Special Licenses in California

Who Needs a Commercial Drivers License?

You'll need a commercial drivers license (CDL) to drive any of the following:

  • A vehicle whose actual, registered, or gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is over 26,001 lbs and is towing a vehicle with an actual, registered, or GVWR of over 10,001 lbs.
  • A vehicle used for towing 2 trailers or a trailer and a vehicle
  • A vehicle meant to transport at least 10 passengers, including the driver
  • A vehicle used to carry hazardous materials which require having a placard
  • A vehicle used to carry hazardous waste

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) lists some additional restrictions, as well as some exceptions, to these rules.

Certain driving professions require having endorsements in addition to a CDL, while others don't require a CDL. We'll sort out some common scenarios below.

School Bus Drivers

Besides having a CDL, school bus drivers must have a school bus endorsement ("S") and a school bus driver certificate.

Shuttle Bus Drivers

Shuttle buses not only come in a variety of styles and sizes, but are used in many different ways. Drivers may need to obtain a CDL, along with a passenger or other endorsements. Check with the potential employer to find out what is needed for your particular situation.

Taxi Cab Drivers

While the Golden State doesn't issue any statewide special licenses for taxi drivers, local jurisdictions may impose their own requirements in order to drive a taxi cab within their area.

For instance, some may require an applicant to complete a taxi driving course through an approved taxi school. Additionally, the taxi cab company itself may impose its own guidelines.

It's best to inquire with local government officials and your prospective employer to determine what is needed to drive a taxi cab in your area.


Whether you'll need to have a CDL depends on the type of vehicle you'll be driving as a chauffeur.

Generally speaking, if you're driving a vehicle designed to transport no more than 10 passengers, you'll simply need a valid, standard Class C California driver's license. Anything over that limit means you'll need to have a CDL.

However, local jurisdictions or the limousine company itself may impose additional requirements.

Sport Vehicle Drivers

Californians don't need to have a license to operate an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).

Other Types of Licenses

The DMV provides information on other types of specialty licenses or certificates needed for certain occupations, such as for tow truck or ambulance drivers.

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