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Why Do Some States Still Require CDL for RVs?

If you dream of traveling the country in a beautiful Class A motorhome, there’s a crucial question you need to ask before you make that purchase. Do you need a CDL or a special license to drive an RV? The answer to this question isn’t the same for all 50 states. Let’s examine which states require this special license to drive an RV and how you can get a CDL if you need one!

Do You Need A Special License To Drive a RV?

Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV? 

In most states, you do not need a special license to drive an RV. As long as you have a standard driver’s license, you can also drive an RV. However, some states go a bit farther and require a CDL or special endorsement if the RV is over a certain weight or size.

Living in an RV driving
Some states will require a CDL for RVers.

Why Do Some States Require a CDL for RVs?

Some states, like Hawaii, have such inadequate and narrow roads that they can’t accommodate bigger rigs. The special licensing requirement keeps heavier and larger RVs off of the streets. However, some states require a CDL for safety reasons. If you’re driving a motorhome almost as lengthy and heavy as a semi-truck, that state believes you should also take special classes and earn a CDL. Many of the motorhomes of that size also operate with air brakes and systems which differ from passanger vehicles and require additional knowledge.

RVs That May Need CDLs

You can usually tow even the heaviest travel trailers and fifth wheels with a heavy-duty truck like a Ford F450 or RAM 3500. But some RV owners tow heavy campers with a semi-truck cab like a Freightliner. Depending on the state, these RVers may need a CDL. In addition, some Class A and Super C drivers may also need to have a CDL. It depends on weight and length, usually 26,000 pounds and 40 feet.

Pro Tip: Ready to join #RVLife? Before you do, make sure you know The Truth About Driving an RV for the First Time.

Motorhome scale weight
Here is how much our RV is when we put it on a scale. Operating weight like this on the road is very different than a passenger car.

Which States Require a CDL for RVs? 

First, it’s vital to note that state requirements change so that some states may have different laws and regulations in the future. Always check with the DMV of your state when seeing if you need a CDL to drive your RV.

There are twelve states with specific rules about RVs that require a special driver’s license if you’re over a certain length or weight. For example, in California, you must have a special license if driving a motorhome over 40 feet, towing a trailer weighing over 10,000 pounds, or towing a fifth wheel weighing over 15,000 pounds. In Wyoming, you must have a special driver’s license if driving an RV over 26,000 pounds or towing a trailer over 10,000 pounds.

The other ten states put the weight limit at 26,000 pounds. Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington D.C. have similar laws for drivers of RVs over 26,000 pounds. Some states refer to single vehicles, while others refer to combined vehicle weight.

Many states also require a special permit if you are going to be towing double (or sometimes called triple). This is when you tow an additional trailer behind a fifth wheel.

double towing license

How Do I Get a CDL? 

A few steps exist to obtain a special driver’s license in the United States. Although the process isn’t challenging, you should prepare and start early. Sometimes only a simple test is needed whereas other times you need to go through the entire CDL process.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), you must first have a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) authorizing you to practice on public roads with a qualified CDL holder. You must pass the knowledge tests to earn the CLP, let them check your driving record over the last ten years, confirm your proof of residency, and show that you’re medically qualified. Many states require a DOT medical card, which requires a DOT physical. Once you have the CLP, you can proceed with getting your CDL.

Get a Manual and Study

First, obtain a copy of your state’s CDL manual. It’s crucial to find your state’s manual, whether in print or digital because each state has a unique process. Since there are three classes of CDLs with endorsements for specialized qualifications, decide what type of special license you need to drive or tow your RV. Then study the manual.

Complete CDL Driver’s Training

Some states may have varying regulations, but most require a driver to complete entry-level training before taking the test. Your state may have even more steps in the process, so ensure you’re in communication with the DMV of your state. Once you complete it, the provider will electronically submit certification of your training completion to the Training Provider Registry.

Take the Test

You cannot take the CDL skills test until 14 days after possessing the CLP and completing the entry-level driver training. There are three parts to the skills test: the Vehicle Inspection Test, the Basic Controls Test, and the Road Test. Some states issue CDLs the same day you take the test, while others require you to mail in the appropriate forms.

senior woman driving rv
Don’t spoil an RV adventure with a surprise ticket for not having the right license.

How Much Does It Cost to Get CDL?

