Do I Need a CDL?

"Do I need a CDL to drive this load?"

This is probably the most frequently asked question I receive. There are different classes of licenses, different license types, and the rules seem to change depending on what type of vehicle you are driving. Mistakes are most commonly made by companies that are operating pickup trucks and Mid-Sized vehicles.


A few key points to keep in mind:

1. Just because a driver doesn’t need to have a CDL does NOT mean that they don’t have to abide by the other regulations. This includes Hours of Service, Medical Cards and DQ files.


2. A driver that is operating any size Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) has to do almost everything exactly the same as any Semi truck driver (I know, there's no such thing, it's just standard terminology). They just may not be required to have a CDL and may not have to do DOT D&A testing.


3. The requirements change based on the GVWR of the vehicle or GCWR of the Power Unit

Trailer it is towing. One day the driver doesn’t need a CDL, but you switch the trailer to be a little longer or heavier and now all of a sudden he needs a Class A CDL.


4. If a driver gets stopped and is supposed to have a CDL but doesn’t, your driver will be put out of service, it will affect your SMS scores and get too many of those types of violations and you will be flagged for an audit. It does not matter that you are only hauling private property in the course of business, or that you had no idea that it was a regulation at all.


5. What about the landscapers, small construction companies, service companies, or any other business that has vehicles? You don’t even have a DOT # but the DOT stopped you anyway and said that you need one and gave you a bunch of violations. What the hell, right? Well, in most cases the officer is probably right and now you are on their radar so best to get it done at this point. The fine for operating without a DOT # when one is required is around $13,000 per day. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to hand over that kind of cash.



What should you do?

Well first off, I would Kung Fu Master the crap out of the regulations and figure out everything I need to know about it. You can start by taking this online course that is all about CDL’s & CMV’s. Then, I would make sure all of my drivers knew exactly what vehicle they could drive with the license they have.


Here are a few things I suggested to one client that helped them quite a bit. Since they have implemented this along with a solid Fleet Safety Policy and good operating procedures, they haven’t had any issues with unqualified drivers operating vehicles that they wouldn’t necessarily know about otherwise.


1. Color coded key tags

2. Hitch Locks for certain pickups so they can’t attach to a trailer (at least not without some major effort to remove the locks)

3. Visor cards in every truck with a graph of what type of license was required

4. Color coded flags or stickers on each trailer signifying the GVWR of that trailer

5. Training at orientation to make drivers aware of what they can and can’t drive

6. Authorization for drivers to tell their supervisor “No, I am not driving that” without

repercussions (This is a big one, and some companies have a hard time with it. At least in the beginning and you have to be mindful that sometimes employees will try to use this as a way of getting out of work, too.) That is something that needs to be addressed internally and in your company policy. Most people don’t refuse to work just for the sake of it, although I do see it, and some people are just a pain in the a$% no matter what you do. But on the other hand, some supervisors don’t care how the job gets done, as long as it gets done. Don’t let your supervisors become your downfall, train the supervisors just the same and let them know what your thoughts are on it.


You probably have some really good ideas too, I would love to hear them and any feedback you have on how they have worked for you.


Bonus Video:


After I created this short video, I decided that just was not enough. I was still going to get more questions, and it didn’t necessarily cover all of the different scenarios. So, I made an online course that covers a bunch of scenarios, if this than that, when this happens, you need to do that, if you are driving this type of truck, you need this type of license and so on…you get the point.


Online Course

Get the training on CDL's you really need. If you want to Kung Fu Master the regulations CLICK HERE to take our online course on CDL’s & CMV’s. Look, we know that trying to figure everything out needs to be easier. When I started over 20 years ago Google didn’t even exist, there were hardly any resources available, and the FMCSA didn’t help much either. They were great at issuing huge fines though. That is why I made it my mission to help you not make the same mistakes I did.


So to help me in that mission and by a lot of client requests, I created our online training program. By taking this course you will:

  • Potentially Eliminate Out-of-Service Violations

  • Increase Business Practice Efficiency

  • Learn About Non-Trucking Company Information


Bundle Up & Save

Of course you can purchase each course individually, but you can also bundle them together for almost 50% off the price you would pay for all courses separately!




CONTACT US if you have questions or to find out about other services we offer. I promise not to be a pushy salesperson or offer anything that won't actually help you!




If you have been reading my blogs and emails for a while, I figure you have kind of seen my personality in a few of them. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you like to read informational content. Do you prefer storytelling articles, Information Only, etc. I will be sending out a survey soon and I really hope you will take the time to respond. I want to be helpful in a non-boring way, so you tell me!


If you have something interesting you would like to share, send it over, I will be happy to give you credit, post to my site and share with my followers. Not sure what I am going to call it yet, but I hope to have a “Story of the Month” or “Opinion of the Month” type of thing going on. Jeez people, I can only think of so many things to write about, help me out a bit!


Tyna Bryan is the CEO of D.O.T. Readiness Group and DOTReady Software. With 20+ years of experience working in the industry, Tyna has owned and managed several companies as well as consulted for hundreds of companies all over the United States. If you get the chance to meet Tyna, she's a spitfire who knows her stuff! She has been consulting and training on DOT compliance and regulations exclusively since 2009.

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