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Old 03-22-2018, 03:08 AM   #1
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Do I Need a Commercial Driver's License (CDL)?

I am writing this because ... because the question is asked every week, or every day if you read any of the FaceBook Groups, and the same mis-information is repeated day after day, week after week.

So here is the answer with the only caveat being that I am not a lawyer. It wouldn't really help much even if I were, as licensing rules vary by state.

The basic answer for most Skoolies, and privately owned buses is "No, you do not need a CDL".

Let's dispense with the first myth:

"A bus is a commercial vehicle".

The term "commercial vehicle" is not a classification of vehicle recognized by either the federal government or any state legislature. I know it is widely bandied about, here and elsewhere, but we ought to stop using it because it is a meaningless term.

A Commercial Driver's License is a license to drive commercially. It is not a license to drive a commercial vehicle. The entirety of the CDL Regs are predicated on the nature of the journey, and only if that journey is commercial in purpose do the regulations apply. If the journey is not commercial in purpose, scrub the CDL Regs, they do not apply.

Once the nature of the journey is established, then all vehicles are governed by weight and the trailer situation. A "Class B" CDL allows vehicles in excess of 26001 lbs to be driven. A "Class A" adds a trailer in excess of 10000 lbs (Semi).

ONly in this instance are buses treated differently. If you drive a bus you need a "P" (passenger) endorsement. If it's a school bus you need "P" and "S" (School Bus).

If you are driving ANY of the above vehicles for a purely private or domestic reason, none of that applies.

So having ruled out the need for a CDL you have to look at what your state driver's license allows.

Most states, when you pass your driving test, issue you a "Class D" driving license. Generally this covers cars and light trucks. Any passenger vehicle up to around 15 seats is covered for private driving, over that there may be more rules.

Many states make no reference to "heavy vehicles" in their state regs, so those drivers are good to go on their regular license. My state, Oklahoma, is one of them. If I moved to Texas I would have to take an additional test and that bit is next.

Some states, recognizing that this could cause a problem, passed laws covering the private use of heavy vehicles. They did this by adding required Classes to their state driving licenses, and those laws tend to follow the CDL classification system.

So in Texas, as my bus is plated at 33000 lbs, I would need to add a "Non-Commercial Class B" to my Texas Drivers License. If I then wanted to tow a trailer weighing more than 10000 lbs I would need a "Non-Commercial Class A".

This would only allow me to drive those vehicles privately. If I wanted to use my private semi to carry goods, I would need a CDL because the feds control that under the "Interstate Commerce" clause of the Constitution. Again there is the clue ... they used the commerce clause because of the purpose of the driving.

There is also a fabled "Air-brake Endorsement". Doesn't exist, not in any state I can find. It does exist in some Canadian provinces.

The closest I can find is PA. In that state they require you to pass the same test a Non-Commercial Class B driver would have to pass, for ANY vehicle with air-brakes, regardless of weight.

Reciprocity:

A US Driver's License, properly issued, is valid in all 50 states and in the whole of Canada. If you are legal in your state, you are legal everywhere and that includes those provinces in Canada that require their own provincial license holders to pass an air-brake test. You do not.

There are apocryphal stories floating around that suggest that drivers of RVs have been held up at borders while an appropriate driver can be found. I suspect they are made up, but in case they are not let's consider the final point.

Not every LEO or even state official knows the rules. If you call your DMV and they tell you that you need a CDL, then they are wrong. Even state officials will talk about "commercial vehicles" until you ask them to spell out what constitutes a "commercial vehicle", and which statute defines them (there isn't one).

This might occasionally mean that you pick up a completely unjustified ticket. The court will dismiss it but that can be both inconvenient and expensive, which sucks.

I'm not sure of the situation in Washington State which appears to be a bit of an outlier. None of the references I can find state that WA tells people they need a CDL, but lots of people say that is what they have been told. I recommend they ask which statute specifies the law. WA cannot change the CDL Regs. If they passed a law that appears to do that, then that law can't be enforced because Duh! I suspect it is crossed wires.

The most common situation we get asked about is the journey home from the dealership or auction house. You will be driving a big yellow bus that probably has all of its lights intact and says "School Bus" across the front and back.

It isn't a school bus. It stopped being a school bus the moment the school district withdrew it from the fleet. What you are driving is a private bus, In Transit and on delivery miles to its new home.

