Commercial Driver FAQs in California

What, exactly, may I drive with my commercial license?

That depends on the commercial class designation on your commercial driver's license.

  • Commercial Class A:
    • Any legal combination of vehicles.
  • Commercial Class B:
    • A bus (but not a trailer bus), with endorsement.
    • A single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVRW) above 26,001 lbs.
    • A vehicle with 3 axles that weighs more than 6,000 lbs.
    • A farm labor vehicle, with endorsement.
    • Any Class C noncommercial vehicle.
  • Commercial Class C:
    • Any Class C vehicle carrying hazardous materials that require placards (endorsement required).

I'm going to become a firefighter. Do I need a commercial license?

Yes, you will need a Restricted Class A or B Fire Fighter License, depending on the fire truck's weight. For a vehicle with a GVWR of more than 10,000 lbs., you'll need a Class A (which also allows you to drive all Class B fire trucks). If it weighs less than that, you'll get a Class B.

I haul freight over the road for a big trucking company. If I get a ticket in my private vehicle, will my employer find out?

Probably. Employers register all Class A, B, and C commercial vehicle drivers in a program with the California DMV called the Employer Pull Notice (EPN) Program. When you are hired to drive a commercial vehicle, the DMV links your driving records to your employer. There are three instances when a notification will be sent to your employer:

  • When your employer enrolls you in the EPN Program.
  • Annually from the date you were enrolled.
  • If you've had any of the following added to your driving record:
    • Traffic conviction
    • Failure to appear in court
    • Accident
    • License suspension or revocation
    • Any other actions taken against your driving privilege

I understand that all hazmat endorsement holders must have a background check. Is this correct?

Yes, it is. All hazmat drivers in California must undergo a fingerprint-based background check when they first apply for a CDL and every time they renew their commercial license. This carries another fee of $86.50.

I drive a bus. Is it OK if my chiropractor completes my medical examination report?

Yes, provided the chiropractor is listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

May I renew my CDL over the Internet?

If the DMV sent you an Internet renewal notice with a renewal identification number (RIN), you may renew your CDL online with an active Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card for the renewal fee.

My company gave me a road test in one of their vehicles and said that's all I need. Is that correct?

If your company is properly authorized by the DMV, it may test your road skills and issue you a Certificate of Driving Skill (Form DL 170 ETP). Be sure to bring the certificate with you when you go for your DMV appointment, and you won't have to take a DMV road test.

I have my new medical clearance form. Where do I send it?

The DMV requires commercial drivers to submit an updated medical examination report every 2 years. Mail it to:

  • Department of Motor Vehicles
  • CDL Unit, G204
  • CDL Unit, G204
  • Sacramento, CA 94244

I'm a farmer and often use a 1-ton dually (dual rear wheel) pickup truck plus a large trailer. Do I need a commercial driver's license?

You only need a regular non-commercial driver's license for a truck and trailer weighing between 10,000 lbs. and 15,000 lbs. together as long as you are using the truck and trailer for agricultural purposes only (not for hire), and you don't drive farther than 150 miles from your farm.

What is expected in the pre-trip test portion of the DMV road test?

The DMV will thoroughly inspect the vehicle you'll drive in your road test, inside and out, including the trailer. Our Commercial Driver Education article describes in detail what you'll need to look at.


DL 170

Form is filed with the DMV to certify your commercial vehicle driving skills as evaluated by an examiner. Only for those in ETP.

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