Do I need a CDL?

Depending on the type of vehicle you drive, you may need a commercial driver license (CDL). Learn what types of vehicles require a CDL.

Types of vehicles that require a CDL

You must have a commercial driver license (CDL) to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • All single vehicles with a manufacturer's weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • All trailers with a manufacturer's weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more, and a combined vehicle's gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • All vehicles that are designed to transport 16 or more persons (including the driver) including private and church buses.
  • All school buses, regardless of size
  • All vehicles that are used to transport any material that requires hazardous material placarding or any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR 73

Types of vehicles that don't require a CDL

By law, the following types of drivers don't need a commercial driver license (CDL):

  • Farmers transporting farm equipment, supplies, or products* to or from a farm in a farm vehicle are exempt if the vehicle is operated by the farmer or a farm employee, not used in the operation of a common or contract motor carrier, or used within 150 miles of the farm (in an air-mile radius)
  • If farmers meet all requirements of the farm exemption, they may operate farm-exempt vehicles between the states of Idaho and Oregon
  • Firefighters and law enforcement personnel are exempt when operating emergency equipment if they carry the certification card proving they have completed the Emergency Vehicle Accident Prevention Program (EVAP).
  • Recreational vehicle (RV) operators are exempt when driving an RV for non-commercial purposes. This exemption includes 2-axle rental trucks and horse trailers.
  • Military commercial drivers are exempt only when they are operating the proper military vehicle under a military license issued by their branch of the service. Military members who want to obtain a CDL and are currently on active duty or those within one year of discharge, see Military experience waiver.
  • Drivers of vehicles with air brakes that don't otherwise qualify as commercial vehicles. Even though a vehicle is equipped with air brakes, it doesn't automatically mean the driver must have a CDL. If the vehicle doesn't meet the criteria listed under types of vehicles that require a CDL, the driver is exempt.

*Farm products include Christmas trees or wood products transported by vehicles weighing no more than 40,000 pounds licensed gross vehicle weight. This weight restriction applies only to Christmas trees and wood products.

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