Types of Commercial Driver's Licenses

Driving a large truck or commercial motor vehicle requires special skills and knowledge. Federal and state laws set strict requirements for obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Federal law requires a CDL for anyone who drives a vehicle across state lines with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds or more. 

Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses for Truck Drivers 

Semi-truck drivers must have a commercial driver’s license to drive a large truck. Federal standards require states to issue CDLs and CLPs (commercial learner’s permits) based on the class of vehicle the person intends to operate. There are three types of CDLs a person can obtain:

Class A 

Required for a combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight or weight rating that exceeds 26,001 pounds, whichever is greater. The weight is inclusive of a towed vehicle with a GVWR or gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds or more.

Class B 

Required for a single vehicle with a gross weight or GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more or a vehicle that is towing a vehicle with a gross weight or GVWR of not more than 10,000 pounds.

Class C 

Required for any single or combination vehicle that is not included in the definition of a Class A or Class B vehicle but is designed to transport 16 or more people (including the driver) or transports hazardous materials or toxins. 

In addition to having a commercial driver’s license, a truck driver might be required to obtain a license endorsement to operate specific motor vehicles. For example, double or triple trailers require endorsement code “T.” Endorsement code “N” is required to drive a tanker vehicle. 

Requirements To Obtain a Commercial Driver’s License in Illinois 

Illinois law requires individuals to meet several requirements to obtain a CDL to operate a semi-truck or another commercial motor vehicle. The requirements include the following:

  • Must be at least 18 years old to apply for a CDL or CLP to operate within the state and 21 years old to operate interstate commerce or transport passengers.
  • Must have a valid Illinois driver’s license as a base license for the entire time of the one-year CLP.
  • Provide proof of legal presence to obtain a CLP or transfer a CDL from another state.
  • Self-certification of interstate or intrastate medical driving status. You must provide an acceptable medical certificate if you declare as a non-excepted interstate driver.
  • Pass the required tests to obtain the desired commercial driver’s license class. Tests include a General Core Knowledge written test and applicable endorsement tests. 
  • Pass a CDL skills/drive test in a representative vehicle based on the desired vehicle class for the commercial driver’s license and endorsements.
  • A CDL with an endorsement for hauling hazardous materials must obtain clearance from the TSA after passing a TSA security threat assessment. 

There could be additional requirements depending on the vehicle class and other factors. CDL holders must renew their driver’s licenses every four years. Some drivers could be exempt from the requirement to have a CDL, including but not limited to recreational vehicle operators and emergency vehicle drivers. 

Why Is It Important for Truck Drivers To Have Adequate Training and Experience?

Semi-truck, 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, and other large vehicles cause catastrophic injuries and fatalities. Most of the injuries and deaths from truck accidents are people in other vehicles. During 2020, 71% of the people killed and 68% of the people injured in large truck accidents were occupants of other vehicles.

Passenger vehicles cannot withstand a collision with a large truck. Victims of an auto accident with a large truck sustain multiple injuries, including:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Amputations and loss of limbs
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
  • Severe burns and disfigurement
  • Internal organ damage
  • The wrongful death of a close family member

The economic and non-economic damages from a truck accident can total millions of dollars, depending on the severity of the injuries and the victim’s age. 

Who Is Responsible for a Commercial Motor Vehicle Accident in Chicago, IL?

Most commercial truck accidents are caused by negligence. Causes of truck accidents include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Improper lane changes
  • Speeding
  • Fatigued driving
  • Impaired driving (drugged and drunk driving)
  • Failing to check blind spots
  • Other motorists
  • Road conditions
  • Defective trucks 

When a truck driver is responsible for causing a truck accident, the trucking company may also be liable for the damages. Trucking companies that fail to screen drivers adequately, require drivers to operate beyond the allowed hours of service or do not conduct required drug and alcohol tests could also be negligent. 

Under the legal theory of vicarious liability, the trucking company can be liable if its driver’s negligence leads to an accident. In either case, seeking legal advice from an experienced Chicago truck accident lawyer is crucial to ensure you name all parties responsible for your damages in a personal injury claim. 

Contact Our Chicago Truck Accident Law Firm For Help Today

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Chicago, Illinois, and need legal help, contact our experienced truck accident lawyers at Attorneys of Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today.

We proudly serve Cook County and its surrounding areas:

Attorneys of Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers
134 N La Salle St #2160
Chicago, IL 60602

Phone: (312) 929-2884