The commercial driver’s license program began with the introduction of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Act in 1986. The purpose of the act was to ensure that those who were driving commercial motor vehicles (CMV) had the knowledge and skills to operate them. This act didn’t change the fact that states were still allowed to issue CDL’s to truck and bus drivers however there was a minimum national standard that had to be met by each person applying for a commercial driver’s license. By the time the act was provisioned in 1992, people who wanted to operate a commercial motor vehicle needed to have a CDL or were NOT allowed to operate one. In order to obtain a CDL, the requirements were very simple and it required passing a standard knowledge and than a skill test. Each state does have their own set of rules so both the knowledge and skill test does vary from state to state. To find out the requirements for each state, it’s important to visit your local DMV office.

A driver requires a CDL if the vehicle they operate falls into any of these definitions of a CMV:

Class A Truck

Any combination of vehicles that have a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 26,001 or more pounds (11,793 kg) provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds (4536 kg).

Here are some examples.


Class B Truck

Any single vehicle with a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 26,001 or more pounds (11,793 kg), or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds (4536 kg) GVWR.

Here are some examples.


Class C Truck

Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B, but is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or is placarded for hazardous materials.

Here are some examples.



Here is some important information regarding when you need a CDL which depends on the state you live in.

You may need a CDL to operate certain types of vehicles like a bus, van or limousine designed to transport between 8-15 passengers.

In California, it’s well known that a driver will require a CDL if their primary job requires driving even if you won’t be using a commercial vehicle. Basically, California defines a commercial vehicle as one that transports for hire either people or products.

Above you can see the importance of contacting you’re local DMV office to find out if and when you’re required a CDL license.


When Don’t You Need A CDL

With all the information you’ll be getting about obtaining you’re CDL license, it’s important you know when you don’t need one…

Here are a few examples…

  • Fire and emergency equipment owned by fire department or company
  • Recreation and personal vehicles whose weight is lower than 26,000 pounds
  • Some motorized construction equipment
  • Farm Equipment (check exemptions)
  • Military equipment for ONLY military purpose while on active duty

Endorsements Commercial Vehicle Safety Act

There are many different types of employment available to people in the trucking industry. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Act does require that you have different types of endorsements if you’ll be involved in certain employment. Additional testing is required when applying for certain types of jobs.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the different types of endorsements available to people with CDL’s…

  • T Semi trailer Double or Triple (Written Test)
  • Certain states prohibit triple trailers statewide, such as California, Florida,  and New York 
  • A Class A license is required to obtain the T endorsement
  • P Passenger Vehicle (Written and Driving Tests)
  • S School Bus (Written and Driving Test, Background Check, Sex Offender Registry Check and P endorsement)
  • N Tank Truck (Written Test)
  • H Hazardous materials (Written Test and Background Check through the Transportation Security Administration)
  • X Combination of Tank Vehicle and Hazardous Materials (Written Test)
  • W Tow truck. (Written Test)