American Towman Magazine - August 2022

Page 12

Tow Manager

Making the Grade Tips on Passing a CDL Test By Brian J. Riker

Brian J. Riker is a third-generation towman, with 26 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator, and president of Fleet Compliance Solutions. He specializes in helping navigate the complex world of federal and state transportation regulatory compliance. He can be reached at

Go for the full class A license right from the get-go so you do not need to repeat training later on in order to upgrade. Also, an unrestricted class A CDL can lead to many more opportunities than a class B or C license.


CDL, short for “Commercial Drivers License,” is a very important credential to have in your pocket if you wish to advance beyond a light-duty operator in the towing industry. Having a CDL opens many doors for advancement from a medium or heavy tow operator to an equipment-transport specialist. The opportunities are endless. After nearly 30 years holding a class A license, I have personally found them to be plentiful. It has been a great career! Each state has the right to create its own unique CDL rules, but most follow the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrator’s model CDL program guide, which follows the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations on issuance of CDLs. With the exception of a few states, the rules and basic qualifications are the same, as are the testing protocols. This article is intended to give general advice, not binding legal guidance, so please verify with your local driver licensing agency for the exact rules and procedures in your particular state. 12 • August 2022 |


Do you need a CDL? A common question, as there are some misunderstandings around tow trucks and exemptions from the CDL rules, or if air brakes alone can require a CDL. Here are the basics as a refresher. With the exception of a few states or specific situations, a CDL is required to operate any vehicle with a gross weight rating in excess of 26,000 pounds. Also, if the vehicle is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver or any size vehicle hauling hazardous materials requiring a placard. Notice the wording “gross weight rating” and “designed to carry,” as even empty a vehicle with either a weight rating or passenger seating design high enough can trigger the CDL requirement. A Class C CDL is for any vehicle up to 26,000 pounds that requires a CDL. This class would usually be for a small shuttle, school buses or a vehicle hauling hazardous materials. Next, Class B CDL is for any vehicle