includes drivers of either tractor trailers or straight trucks converted into a mobile office. 

Visit the FMCSA page for more details on who’s required to have a CDL.  

What is a CMV? 

A CMV is a commercial motor vehicle that can be used in commerce or to transport goods. According to 49 CFR 390.5, this CMV meets any one of the following conditions: 

  • The CMV has a GVWR, or GCW of 10,001 pounds or more (whichever is greater). 
  • The CMV is designed to transport eight passengers or more for compensation.
  • The CMV to transport 16 or more people without compensation.
  • The CMV transports hazardous materials in quantities requiring placards.