American Towman Magazine - August 2022

Page 14

GETTING A CDL

Your maneuvering skills are evaluated by how many times you pull up and reposition the vehicle, if you have to stop and get out, or if you hit any of the cones or boundary lines.

with a gross weight rating over 26,000 pounds, and in all states, can tow a vehicle up to 10,000 pounds gross weight rating. Lastly, a Class A CDL is for any combination of vehicles with a gross weight rating(s) in excess of 26,000 pounds while towing a vehicle(s) with gross weight rating(s) in excess of 10,000 pounds.

WHAT ABOUT HOTSHOTS?

Please note, in some states a driver can tow a vehicle with a gross weight rating in excess of 10,000 pounds without a CDL provided that the combination weight (or rating) of the truck and towed vehicle does not exceed 26,000 pounds. (That’s how the hotshot pickup and trailer operators get away without having a class A CDL.) This fact is why it is important to fully understand the rules from the state that issued your drivers license, as they limit or permit operation of specific types and classes of vehicles with your drivers license. It is also important to note that it is very easy to jump from no need for a CDL to a class A CDL being required. In towing this happens most often when a light-duty wrecker is dispatched 14 • August 2022 | Towman.com

to tow a heavy pickup truck or similar vehicle. A typical lightduty wrecker (F-550 or 5500 chassis) has a gross weight rating of 18,000 to 19,500 pounds, which alone does not require a CDL. But if you hook up to a run of the mill Ford F-350 (or similar) with a gross weight rating of 11,000 pounds (very common today), your combined weight rating will be 29,000 to 30,500 pounds—well within CDL territory. Air brakes are another cause for great confusion. Air brake is a restriction on a CDL, not an endorsement on a drivers license. This means that unless the vehicle or combination of vehicles otherwise needs a CDL you do not need to “have air brakes” on your license to operate a non-CDL vehicle just because it is equipped with air brakes. Let’s be clear: air brakes alone do not require a CDL, as one of the other factors must be met first. This regulation is one of the most often misunderstood aspects. Even so, it is always a good idea to have a thorough understanding of how your vehicle works, including the air brake system, even if there is no specific licensing requirement.

Now that we have the basics of CDL requirements out of the way, what is next if you want to obtain one? While the process varies from state to state, the core parts are the same. Here is some advice from my perspective as a CDL trainer and examiner with nearly 30 years of experience in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a currently registered entry-level driver training provider with the FMCSA. The first step, after obtaining a US DOT medical examiners certification, is applying for a Commercial Learners Permit (CLP). Just as when you got your first drivers license, this will allow you to operate the type of vehicle you want to learn to drive while accompanied by a properly licensed CDL driver. Learner permits are good from between 180 days to one year, and may be renewed. Some states will allow you to take your knowledge tests and obtain your CLP before any formal training, while others will require you to complete the classroom portion of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Entry Level Driver Training program. This ELDT is provided by independent educators and, effective February 7, 2022, is a requirement for all new CDL applicants or those wishing to upgrade their license. In all cases you will need to complete the classroom, range and on-road portions of the ELDT prior to being issued your completed CDL.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

The best tips for passing the general knowledge and endorsement specific exam(s) are the following: read the stateprovided CDL manual; take a good entry-level training course; and use online practice exams. There are several practice exams available for