Because the state issues CDLs and not the federal government, these fees will vary. For example, in North Carolina, the CDL application fee is usually around $43.25 and $21.50 per year. In Wyoming, the CLP fee is generally $45, and the CDL fee is $55. The commercial skills test is around $85. So it’s crucial to check with your state to find out if you need a CDL to drive an RV and how much the CDL process will cost.

Pro Tip: Make sure you know these 17 Common Beginner Full-Time RV Mistakes before you hit the road for the first time.

Is Driving a Class A RV or Super C Difficult? 

The answer to this question depends on the RVer. Some people find driving a large motorhome is easy once you learn the turning radius and how to back up. These are two of the most challenging things to learn. Lengthier RVs swing wide like semi-trucks. It takes some practice to learn your tail swing and how much room you need. Backing up a larger rig is tricky until you get the hang of it. However, it’s nothing you can’t feel comfortable with after a few practice trips.

If you’ve never driven a lengthy vehicle before, it’s best to spend a few weekends in an empty parking lot with some orange cones. Figure out at what point you need to turn the steering wheel to back up into a campsite. Take note of your wheel position when making a right turn. RV driving classes are available if you want more practice or instruction before hitting the road.

Woman driving large RV
Give yourself plenty of time to acquire your special driver’s license before you hit the road in your RV.

Check Your State’s Driver’s License Requirements Before Purchasing Your RV

Always pay attention to your state’s requirements. Continually check them to ensure they haven’t changed over time. You don’t want to spoil a weekend camping trip with a ticket. So stay safe and do the necessary work and preparation before purchasing your RV.

Do you need a CDL to drive an RV in your state? Tell us in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Stitz

Friday 1st of March 2024

Why would states require RV drivers to have and pass a CDL test/license? Have you seen the majority of the people who are driving them? I have seen drivers who can hardly walk, use a walker, and even have to use a wheelchair upon exiting the vehicle. Then there are those who take 30-60 minutes to back up, if they don't get a pullthru site. As a retired officer, I would pull over an RV just to check that they had a valid license. All states should require a CDL for any type of RV.

Tom and Caitlin Morton

Thursday 14th of March 2024

Yea I get it! As an RVer I dont trust other RV's on the road and keep my distance! Ya just never know,

KBob

Wednesday 16th of August 2023

The fact that many motorhome owners are senior citizens, it is stupid requiring them to have a CDL. I had a CDL-A, for 30 plus years. I gave it up when I retired. Not worth paying the fees plus fees for medical exam every 2 years. So basically, I avoid traveling through states that require a CDL. Their loss. With fuel, dining, campground fees, plus groceries and whatever. That's a lot of revenue these states are giving up.

Kelly diann romine

Saturday 18th of March 2023

I own a Thor windsport I don't drive and this is my home how do I insure this when I pay my driver's to do this for me I don't know what to do to solve this problem

Pam

Saturday 1st of April 2023

@Kelly diann romine, When you're moving the RV, you will need road insurance for the vehicle. You can buy short-term insurance that will only be in effect while the RV is being moved. Your driver should also have their own insurance - it protects them and it protects you.

Mortons on the Move

Sunday 19th of March 2023

If your trying to insure it not for road use you will have to work with your insurance company. Our fifth is insured this way as a full time mobile home and might be what you need. Mobile home insurance.

Jody

Thursday 9th of March 2023

ALL states SHOULD require those pulling RVs & trailers over 25 or 30’ to take a CDL course & test. Thousands of motorists are killed each year by clueless RVers & motor home drivers with no knowledge or regard for the size of the rig they’re driving! States not requiring it care more about the lobbying power of the AARP and money they make off seniors, many who are unable to pass the physical or driving exam.

Yasmina

Sunday 14th of May 2023

@Jody, I agree for the most part because with no special licensing requirements, people will purchase this equipment and assume that it operates just like their car-disregarding the size and weight. On the other hand, a DOT physical is very stringent and stressful. I don't think seniors who are driving for recreational purposes should be required to take one. The basic physical requirements to have a regular driver license should be enough. This comes from a senior who is an active commercial driver and owns a 40' Class A motorhome.

Brian

Tuesday 4th of April 2023

@Jody, please check your facts before providing misinformation. RVs death rate is 0.44 per 100 million miles versus 1.48 for other vehicles.

Shawn McGreevy

Sunday 5th of March 2023

Checked the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. CDL not required for recreational vehicles.