WHAT IS A COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S LICENSE (CDL)?
Generally speaking, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is a type of driver’s license required in the United States for any driver who intends to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) on public roads and highways, though there are special exceptions. A CMV is defined as a vehicle that is used to transport passengers or property and is either: (A) designed to have a (combined) gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more or (B) is used to transport hazardous materials with placarding.
Obtaining a CDL requires a driver to meet certain eligibility requirements and pass a series of exams to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in operating a commercial vehicle. To be eligible for a CDL, a driver must meet age requirements and have a valid (standard) driver’s license. In addition, the driver must pass a special medical examination to ensure that they are physically qualified to operate a commercial vehicle.
There are several different classes of CDL, depending on the type of vehicle being operated and the specific requirements of the job sought. Class A CDLs are required for drivers of combination vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, where the GVWR of the towed vehicle (typically a trailer) is in excess of 10,000 pounds. Class B CDLs are required for drivers of single vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more (such as many larger box trucks), or for drivers of combination vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, but where the GVWR of the vehicle being towed is less than 10,000 pounds. Finally, Class C CDLs are required for drivers of single or combination vehicles that do not meet the criteria for Class A or Class B CDLs, but are used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or where hazardous materials requiring placarding are being hauled.
To obtain a CDL, a driver must typically complete a CDL training program and pass a written exam and a road skills test. The written exam covers knowledge of traffic laws and safe driving practices, while the road skills test evaluates the driver’s ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle in a variety of common situations. Once a driver has obtained a CDL, they must renew it every few years and, frequently, must complete continuing education courses. Additional requirements may come from employers, agencies, or other entities.
WHY ARE CDLs REQUIRED?
Drivers operating CMVs are held to higher standards of safety and responsibility than drivers of non-commercial vehicles. They are often subject to strict hours of service regulations to prevent fatigue and are required to undergo regular drug and alcohol testing at specific intervals and following some types of crashes. In addition, CMV drivers are required to report traffic violations or accidents to employers and, many times, a state and/or federal agency (like the FMCSA).
CDL drivers play a critical role in the transportation industry, as they are responsible for safely transporting goods and people across the country. CDL drivers must be skilled and knowledgeable in the operation of their vehicles and must maintain good health and sleep in order to maintain a high level of safety on the road. Why? Read on to learn the stark truth about CMV crashes.
Truck crashes are a major concern on our roads and highways, as they are the source of many preventable fatalities and serious injuries each year. In order to address this issue, it is important to understand the factors that contribute to truck crashes and the ways in which crashes can be prevented in the future.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 4,761 fatal truck crashes in the United States in 2019 — a 4% increase from the previous year. These crashes resulted in 5,005 fatalities – nearly 75% of the fatalities were occupants of vehicles other than the large truck involved.
One major contributor to truck crashes is driver fatigue. Truck drivers frequently work long hours and may not get enough sleep – a problem which has been shown to lead to mistakes on the road. In addition, drivers are often put under intense pressure to meet tight delivery schedules, which can further increase the risk of fatigue.
Speeding is another major factor that has been identified as a contributor to truck crashes. Trucks take much longer to stop than passenger vehicles, are more difficult to maneuver than passenger vehicles and, so, driving at high speeds greatly increases the risk of a crash. In 2019, more than 1 in 4 large truck crashes involved speeding as a contributing factor.
Alcohol and drug use is another important factor that can contribute to truck crashes. While the rate of alcohol impairment among truck drivers involved in crashes is lower than the rate among drivers of passenger vehicles, CMV drivers are held to a higher standard — any amount of alcohol or drug use can impair a CMV driver’s ability to operate that large vehicle safely. In 2019, about 1 in 10 large truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.
In addition to driver-related factors, vehicle-related factors can contribute to truck crashes. These include mechanical issues with the truck, such as faulty brakes or tires, as well as issues with the load itself, such as an improperly secured load.
There are many ways we can reduce the risk of truck crashes. One of the best ways to reduce truck crashes is to improve driver training and education, including training on safe driving practices and fatigue management. In addition, increasing the use of technology (like electronic logging devices or “ELDs,” collision avoidance systems, etc) can help to improve safety on the road.
Other strategies to reduce the risk of truck crashes include implementing stricter regulations on hours of service, increasing the frequency of use of speed limiters on trucks, and increasing the frequency of (required) drug and alcohol testing for truck drivers.
Overall, truck crashe studies have helped to identify the factors that contribute to crashes and has led to the development of strategies to reduce the risk of future crashes. Smart, effective, and regular driver training – starting with the CDL – is widely regarded as a step in the right direction.
SO, HOW DO I GET A CDL?
Obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in the United States requires knowledge, skills, and a total commitment to safety. Here are some general steps addressing how to obtain a CDL:
1. Determine what type of CDL you need: There are several different classes of CDL, depending on the type of vehicle you will be driving. Class A CDLs are required for drivers of combination vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, where the GVWR of the towed vehicle (typically a trailer) is in excess of 10,000 pounds. Class B CDLs are required for drivers of single vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more (such as many larger box trucks), or for drivers of combination vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, but where the GVWR of the vehicle being towed is less than 10,000 pounds. Finally, Class C CDLs are required for drivers of single or combination vehicles that do not meet the criteria for Class A or Class B CDLs, but are used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or where hazardous materials requiring placarding are being hauled.
2. Meet the eligibility requirements: In order to obtain a CDL, you must meet age requirements (check with your local jurisdiction) and have a current, valid driver’s license. You must also pass a special medical examination to ensure that you are physically qualified to operate a commercial vehicle.
3. Complete a CDL training program: Many states require you to complete a special, approved CDL training program before you can take the state’s CDL exam. Programs can be found at many community colleges, truck driving schools, and other training facilities. The training programs typically cover topics including but not limited to: vehicle inspections, basic control of the vehicle, shifting, backing up, and driving on the highway.
4. Pass the CDL exams: Once you have completed a CDL training program, you will need to pass a required written exam and a road skills test. The written exam covers traffic laws and safe driving practices, while the road skills test will evaluate the driver’s ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle. Almost always, drivers are required to bring their own vehicle to the road skills test, frequently a commercial vehicle of the same class as the CDL sought.
5. Obtain a CDL: Once you have passed the CDL exams and met all requirements, you will be issued a CDL. Note: you will need to renew your CDL every few years and, often, complete continuing education courses to maintain your license, among other requirements.
It is important to note that the process for obtaining a CDL may change occasionally and the process can vary slightly from state to state. Be sure to check with your state’s department of motor vehicles for specific requirements and procedures.
Obtaining a CDL is a significant undertaking, but it can lead to a rewarding career in the transportation industry. By following these steps and committing to safe driving practices, you can earn your CDL and begin a career as a professional commercial driver.
Gurney Law, PLLC is committed to the safety of our roadways. If you have been injured or if someone you know has been injured or killed in a truck crash, call our office anytime (407-554-5757), visit our website (www.gurney.law), or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We are happy to help. #itspersonal