A Commercial Driver License (CDL) is a specialized credential for the operation of large commercial vehicles. This licensing system is mandated by federal regulations under the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and is issued by individual states to ensure that commercial drivers possess the requisite skills and knowledge to safely navigate vehicles that may pose elevated risks due to their size and weight.
The primary CDL classes, Class A and Class B, delineate the range of vehicles a driver is authorized to operate.
Class A CDL holders are qualified to operate a vehicle with gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001+ pounds. As long as the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle(s) being towed is over 10,000 pounds. (Washington State doesn’t recognize class A passenger vehicles.)
Class B CDLs permit drivers to operate any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001+ pounds. As well as vehicles towing a trailer with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less.
CDL endorsements can further refine a driver’s qualifications for specific vehicles or cargo.
The Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) endorsement, for example, is essential for transporting materials classified as hazardous by the DOT. This endorsement requires additional testing and background checks due to the risks associated with transporting hazardous materials.
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 (combined vehicle’s gross weight rating 26,001 pounds or more).
- All vehicles designed to transport 16 or more persons (including 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