Commercial Driver FAQs in Alaska

What is a commercial driver's license (CDL)?

A CDL is a license issued to professional drivers of large logging trucks, cement mixers, box trucks, large cargo transport trucks, passenger buses, and school buses. You must have a CDL in order to drive to following vehicles:

  • A single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or combined weight of 26,001 lbs. and over.
  • Any size vehicle that is required to show hazardous materials placards.
  • A passenger or school bus, with an additional endorsement if the equipment you drive will hold 16 passengers or more, including the driver.

How old do I have to be to get a CDL?

You must be at least 19 years old to hold a CDL and may only drive your vehicle class within Alaska (intrastate). In order to drive outside of Alaska (interstate), you must be at least 21 years old.

I've heard that there is a lot of testing involved in getting a CDL. Is that true?

Yes, there is a lot more testing involved if you are applying for a CDL as opposed to a "regular" Class D passenger vehicle driver license.

The first part of the testing is a basic knowledge test about commercial vehicles and their operating systems. For other variations on the CDL, you will need to take and pass additional tests in order to receive what are known as "endorsements." You must have separate endorsements to drive the following:

  • Tank trucks for bulk liquid
  • Doubles and triples
  • Passenger buses
  • School buses
  • Hazardous materials

Also, if the vehicle you drive will be equipped with air brakes, you will be required to take and pass a separate test about air brakes.

How about if I plan to drive a recreational vehicle or tow a camping travel trailer behind my pickup truck?

No, if the combined weight is lower than the weights referenced in the first question on this page, you do not need a CDL.

What is the background investigation about? I heard that anyone driving a commercial vehicle must get one now. What's up?

It is not true that every commercial driver must submit to a background investigation. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, anyone renewing or applying for a hazardous materials endorsement (hazmat) must be fingerprinted and submit to a background investigation by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).

You can read more about these requirements on AK DMV website.

I own a small farm and sometimes need to haul the livestock I've bought or sold. I use a livestock trailer and my pickup truck. Do I need a commercial driver's license?

No, not if you are using the truck and trailer to move livestock, if you are not hauling in a "for-hire" capacity, and you do not drive farther than 150 miles from your farm.

I want to drive a school bus. Is there a separate handbook for school bus or passenger bus drivers in Alaska?

Alaska does not publish a separate school bus manual, but has included information related to passenger bus and school bus driving within the Commercial Driver's License Manual.

I've been hired to work on a large dairy farm, transporting the milk from the farm to the processing plant. I have my AK CDL but I don't have a tank endorsement. Do I need one?

If you will be using a tank truck to haul large volumes (1,000 gallons or more) of liquid, you must have the tank endorsement.

I own a small company and we need to be able to transport hazardous material to and from job sites using a pickup with placards. I have a hazmat endorsement, but do my drivers need one, too?

Yes, they are required by law to have a hazmat endorsement and, in order to obtain it, they will also be required to pass a background investigation and be fingerprinted.

I want to drive a small shuttle bus for my daughter's sports team. It's not a huge bus; it only holds nine people, plus the driver. Do I need a CDL?

No. You are only required to hold a commercial driver's license if your bus is designed to carry 16 passengers or more, including the driver. However, even if you never carry more than a few people at a time, if your bus is designed to hold at least 16 passengers, you will be required to hold a CDL with a passenger endorsement.

Does Alaska require a medical clearance for commercial drivers?

Yes, medical clearance is required. 

DMV.ORG BBB Business Review