In the U.S., a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required for all drivers of commercial vehicles, from semi-trucks to those carrying oversized loads and hazardous materials. A CDL is also required to drive a bus, truck, tank, or any other commercial vehicle carrying passengers. 

Operators must pass both a written and a practical test, both of which are much more in-depth than a test for a regular driver’s license.

School bus drivers are also required to pass a background check prior to being hired. A CDL doesn’t just mean the license holder can drive any multi-axle or commercial transport vehicle they please. Commercial driver’s licenses have restrictions on what cargo the driver can haul or what vehicles they are permitted to operate.

Commercial Driver’s Licenses Improve Highway Safety

Prior to October 1986, most states required a commercial truck driver to have only a state-issued driver’s license — no extra training or testing required. In 1986, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act was passed, which made commercial driver’s licenses mandatory for all drivers of oversized vehicles.

The change in the law also stipulated certain training and testing and set forth standards for re-training and safety standards for drivers while on the road.

CDL Classes and Their Restrictions

These are the different classifications of CDLs and the kind of vehicles license holders are permitted to drive:

  • Class A CDL: Vehicles with a GVWR of more than 26,001 pounds with a towed weight of more than 10,000 pounds
  • Class B CDL: vehicles with a GVWR of more than 26,001 pounds towing less than 10,000 pounds
  • Class C CDL: Vehicles designed to transport more than 16 passengers or transport hazardous materials

Commercial driver’s licenses are rated on the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the vehicle that the license holder is permitted to operate. If the combined weight of the trailer and the rig are more than 26,001 pounds, the driver must have a CDL. 

Obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License

Licensed drivers wishing to obtain a CDL first must pass the state test for a CDL permit, which allows them to practice driving commercial vehicles. While some states allow drivers to obtain a commercial driver’s license at the age of 18, the license holder must be at least 21 to drive a commercial vehicle between states.

CDL candidates have to pass an intensive written test, complete a certain number of training hours driving, and then pass a road test to be issued a CDL. Further training for different classifications, such as a Class B or C license, is also required.

CDL Endorsements

In addition to different classes of commercial driver’s licenses, there are several endorsements that a CDL holder may obtain, allowing them to transport certain restricted or dangerous materials. 

While each state may have different endorsements, several are common to all states:

  • H Endorsements: Operate vehicles transporting hazmat loads
  • N Endorsements: Operate tanker vehicles hauling gasoline and other liquids
  • P Endorsements: Operate a bus or other vehicle designed to carry more than 16 passengers
  • S Endorsements: Drive a school bus
  • T Endorsements: Haul a rig with double and triple trailers
  • X Endorsements: Operate tankers hauling hazmat

These endorsements can be obtained only after the applicant has received their Class A, B, or C commercial driver’s license.

CDLs Don’t Guarantee Semi-Truck Safety

While the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act did a lot to make highways safer for passenger vehicles sharing them with commercial vehicles, there is still a chance that a commercial truck driver could cause a collision.

Hours of highway driving can cause driver fatigue, or some commercial carriers may be lax in hiring and re-training, all of which can contribute to unsafe conditions that cause highway accidents.

If the unthinkable happens, a Tampa personal injury lawyer with experience in commercial truck accidents can help you and your family obtain compensatory damages from the driver that caused the wreck. 

Contact the Truck Accident Law Firm Of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers To Get The Help Your Deserve

If you need help with your injury case or you want to learn more information, please call the truck accident law firm of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers at (813) 491-8790 or visit the nearest location to schedule a free case evaluation today.

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