Who Needs a Commercial Driver’s License?

A majority of the individuals you see on California roadways operating a large truck had to obtain their Commercial Driver’s License, or CDL, before they were legally permitted to get behind the wheel of the vehicle. However, it is important to understand that not all truck drivers are required to get their CDL in order to drive a truck. There are certain types of trucks that do not require a CDL holder to operate it simply because of the size, weight, and/or cargo that is being transported on it. But if you are looking to operate a large truck for a living in the state of CA and are wondering whether you need to obtain your CDL.

Below we highlight the types of vehicles that do require this type of license based on information provided by the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles.

  • Any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more.
  • Any vehicle with a GVWR that is less than 26,000 pounds which will be used to transport more than 10 passengers including the driver.
  • A combination vehicle with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle that has the capability of towing a vehicle with a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more.
  • Any vehicle that tows more than one vehicle or a trailer bus.
  • Any size vehicle which requires hazardous material (HazMat) placards or carries material listed as a select agent or toxin in Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 42, Part 73.
  • Any vehicle that transports hazardous wastes.

In the event you aren’t sure whether you need a CDL to work in the field you are interested in, contact the company and/or the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles to find out.

Now, once a CDL is obtained, there are also several requirements a truck driver must meet in order for them to be in compliance with California’s rules and regulations. Below we address what some of these requirements are.

  1. Truck drivers must carry certain documents with them at all times.

When operating a commercial truck, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Office of Truck Services says that a driver must carry the following documents with them to show enforcement personnel when requested:

  • Driver’s license documents and any related certificates.
  • Registration documents such as cab cards, permits, etc.
  • Proof of insurance.
  • Special permits for oversize and overweight loads, if it applies to you.
  • Hazardous materials shipping papers, if required.
  • Fuel tax permits.
  • Hours of service records.
  • Bills/Invoices etc. showing content and origin of agricultural products, if required.
  • Proof of sales tax payment if it applies to you.

What are some other requirements commercial truck drivers in CA must follow?

Some other requirements truck drivers must meet include:

  • Following state and federal hours-of-service rules.
  • Following the cargo limits that are set for the type of vehicle that is being operated.
  • Truckers who suffer from certain types of medical conditions must receive clearance before they are allowed to operate a truck and may even be required to carry certain documents that show they have been cleared by their physician to drive.

To learn more about what other requirements a large truck driver must meet, consider contacting either of the above-mentioned agencies for this information.

It is important that truck drivers, no matter what size vehicle they are driving, comply with all the rules the state of California has set to ensure they are qualified and capable of operating a vehicle that is responsible for transporting heavy loads for short or even long periods of time. One of the main reasons why these rules exist is to ensure those driving these vehicles have undergone the necessary training and are capable of maneuvering the vehicle in a safe manner.

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