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Since 1992 drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) have been required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issues rules and standards for testing and licensing CMV drivers. These standards permit states to issue CDLs to drivers only after the drivers passes knowledge and skills tests related to the type of vehicle to be operated. CDLs fall into several categories depending on the weight of the vehicle and/or load being pulled and depending on the number of passengers in the vehicle. These categories are:

  • Class A: The vehicle weighs 26,001 or more pounds and the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B: The vehicle weighs 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Class C: Any vehicle or combination of vehicles that is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver or is marked as a carrier of hazardous materials.

Drivers who operate CMVs will be required to pass additional tests to obtain any of the following endorsements on their CDL:

  • T: Double/Triple Trailers
  • P: Passenger
  • N: Tank Vehicle
  • H: Hazardous Materials
  • X: Combination of Tank Vehicle and Hazardous Materials

A state will determine the appropriate license fee, the rules for license renewals, and the age, medical and other driver qualifications of its intrastate commercial drivers. Drivers with CDLs who cross state lines must meet the Federal driver qualifications (49 CFR 391). All CDLs contain the following information:

  • Color photograph or digital image of the driver
  • Notation of the “air brake” restriction, if issued
  • The class(es) of vehicle that the driver is authorized to driver
  • The issue date and the expiration date of the license
  • The driver’s date of birth, sex, and height
  • The driver’s full name, signature, and address
  • The driver’s state license number
  • The endorsement(s) for which the driver has qualified
  • The name of the issuing state
  • The words “Commercial Driver’s License” or “CDL”

States may issue learner’s permits for training on public highways as long as learner’s permit holders are required to be accompanied by someone with a valid CDL appropriate for that vehicle. These learner’s permits must be issued for limited time periods.

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