Special Licenses in California

In the state of California, some vehicles will require a special license or certificate in order to operate them.

Below is a breakdown for which vehicles may have additional licensing requirements beyond a standard California driver license.

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

If you intend to work for a company that operates commercial motor vehicles (CMV), you may have to earn a commercial driver's license (CDL) as required by the state of California and the federal government.

The specific classification of CDL you need depends on the vehicle you intend to operate. For details on commercial driver's licenses classes, visit our CDL Classifications page.

What Vehicles Require a CA CDL to Operate?

Some of the vehicles that may require a California commercial driver's license include:

  • Tractor trailers
  • Construction vehicles.
  • City buses.
  • Shuttles.

In addition to obtaining a Class A, B, or C CDL, you may also be required to apply for an endorsement to operate some vehicles. A few examples include:

  • School buses: (S) endorsement.
  • Passenger buses: (P) endorsement.
  • Tankers: (N) endorsement.
  • Vehicles transporting hazardous materials: (H) endorsement.
  • Double or triple trailers: (T) endorsement.

For more information, here are a few of our CDL guides that may point you in the right direction:

Taxi & Chauffeur Licenses in CA

In California, vehicles that carry less than 10 passengers do not require a special license—taxicabs fall under this category. However, some cities in California do regulate the operation of taxicab and other chauffeur companies and the requirements of its drivers.

For instance, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) regulates all taxicab companies in Los Angeles to ensure they are safe and professional. This includes training and testing of all taxicab drivers within the city.

Though it will depend on the city you live in and the company you work for, use this example of taxicab requirements in Los Angeles as a general guide to what you may be required to do in your California city.

In Los Angeles, to obtain a taxi permit you are asked to:

  • Complete a Driver/Attendant Permit Application (Form DT 410) and have an authorized representative from your taxi franchise sign the back.
    • You can also get the form directly from your taxi company.
  • Obtain your complete driver's history report for your local California DMV. This driving record must be issued within the last 30 days.
  • Submit the above to LADOT, along with payment for the $106 processing fee.
    • Fees in Los Angeles vary if you are renewing or replacing a permit.
  • Pass a written taxicab driver examination, scheduled by LADOT when you submit your application.
  • Return to LADOT within 15 days of passing the exam and provide:
    • Your fingerprints.
    • Your CA driver's license.
    • Proof of your right to work.
    • Results from a controlled substance test.
    • Payment for the $88 fingerprinting and $5 permit/ID badge fees.

For additional information on the requirements to work as a for-hire driver within the state of California, check with your local government officials and your prospective employer.

Other Vehicle Requirements

While a separate license may not be required, you may need a special certificate in addition to your CA driver's license OR commercial driver's license to operate some vehicles in the state of California. Some certificates are obtained directly through the California DMV. Others require you to visit a CHP office. The DMV lists which certificates can be obtained where on its CDL and certificates page.

Some of the vehicles that require a special certificate include:

  • Ambulances.
    • The CA DMV provides a dedicated guide to obtaining an ambulance certificate.
  • Paratransit vehicles.
  • Farm labor vehicles.
  • Tow trucks.
  • Fire trucks.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles provides a detailed overview to certificates and license endorsements. They also provide a list of fees associated with applying for each type of certificate.

Each of the certificates mentioned requires additional specialized testing and training, and your employer can help you navigate the process for obtaining the certificate you need.

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