In the United States, anyone who is certified for a commercial drivers license (also known as a CDL) is able to operate any vehicle with a gross vehicle rating (GVWR) of 26,001 lb. (11,793 kg) or more for commercial use. Certified individuals are also required to possess a commercial drivers license to transport hazardous materials as classified by the United States Department of Transportation, and when transporting 16 or more passengers (including the driver). Driving a commercial motor vehicle, which consists mostly of semi-trucks, requires advanced skills and knowledge above and beyond those who drive light weight vehicles such as a sedan or small truck. Before the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 was implemented, many states had varied licensing requirements in order to drive large commercial vehicles. The lack of training (or no training at all) for these drivers resulted in a large number of preventable traffic accidents and deaths.
The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 went into effect on October 27th, 1986. The objective of this act was to primarily:
In addition, The GVWR helps determine the CDL Class. The class of commercial license you apply for will depend on the GVWR of the commercial vehicle you drive. As defined by the United States Department of Transportation, vehicle classes based on the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) are listed to the right:
This class includes any combination of vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds. (Holders of a Class A license, with any appropriate endorsements, operate all vehicles within groups B and C.)
Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR. (Holders of a Class B license may, with any appropriate endorsements, operate all vehicles within group C.)
Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definitions of Group A or Group B as combined herein, but that either is designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver, or is placarded for hazardous materials.