How do you know if you need a commercial driver license (CDL)?

The laws surrounding whether or not you need a CDL are complex. Even the cops who issue tickets for driving without a CDL have trouble understanding the laws. That’s why they use the handy flow chart you see at the end of this post. A police shared his flow chart with one of our attorneys after a hearing.

As you will notice, there are three key factors. They are gross vehicle weight, the number of passengers a vehicle is designed to carry, and hazardous cargo. In summary:

  • If the vehicle you are driving has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, you need a CDL
  • If the vehicle you are driving is designed to carry 16 or more people, including the driver, you need a CDL.
  • If the vehicle you are driving carries placardable amounts of hazardous materials, you need a CDL (with a hazardous materials endorsement).

In Arizona, it is a criminal violation to drive a vehicle that requires a commercial driver license when you do not have a commercial driver license. The statute that covers this is A.R.S. 28-3481(A). If you are caught, you will likely be charged with a class 3 criminal misdemeanor. A class 3 misdemeanor carries the potential for a $500 fine (plus surcharges which would about double the fine), 30 days in jail, and probation.

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