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Do Truckers Need Special Licenses?

Each state has their own authority, regulations, and criteria for granting drivers a license. In the past, there was a problem with the different regulations between the states. For example, one state might have more stringent testing requirements than another, or in one state any driver with any license might have been able to operate a large commercial vehicle. Because of the flux in regulations and the variances between the states, there was an increasing amount of accidents and injuries reported nationally. However, in 1992, a federal law that was enacted for commercial drivers which required all of the states to meet certain licensing standards. This law implemented what is known as a commercial driver’s license or (CDL), and was enacted so that the differing standards between the states would be evened out. The federal law, which implemented the CDL’s also, established standards for testing, licensing, and health standards that were required for a state to issue a CDL.

Drivers who operate commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or greater, those who transport 16 or more passengers at a time, and drivers who transport hazardous materials both on interstate roads and those who operate their vehicles within the state must obtain and maintain a current CDL license.

truck accident lawyers - Do Truckers Need Special Licenses?

Who can get a CDL license?

As noted above the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) regulates the rules and requirements for all commercial drivers across the country.  While each state can have their own specific guidelines, in order to be eligible to apply for a commercial driver license a person must be:

  • 18 years old – to operate a vehicle entirely and exclusively within one state.
  • 21 years old – to operate a commercial vehicle that drives across state lines or alternatively if the vehicle will contain and transport hazardous materials
  • Have no prior disqualifying criminal offenses.

If a driver meets these criteria, they must then apply for a commercial learner’s permit, which includes the driver providing a current drivers license, a ten-year driver history, and a medical examination.  After they will have to pass a knowledge and skills test. Even after all of this, a driver will only possess a learner’s permit, which they must hold for at least 14 days before they can test for their actual commercial driver’s license.  Once a driver has satisfied all of these requirements and have practiced on the road with a licensed CDL driver they can apply for their full commercial driver’s license. A driver will be subject to further testing including a vehicle inspection, basic controls exam, and a road test.

truck accident lawyers - Do Truckers Need Special Licenses?

As noted above, each state can set their own additional requirements for drivers to obtain a commercial drivers license.  For example in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) oversees the licensing of CDL drivers.  In addition to all of the above requirements set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration a Pennsylvania resident who wants to obtain a CDL will have to provide:

  • Proof of U.S citizenship or that they have lawful permanent status – this can be satisfied through producing a birth certificate, a valid U.S passport, or through a certificate of naturalization.
  • Proof of Pennsylvania Residency – If you are not a Pennsylvania Resident, but are applying for a CDL in Pennsylvania you ill have to go through additional steps to obtain a CDL. However, Pennsylvania residents will still be required to provide a lease, or tax records, or mortgage documents to prove that their residency. Like the Federal Regulation, Pennsylvania requires that drivers obtain commercial learners permit before they can granted a full commercial drivers license. However, unlike the federal requirements, Pennsylvania drivers must possess their commercial learner’s permit for 15 days as opposed to 14 under the federal requirements.

Many states have very similar standards under their respective department of transportation, which impose obligations and requirements on drivers before they are allowed to obtain a commercial driver’s license.


Many times commercial drivers who have had their licenses suspended will continue to drive. In the event that you were involved in an accident with a driver who did not have a current commercial driver’s license or their license was suspended, this may be a basis for liability. To schedule a private, no-cost evaluation, call our truck wreck attorneys (215) 709-6940 or contact us online. If the statute of limitations expires, your window of legal opportunity will close and you won’t be able to pursue a claim. So contact us today to see how we can make our experience work for you. You only pay if there’s a financial recovery.

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