What You Need To Know About Commercial Driver’s Licenses

Operating A Commercial Motor Vehicle

Driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) requires a higher level of physical abilities, knowledge, experience and skills. In order to operate certain CMV’s a driver would need to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has developed and issued standards for State testing and licensing of CDL holders. Drivers are required to obtain and hold a CDL if they operate in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce and drive a vehicle that meets one or more of the classifications of a CMV described below.

-Class A: Any combination of vehicles which has a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of 26,001 pounds or more. 

-Class B: Any single vehicle which has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight 26,001 pounds or more or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight 10,000 pounds.

-Class C: 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 transporting material that has been designated as hazardous.

Commercial Licences

Becoming a commercially licensed driver is a big responsibility, an applicant must pass a skills and knowledge test geared towards higher standards. CDL holders are expected to display superior skills while operating any motor vehicle thus serious traffic violations committed by a CDL holder can affect their ability to maintain their certifications. 

Obtaining a CDL is done through a driver’s home state. In addition to the standard CDL testing one may desire to test to receive special endorsements to operate a variety of vehicles. Types of endorsements may include:

  • A truck with double or triple trailers
  • A truck with a tank
  • A truck carrying hazardous materials
  • A passenger vehicle

Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT)

FMCSA’s Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) regulations set the baseline for training requirements for entry-level drivers. This includes those applying to; obtain a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time, upgrade an existing Class B CDL to a Class A CDL, obtain a school bus (S), passenger (P), or hazardous materials (H) endorsement for the first time.

Once operational, the FMCSA Training Provider Registry will retain a record of which CDL applicants have completed the new training and certification process outlined in the ELDT regulations.

Medical Certificate Requirements

Commercial drivers operating interstate over 10,000 pounds are required to obtain a medical examiner’s certification, driver’s that are required the licensing classification of CDL have two additional requirements. CDL holders are additionally required to provide a copy of their medical examiner’s certificate to their State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA). The second additional requirement that CDL holders must self-certify with the SDLA by declaring their operation category they will operate in or expect to operate in:

Interstate non-excepted: You are an Interstate non-excepted driver and must meet the Federal DOT medical card requirements (e.g. – you are “not excepted”).

-Interstate excepted: You are an Interstate excepted driver and do not have to meet the Federal DOT medical card requirements.

-Intrastate non-excepted: You are an Intrastate non-excepted driver and are required to meet the medical requirements for your State.

-Intrastate excepted: You are an Intrastate excepted driver and do not have to meet the medical requirements for your State.

CDL News

The FMCSA announced in early September, 2020 that it is proposing and seeking public comments on a new pilot program to allow drivers aged 18-20 to operate CMVs in interstate commerce. Currently under FMCSA regulations a driver must be at least 21 years of age to obtain a CDL. There would be additional probationary periods for drivers in the 18-20 age bracket. Information on this proposal can be found at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/newsroom/fmcsa-proposes-new-under-21-commercial-driver-pilot-program

Compliance Requirements

The FMCSA puts forth certain requirements when a CDL required CMV is in operation. The requirements fall on if the CDL is in use not if the driver is a CDL holder. An example of this would be, a CDL holder is employed to drive a CMV but the CMV does not require a CDL holder to be operating it. 

A CDL holder that operates a vehicle that falls into the CDL operation category may be required to comply with regulations requiring driver qualification files and enrollment in a drug and alcohol program. Additionally, when required to be enrolled in a drug and alcohol program, CDL holders and employers of CDL holders will now be required to create a Clearinghouse account with the FMCSA and be in a third party consortium. For more information on these regulations, drug and alcohol testing, driver qualification files or the Clearinghouse please contact US Compliance Services today at 1-877-352-1996.