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 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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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