Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

Last Updated: May 29, 2020

Definition - What does Commercial Driver's License (CDL) mean?

A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is a legal certification to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) on public highways and roads with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds (or more), independent of, but also including, towage that covers trailer attachments with an allowable limit up to or exceeding 10,000 pounds. CDL classification falls into three categories including Class A, Class B, and Class C, with each class furnishing endorsements. When taking a CDL examination, endorsements serve as the criteria for operating distinct commercial motor vehicles, for example, a Class C license permits operation of vehicles with a passenger occupancy of 16 or more coupled with the transport of hazardous materials.

WorkplaceTesting explains Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

After receiving a CDL license, drivers can apply for additional endorsements that carry distinctive requirements including background check, written and road aptitude testing, marginal fees, periodic license renewal and, in some states, criminal history. The CDL classification system follows a set of strict guidelines where the number of endorsements contributes to career prospects in the transportation industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provides the exemption of CDL licensure for motor vehicle operators within agricultural and governmental occupations (such as firefighting).

Individuals with traffic violations that include driving under the influence (DUI), accidents resulting in injuries or fatalities, conveying illegal substances, fleeing an accident scene, and possessing an invalid CDL license, are liability issues where revocation or suspension ensues. Consequently, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 (CMVSA) is a federal mandate that sets the precedence in addressing negligence on the road and precluding multiple licenses for drivers, which serves as a loophole in sidestepping revocations or suspensions across different states. The facility of retrieving and interchanging traffic violation information reinforces CDL standards in holding CMV operators responsible against stringent penalties.

The interrelationship between employers and employees reflects their solidarity to promote safe transportation methods on public highways in full compliance with federal and state regulations. FMCSA subsections that cover disclosure of any convictions of traffic violations by the driver to the state and their employer, along with consistent oversight of motor vehicle reports (MVR) to determine their legitimacy, is imperative to companies. Moreover, CMV operators that have two or three traffic violations inside three years coupled with vehicular accidents outside of work can impede CDL eligibility requirements.

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