Comparing a Regular Driver’s License and a Commercial Driver’s License 

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Comparing a Regular Driver’s License and a Commercial Driver’s License 

Although easily overlooked, there are numerous classifications of drivers’ licenses. Each type, however, can be categorized almost exclusively into two types: regular drivers’ licenses or commercial drivers’ licenses. Each one determines what types of vehicles drivers are allowed to operate, and the standards and procedures for each can be significantly different. Additionally, receiving a traffic ticket can have different impacts, depending on the type of license a driver possesses. 


Regular Drivers’ Licenses 


A regular driver’s license allows a driver to only operate personal vehicles such as cars, SUVs, small trucks, and vans. The minimum age requirement is generally between 16 and 18 years of age, varying by jurisdiction. Obtaining a regular driver’s license typically requires passing a written and road test. With a regular license, drivers are not authorized to operate large commercial vehicles, or vehicles designed to carry large amounts of passengers. Regular drivers’ licenses are primarily used for personal use, although they can be used for some types of employment that do not involve driving large, commercial vehicles. 

There are several classifications of regular licenses; the most common is known as a “Class D” driver’s license. With a Class D regular license, drivers may operate vehicles that weigh under 26,000 pounds. It also allows for the towing of small trailers that weigh less than 10,000 pounds. 


Commercial Drivers’ Licenses 


A commercial driver’s license (CDL) allows a driver to operate large, commercial vehicles, including buses, tow trucks, and freight transportation trucks. CDL’s, unlike regular licenses, are primarily for professional use. Obtaining a CDL requires more work than a regular driver’s license; written tests and skill tests are both included, which tests specific knowledge and skills related to the operation of commercial vehicles. CDL drivers must be at least 21 years old, however, some states allow those as young as 18 to hold a CDL (only for driving within one state). To ensure proper amounts of safety, CDL holders are often required to undergo frequent health checks and inspections to confirm they are fit to operate larger, potentially dangerous vehicles. 


CDL’s are divided into three classes: A, B, and C; each class permits a driver to operate different types of commercial vehicles. 


  • Class A: Permits drivers to operate vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more and tow over 10,000 pounds. Vehicles that can be operated with a Class A CDL include tractor trailers, truck and trailer combinations, tanker vehicles, livestock carriers, and flatbeds. In most cases, a Class A license also allows drivers to operate vehicles in Class B and Class C categories as well.


  • Class B: Permits drivers to operate either single or combination vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds. Examples include straight trucks, large buses, box trucks, and dump trucks with small trailers. In some cases, Class B CDL holders are allowed to operate some Class C vehicles as well. 


  • Class C: Permits drivers to operate commercial vehicles that do not meet Class A nor Class B requirements, such as 16+ passenger vehicles, or freight (hazmat) vehicles. 


Drivers who are CDL holders, though having a wider range of vehicles to operate, also have more rules and more severe penalties if they receive a traffic violation. If a CDL holder is driving a commercial vehicle, the consequences are typically larger than if they were in a personal (non-commercial) vehicle. For example, speeding 15 miles per hour over the speed limit while operating a commercial vehicle is considered a “substantial” traffic violation, and therefore comes with its own set of consequences. Traffic violations that are considered to be substantial can potentially lead to the loss of a CDL. If a CDL driver acquires three violations within a three-year period, it will result in a license suspension. Other consequences include higher fines, an increase in insurance premiums, increased points on driving records, and even jail time. 


Why You May Need an Attorney for Your Traffic Violation 


It is critical to be aware of the differences between regular and commercial drivers’ licenses, along with the different classifications of each. It is also important to note how different the consequences may be if you receive a traffic violation. Hiring an attorney who is well-versed in traffic violations for both regular licenses and CDL’s can result in a much easier, stress-free life in the long run. 

Did you receive a traffic ticket? Submit it through our website or give us a call at (918) 947-9225 to receive a free consultation!