You will be fine on a temporary tag with a Bill of Sale in your hot, sticky mitt.

We all know that big, yellow buses are invisible to law enforcement, but if you are pulled over a polite discussion should see you on your way.

When you get it home, pay attention to your state rules for tagging new vehicles, especially out-of-state vehicles.

Good luck.

Note: It's entirely possible that I made the odd mistake above, if so add in the comments.
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Old 03-22-2018, 06:22 AM   #2
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I think part of the issue is that even the DMV employees dont know.. so when any one of us calls our DMV the employee doesnt necessarily know the real answer...

2 years ago Zi talked ot the Ohio DMV and they said regardless of use if its over 26k GVWR or 15 seats then it needs a CDL to drive.. when I actually registered the bus they told me nor necessary because im not using it for commercial purposes.. I called again after some discussions here. supervisor who said need a CDL to drive but dont need to carry a DOT number. last year I re-uppsed the registration on the red bus.. manager at the DMV store-front said no CDL no DOT number needed.. reading the law-book is vague about it, it can be interpreted either way...

what I mention only applies if you dont re-title as a motorhome (in Ohio). in ohio if you title it as an RV no special license is required.. one of my busses came with a motor home title, the other as a bus, Progressive commercial has both insured and im almost 2 years in and havent been cancelled.. I hear rumors that some get cancelled by their insurance provider once they convert their title to Motorhome.

I havent done much reading on the Class-8 forums to see what those guys do..(there are guys that drive semi's around as personal daily drivers).. theres probably insight into how the DMV handles those when used for personal use.
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Old 03-22-2018, 06:46 AM   #3
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(there are guys that drive semi's around as personal daily drivers)..
-Christopher

OOOOHHh.... hmmmm.... nevermind.

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Old 03-22-2018, 06:47 AM   #4
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I drive my bus around as a daily driver.. but now im hijacking the original thread so ill stop here
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Old 03-22-2018, 07:09 AM   #5
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Can this thread be a sticky? I think this has summed it up the best. I know I was confused with what I needed until Steve helped me understand the difference.

This needs to be a sticky.

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Old 03-22-2018, 08:36 AM   #6
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Since LEO, DMV staff and border guards may not know these details, some people may feel better to just go ahead and get the appropriate CDL even though they will never drive for commercial purposes.

I believe there are downsides to that idea?
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Old 03-22-2018, 08:40 AM   #7
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Since LEO, DMV staff and border guards may not know these details, some people may feel better to just go ahead and get the appropriate CDL even though they will never drive for commercial purposes.

I believe there are downsides to that idea?
Yes, you will be held to a higher standard. Tickets will cost lots more and the judge will be tougher.

I held a CDL for many years.
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Old 03-22-2018, 08:47 AM   #8
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I have had a CDL-Class B for close to 20 years (I use to drive school buses ) - and the only downside I have ever had was the yearly physicals in Florida. Mostly just remembering to do the DOT Physical and get the forms to the DMV. Actually, that is probably a bonus to having a CDL - otherwise, I would forget to go get a physical.
Even with that - having a CDL has never hindered me in any way. I drive relatively responsibly.
I do not drive commercial vehicles (although I can) - and my Bus is registered as a Motorhome.

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Originally Posted by john61ct View Post
Since LEO, DMV staff and border guards may not know these details, some people may feel better to just go ahead and get the appropriate CDL even though they will never drive for commercial purposes.

I believe there are downsides to that idea?
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Old 03-22-2018, 09:30 AM   #9
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My simple-minded understanding...

...unless you are driving commercially, i.e., for money (passengers, freight, whatever)...you do NOT need a CDL. That comes down from the Federal level (DOT). And there are various levels of commercial endorsements.
ls

Any other requirements that apply to NON-commercial (weight, length, etc.) are from the State level and need to be examined based on where your license is issued.
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Old 03-22-2018, 09:58 AM   #10
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My simple-minded understanding...

...unless you are driving commercially, i.e., for money (passengers, freight, whatever)...you do NOT need a CDL. That comes down from the Federal level (DOT). And there are various levels of commercial endorsements.
ls

Any other requirements that apply to NON-commercial (weight, length, etc.) are from the State level and need to be examined based on where your license is issued.
You are correct.

However, it is quite interesting to see how many people are not correct, yet they will berate me and accuse me of providing false info. I posted this in the Bus Conversion Group on FB and they are already doing it
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