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What is a CDL?

Posted by Donald Turner | Jun 06, 2017 | 0 Comments

Com truck2

A commercial driving license, or CDL for short, is required to drive a myriad of vehicles. From carrying school children to traveling across country with cargo to even transporting hazardous materials, commercial drivers are necessary to the function of the infrastructure of all states. But, in order to drive heavy-duty vehicles such as these, a commercial driving license is necessary.


  • Must be 18 years of age or older to be licensed to drive in GA only
  • To drive in all fifty states, the applicant must be 21 years of age or older.
  • Must pass a Vision Test
  • Must pass the applicable Road Skills Test
  • Must possess a valid Georgia's Driver's License
  • Must possess a valid Class AP or BP Instructional Permit for Classes A or B
  • Must certify their driving category
  • Must provide Medical Certification (if required)
  • Must provide Medical Waivers (if required)
  • New to Georgia applicants must surrender any out-of-state driver's licenses

Classes of Commercial Vehicles

There are a few different classes in commercial driving and they are all determined by the weight of the vehicle that a person drives.

  • Class A
    • Truck trailer or tractor-semi trailer combination that has a weight exceeding 26,001 pounds and the unit being towed exceeds 10,000 pounds.
    • Class A drivers can operate vehicles in the Class B and C categories with special endorsements.
  • Class B
    • Single vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more pounds and the unit being towed weighs less than 10,000 pounds.
    • Class B drivers can operate motor vehicles that are within Class C
  • Class C
    • Only issued if the vehicle is designed to transport sixteen or more passengers, including the driver, or utilized to transport hazardous materials in quantities that require placarding.

 Categories of Commercial Vehicle DrivingDepending on the category, a medical certificate may be required.

  • Non-excepted Interstate (NI)
    • Operates in interstate commerce and is required to maintain federal medical certification
  • Non-excepted Intrastate (NA)
    • Operates only in intrastate commerce and is required to meet FMCSA driver requirements.
  • Excepted Interstate (EI)
    • Operates in interstate commerce, but engages exclusively in operations that qualify as exempted from maintaining federal medical certification.
  • Excepted Intrastate (EA)
    • Operates only in intrastate commerce, but engages exclusively in operations that qualify as exempted from meeting FMCSA requirements.

To determine if a specific qualification is excepted or exempted, please visit:

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: What happens to my CDL if I get a moving violation in my personal vehicle?

When it comes to your CDL and getting violations, it does not matter whether you are in your personal or commercial vehicle, though there are stricter laws in place when you are driving your commercial vehicle. If you get a violation in any vehicle, it will affect your CDL.

Due to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, a CDL holder can be disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle if they are convicted of certain moving violations in their personal vehicles, such as reckless driving, speeding over 15 mph above the posted limit, and following too closely. If your privilege to operate your personal vehicle is taken away, so is your privilege to operate commercial vehicles.

Q: What happens to my CDL if I get a DUI?

As stated above, if you are disqualified from driving a personal vehicle, you are likewise disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle, though there is an extra caveat for a violation that includes alcohol or drugs. If your privilege to drive your personal vehicle is taken away due to alcohol, controlled substances, or felony violations, your CDL privilege will be taken for a year.

Unlike a standard DL, you cannot get a hardship license in order to drive a commercial vehicle, so you must wait an entire year to restore your CDL.

Q: What does getting my CDL disqualified mean?

When your CDL gets disqualified, it means that you are unable to drive any commercial motor vehicles for a specified period of time. That period of time could be anywhere from 60 days to life, for very specific violations.

Q: How do I get my CDL back if it is disqualified or suspended?

The best way to determine the procedures necessary to get your CDL back after it has been disqualified is by contacting your local Department of Drivers Services (DDS) and providing your license number. However, in general, a reinstatement fee must be paid, and this fee can range from anywhere from $25.00 to $310.00 depending on the infraction, as well as taking classes or even having to reapply for the license and taking tests all over.

 Q: What happens to my CDL if I get a second major violation?

In Georgia, major violations are those such as operating your commercial vehicle with a BAC of .04% or more, racing, or committing any felony where a vehicle is used. Unfortunately, in Georgia, if a second major violation occurs, you may be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for life. The only surefire way to know if you are disqualified for life is to either wait on notification from the DDS or to call the DDS to check.

 Q: Can the Georgia Point System affect my CDL?

Yes! In Georgia, there is a point system where infractions can be worth anywhere from 1-6 points depending on the severity of the violation. For instance, unlawfully passing a school bus is 6 points and operating a vehicle while text messaging is only 1 point. An accumulation of 15 points within a 24 month period will result in your license being suspended, which goes for any license that the state of Georgia hands out, including CDLs. And if your license is suspended, you will be disqualified, as stated above, from operating a commercial vehicle under your CDL at least until the suspension is lifted.


Remember that any of the offenses that have a point value ascribed to them are heightened if you commit them while driving a commercial vehicle. For example, texting while driving in a standard vehicle will only result in a point being placed on your driver's license, whereas being cited for texting while operating a commercial vehicle twice in a three year period will result in your CDL being disqualified for 60 days.

For more information on the Georgia Point System, click here!

Negligence is another way to lose your CDL… and more!

 If you negligently drive a commercial vehicle, you are subject to a stricter standard of care than the ordinary driver of a noncommercial vehicle, because so much more damage and threat to life can occur when a CDL holder does not strictly adhere to the rules of the road. As such, in cases where an accident is caused due to a CDL holder's negligence, the license holder can not only have their license suspended, disqualified for a period, or even revoked, but they can also be held legally responsible for the damage incurred by their negligence to which they were the actual or proximate cause.

 This can be damage to property, such as a car or property that was hit by the commercial vehicle, injuries to people caused by the commercial vehicle hitting a car negligently, and in the case of passenger vehicles, such as in Class C, injuries that are given to passengers riding within the commercial vehicle by the negligent driving.

Negligent driving can include:

  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol    
    No alcohol sign
    • BAC at .04% while driving a commercial vehicle
    • BAC at .08% while driving a personal vehicle
  • Reckless driving in a commercial vehicle
  • For drivers who are required to always stop at railroad crossings, failing to stop before driving onto the crossing
  • Driving while the necessary CDL is revoked, suspended, disqualified, or otherwise currently invalid.
  • And many more, including any violation of Georgia's rules of the road

 Violating any of these offenses can end up costing you way more than your CDL if someone is seriously injured or even killed due to that negligence, and you're forced to defend against a Personal Injury lawsuit.

Fast CDL Facts!

  • It takes a commercial vehicle, on average, 3 times longer to stop than a standard passenger vehicle
  • The primary cause of trucking accidents is Failure to Maintain a Lane
  • Four of the most common errors in large trucking accidents include:
    • Traveling too fast for the conditions
    • Brake problems on the truck
    • Performance error and
    • Driver fatigue (which can be caused by the long hours worked)
  • The trucking industry is expected to grow by around 21% in the next 10 years
  • The trucking industry collects, on average, $650 billion in revenue each year! Or around, 5% of America's GDP!

About the Author

Donald Turner

Don has been practicing law for 40 years. During that time, he has built extensive relationships within the medical, legal and law enforcement communities throughout northern Georgia....


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