Commercial Driver FAQs in New York
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When do I need a New York CDL?
You need a CDL to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), which is defined as:
- A single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more
- A trailer with a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds if the gross combination weight rating is 26,001 pounds or more
- A vehicle designed to transport 16 or more occupants, including the driver, or a vehicle defined as a bus
- Any vehicle that requires hazardous materials placards
You can obtain a Class A, Class B, or Class C commercial license, depending on the type of vehicle you will be driving. If you drive a CMV without a commercial license, you could go to jail or incur a court fine of $5,000.
When am I exempt from needing a CDL?
Not all large vehicles require a commercial license. Generally, RVs driven for personal or family recreation, military vehicles driven by the military, farm vehicles driven on farms by farmers, and emergency vehicles driven by emergency personnel are exempt (see section 1 of the New York State Commercial Driver's Manual for specifics).
Are there age restrictions on getting a CDL?
You can get a Class B or C commercial license at age 18, but federal requirements dictate that you must be at least 21 to drive a commercial vehicle across state lines.
If you're between 18 and 21 and have at least one year of driving experience, you may obtain a CDL with the restrictions that you may operate only within the state of New York and you are not eligible for the passenger, school bus, or hazardous materials endorsements. You must be at least 21 to receive a Class A license.
May I have a CDL or other driver license from more than one state?
No. By federal law, it's illegal for CMV drivers to possess more than one license of any kind, and you may have a license only from your state of legal residence. This means that you may not have both a New York CDL and a regular New York driver license; you should surrender your regular license when you obtain a CDL. If you have licenses from other states, you must surrender those as well.
All 50 states share information about CDL drivers, and if you are found to have licenses from more than one state, you might end up with a $5,000 fine or even jail time. Since your New York CDL allows you to drive both passenger and commercial vehicles anywhere in the country, it's the only one you need.
Are there restrictions on who may drive a hazmat truck?
You bet. Applicants for a hazardous materials endorsement will submit fingerprints and undergo a background check. You may be denied a hazmat endorsement if you are not a lawful permanent U.S. resident, have renounced your U.S. citizenship, are wanted or under indictment for certain felonies, have been convicted of certain felonies, have been committed to a mental institution or judged mentally defective, or are considered by the Transportation Security Administration to be a security threat.
There used to be a Non-CDL Class C license. What happened to that?
Before July 26, 2005, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles offered another type of license that allowed drivers to operate large vehicles between 18,000 pounds and 26,000 pounds fully laden. This midrange license has been eliminated and rolled into the standard Class D license for passenger cars.
Holders of Non-CDL Class C licenses will receive a Class D license when they renew; conversely, those who currently have a Class D license may now operate not only a passenger car or special-use vehicle, but also the following types of trucks:
- A truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds or less
- A truck with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or less that tows another vehicle with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less
- A 26,000-pound-or-less truck towing a trailer that weighs more than 10,000 pounds as long as the vehicles' combined GVWR is less than 26,000 pounds
See more details and information about how this change affects endorsement requirements.
I understand that New York imposes additional requirements for bus drivers. What are they?
Under New York law, employers of bus drivers are under an additional burden to protect the well-being of passengers the buses carry. To that end, employers must do the following:
- Determine that the driver possesses a valid CDL and is qualified to drive buses.
- Run an employment history background check that goes back three years.
- Get driving records from every jurisdiction where the driver lived, worked, or was licensed in the past three years.
- Require the driver to take a physical examination and then follow-up exams every two years.
- Review the driver's driving record every year to make sure he or she continues to meet the minimum bus-driving requirements.
- Once a year, observe the driver's performance while driving a passenger-carrying bus.
- Test the driver every two years on rules of the road, defensive driving practices, and laws.
- Suspend drivers who fail to notify the employer of convictions or accidents.
In addition to these requirements, drivers of school buses must be at least 21 and pass a yearly follow-up physical.
For further details, read section 1.5 of the New York Commercial Driver's Handbook.
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