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How to Know if Your Drivers Need a CDL


In order to protect your company from hefty fines, it’s essential to understand whether or not your drivers need a commercial driver’s license.

There’s a common misconception that commercial driver’s licenses (CDL’s) only apply to tractor-trailers or large busses. In reality, the rules and regulations for who needs a CDL are more nuanced than that. They extend to many utility departments, municipalities, and more.

The penalties for driving without proper licensing can be severe for both driver and company. Not only that but putting someone behind the wheel without the proper certification or training is extremely dangerous.

This article will explain what types of vehicles require a CDL, along with some ways you can ensure your drivers prevent accidents while behind the wheel.

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What Is A CDL and What Are The Requirements?

Commercial Driver’s Licenses were made law on April 1, 1992. Since then, drivers of certain vehicles are required to obtain and hold a CDL from their state in order to drive interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce.

Whether or not a vehicle requires a CDL is most often determined by weight. However, CDL requirements can also include hazardous materials and passenger capacity.

If a vehicle falls into any of the following categories, a driver needs the corresponding CDL license to drive it:

Class A -  Any combination of vehicles that has a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of 26,001 pounds or more, inclusive of towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 pounds.

Class B - Any single vehicle which has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight that does not exceed 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 under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and is required to be placarded under subpart F of 49 CFR Part 172 or is transporting any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR Part 73.

In sum, any vehicle that falls under Class A, B, or C (and is driven interstate, intrastate, or carrying foreign commerce) requires a CDL.

To obtain a CDL, a driver must pass a knowledge and skills test implemented by their state or state provider of CDLs. The test is usually done in the type of vehicle they will be driving for work.

What Is the Purpose of Requiring a CDL?

Based on the three license class types, a commercial vehicle is either:

  • Extremely heavy
  • Carrying a large number of people
  • Carrying hazardous materials

Any three of those spell disaster if an accident were to happen. Therefore, it makes sense to ask more of these drivers. A commercial vehicle collision has a greater likelihood of being fatal.

However, just because a driver has their CDL does not mean they’re a safe driver. The test focuses heavily on rules and regulations. While that’s important for CDL drivers, it does not prepare them for being safe, defensive drivers.

Whether you have CDL or non-CDL drivers getting behind the wheel for you, you need to train them on specific safe driving techniques.

Getting your driver’s the proper licensing and staying compliant is only half the battle. Preventing accidents, reducing your cost of loss, and saving lives is a whole different game all together.

If you want to learn more about an easy, cost-effective way to protect your drivers, click this link.

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