Do I Need a CDL License to Operate that Truck?

by Mar 7, 2023Idealease, News, Safety, Truck Leasing, Truck Rental

Answer: The regulations that address this question are found in FMCSA CFR 383.3

§383.3 Applicability. (a) The rules in this part apply to every person who operates a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate, foreign, or intrastate commerce, to all employers of such persons, and to all States. The definition of a commercial motor vehicle for this regulation is as follows:

A commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is a motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used in commerce to transport passengers or property if the motor vehicle:

  1. Has a gross combination weight rating of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more) inclusive of a towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds); or
  2. Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 11,794 or more kilograms (26,001 pounds or more); or
  3. Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver; or
  4. Is of any size and is used in transporting hazardous materials as defined in this section.

The following are questions that frequently are asked about the CDL and have been addressed by the FMCSA:

  • May a person operate a CMV wholly on private property, not open to public travel, without a CDL? Answer: YES
  • Do technicians, salesman, shop help, and occasional drivers need a CDL if they are only test-driving a CMV? Answer: YES, if the CMV is operated on a public street, road or highway.
  • I have moved; how long do I have to get my CDL license reissued by my new state of residence? Answer: 30 Days.
  • Do the regulations require a person driving an empty school bus for a test drive or transport to have a CDL? Answer: Yes, a CDL would be required if the bus is designed to transport 16 or more passengers and the bus has an MGVWR exceeding 26,000 lbs. However, a passenger endorsement would not be required since the unit is empty.

A driver operates a tractor of exactly 26,000 pounds GVWR, towing a trailer of exactly 10,000 pounds GVWR for a GCWR of 36,000 pounds. HM and passengers are not involved. Is it a CMV, and does the driver need a CDL? Answer: No to both questions. Although the vehicle has a GCWR of 36,000 pounds, it is not a CMV under any part of the definition of that term in §383.5, and a CDL is not federally required.

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