Non-CDL Driver & Vehicle Requirements

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In order to earn your non-CDL driver's license, you must demonstrate to the authorities in your state that you are physically and mentally capable of driving your vehicle. Further, state and federal authorities also need to make sure that the vehicle you're driving is roadworthy. The requirements for vehicles and their drivers help to protect public safety and prevent damage to property.

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Each state has its own requirements for earning a driver's license and verifying the roadworthiness of a vehicle. So, you should visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles office to make sure you are in compliance.

CDL vs. Non-CDL Vehicles

You might be wondering, "What's the difference between CDL and non-CDL?"

Basically, if you are a driver who possesses a non-CDL license, this usually means you may operate motor vehicles that are smaller or less powerful than commercial vehicles. For example, it is usually permissible for you to take the wheel of a vehicle with a Gross Combination Weight Rating, or GCWR, ​under 26,000 pounds​ or any vehicle with seating for ​15 or fewer persons​. You may also drive a recreational vehicle, provided you are doing so for personal use.

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When you need to drive a larger and often heavier vehicle that may carry 16 passengers or more, then you may need to obtain a CDL license. These licenses come in a few classes and cover vehicles such as tractor-trailers, passenger buses, dump trucks and trucks carrying hazardous materials. CDL drivers may also need to obtain endorsements depending on the vehicle and the work they do.

Non-CDL Driver Requirements

In order to get a non-CDL license, you will need to prove your age, identity and citizenship to the authorities. While each state accepts different documents, you will generally need to present a number of documents from a list. These may include your birth certificate, a valid license from a different state, your Social Security card, a valid U.S. passport and other documents.

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If you are a non-CDL driver, you must also demonstrate an understanding of the rules of the road and the ability to operate a non-commercial vehicle. In New York, for example, non-CDL driver requirements include completing a pre-licensing or driver education course and pass a road test conducted by a DMV official.

Vehicle Standards for All Drivers

The U.S. Department of Transportation maintains a comprehensive list of all of the requirements for motor vehicles. Some of these mandates are in the interest of safety. For example, DOT regulations for non-CDL drivers say that you must have seat belts for each designated seating position in a car. Other requirements protect consumers. For example, you may not tamper with the vehicle's odometer if you sell a car.

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Special Non-CDL Driving Situations

Depending on where you live, exemptions may exist that allow non-CDL drivers to operate large vehicles. In Illinois, for example, if you are a holder of a non-CDL license, you may drive farm equipment owned by you or your family to transport equipment directly to the farm. You must use this equipment within 150 air miles of the farm.

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