When Is a CDL License Required?

Drivers engaging in commerce have a commercial driver's license if the gross vehicle weight exceeds 26,000 pounds either singly or combined with towed units, states the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. A CDL is also required for vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers or transporting hazardous materials.

States issue commercial driver's licenses, but they are required to meet or exceed testing standards issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, according to the administration's website. CDLs are required for professional drivers that operate vehicles that fall within the classes defined by federal regulations. Licensing for personal use of vehicles within the restricted classes varies by state. New York issues a separate Class D noncommercial license for personal use of vehicles that exceed 26,000 pounds, according to the New York DMV.

Federal requirements outline three classes of CDL as well as specific endorsements based upon the type of vehicle used, states the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Class A licenses allow drivers to operate vehicles that exceed 26,000 pounds combined with towed units that exceed 10,000 pounds. Class B licenses cover vehicles exceeding 26,000 pounds with towed units that are less than 10,000 pounds. Class C licenses are for transporting passengers or hazardous materials. Endorsements further restrict drivers to specific uses for vehicles. For example, a Class C license with an endorsement for driving a school bus is not valid for transporting hazardous materials.