CDL Blog Part 1: Why We're Getting a Commercial Driver's License

CDL Blog Part 1: Why We’re Getting Our Commercial Driver License

The constant rivalry and one-upmanship among heavy-duty truck manufacturers isn’t just forcing Ford, GM and Chrysler to raise their games to stay competitive. It’s also forcing us to improve our driving skills and credentials to keep up with the capabilities of the latest trucks. To do that, we’re studying hard to obtain our commercial driver’s license.

We’ve just enrolled in a two-week class with our friends from Diesel Power Magazine, who will be partnering with us again next month for our latest heavy-duty truck comparison.

We’ll be testing one-ton dual-rear-wheel trucks from Ford, GMC and Ram, including the 2011 Ram 3500 with the new high-output Cummins I-6 diesel engine. Each of those trucks has a gross combined weight rating over 26,000 pounds, which is the threshold many states require a driver to have a CDL if you're towing that much.

A truck’s GCWR is the maximum allowable weight a pickup pulling a trailer, including cargo and passengers, can handle without risking damage. A truck’s gross combined weight (measured by driving a loaded truck and trailer onto a scale) must never exceed the GCWR.

During our 2008 Heavy-Duty Shootout, when we tested one-ton trucks, we didn’t consider the need for a CDL because none of the trucks exceeded the 26,000-pound GCWR. The 2007 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 3500 HD pickups were rated at 23,500 pounds; the 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 was rated at 24,000 pounds; and the 2008 Ford F-350 was rated a hair under the CDL limit, at 26,000 pounds. The only HD pickup that exceeded the limit was the Ford F-450, in a class by itself with a 33,000-pound rating.


The latest HD trucks have stronger engines and higher GCWs to match. The 2011 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 3500 are rated at 29,200 pounds, and the 2011 Ford F-350 and 2011 Ram 3500 are tied at 30,000 pounds maximum GCW.

Our plan for our latest HD comparison currently calls for towing three massive tandem-axle 24+6 flatbed trailers from Titan. The gooseneck sleds will be ballasted to approximately 18,000 pounds GVW and will put each of the trucks over 26,000 pounds - similar to the setup we used for the Rumble in the Rockies last year.

Translation: It’s CDL time. Specifically, we’re getting a Class A CDL, which covers any combination of vehicles with a GCW of 26,001 pounds or more, providing the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle (or trailer) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.

What do we risk if we’re caught towing more than 26,000 pounds GCW without a CDL? We could be hit with expensive fines and may need to find someone with a CDL to continue towing the trailer.

We’ve signed up for a CDL class at Universal Truck Driving School in Los Angeles. We thought we’d share our experience with you over the coming weeks, if you’re considering getting yours.

In the next few days, we’re busy filling out California’s commercial driver’s license application and getting a CDL learner's permit, getting a medical exam and taking a federal drug test. We’re also hitting the books, cracking open California’s CDL handbook to study up for the written exam.

Come Monday next week, we’ll be in the driver’s seat of a seven-speed Class 7 rig to start our hands-on training. Stay tuned for updates.


Welcome to the BIG LEAGUES My Friends

good luck guys you should have a lot of fun and learn a lot

Can't wait for the next "shootout" report!

Cool, I can't wait to read the article.

I'm not sure about California law but you shouldn't need a CDL unless you're transporting goods for profit. Anyhow, I look forward to your review. I work in the West Texas oilfield and the two main 3/4-1ton trucks are Ford Power Strokes (mostly the 7.3L) and Dodge Cummins. These trucks, especially the cummins is a proven work horse in the oilfield! Their used a lot by hotshot drivers. I personally drive a Semi Peterbuilt with a Cummins but would take a new 1T Dodge...if I ever decided to let go of my SVT Raptor which I don't see happening anytime soon :)


Nice. keep us posted

its funny how a f-750 that can tow over 26,000 and needs a CDL to drive will burn 10mpg compared to the 2011 f-350 that can tow about the same can get almost 18mpg

Am I correct that this GCWR is the maximum "additional" weight above the weight of the truck itself? With the 30K GCWR rating and the weight of the truck, we are around 38K total?!

Wow, thats amazing considering the normal tractor trailers are allowed 80K total. If the Cummins gets the rumoured 8 spd auto, that will be one awesome setup, having 6 gears before O/D.

@Mopar21277: No. It's the combined weight of the truck and trailer. Both can't weigh more than the max GCWR.

Will the J2807 Standard apply to this new class of truck? I'll name the new class CDPT (Commerical Duty Passenger Truck).

These truck capacities are outrageous.
I always cringe during peak tourist season when I see some 80 year old behind the wheel of a Greyhound bus sized motothome pulling a huge boat or a 1 ton pulling a monster trailer.
More often than not, they are the ones driving 15 mph under the speed limit then speed up to 65 everytime they get to a passing lane.
Makes me wonder if they should reduce the GCWR for CDL's or have a manditory "max tow" licence with physical for these rigs.Motorcycle companies put a voluntary cap on top speeds for sportbikes, why not a cap on GCWR by the manufacturer's of pickups.
If you consider how litigious society has become, I'm amazed that GCWR for p/u's continue to grow.

The legislature will have to be revisited now. There are things you learn preparing for the CDL and driving big trucks that are necessary knowledge for those hauling these numbers. I also think air brake weight minimums should somehow be revisited. Sorry, but these trucks shouldn't be hauling 30K. These aren't toys. 30K is what road tractors are for. Now that these weights are doable for the average Joe, there will be an exponentially greater number of drivers on the road operating machinery that they don't understand or respect. The line has officially been blurred. The scariest thing on the road when I used to drive trucks was a retiree with an overloaded truck and camper.

@Lou, they have to pass a medium rigid licence in Australia if they want to wander on the road with a 40Ft+ Double Axle beast. They are mainly Coach Conversions here, but still with their trailer you are looking at about 70ft of RV. If they do drive 15mph under the speed limit on a freeway, they are "blocking" and get fined. Neither are they allowed to drive specifically in the city it has to be mainly country driving.

I believe you should have had a cdl long ago, as soon as you hook up a trailer and the combined weight rating of the truck and trailer goes over 26001 you then need a cdl, providing what you are doing has anything to do with "commerce"

Amazing how far things have come. Starting to feel like the bubble is about to pop.

For pick up trucks,u have the option,here in Cali,for CDL with a restriction : NO air brakes. ..if u don"t plan to drive a big rig...

It's called a non-commercial Class 'A' license.

A lot of the toy box 5th-wheelers on RV.NET started looking into getting them a couple of years ago (in California) due to a change in the law and the fact that those toy box trailers are getting bigger and heavier. It only took a couple of first-hand accounts of tickets they received from the CHP for not having that license to get the ball rolling.

i don't know about the rest of the country but here in PA if you pull a trailer over 9,999 you need a CDL

9,999 pounds??? I highly doubt what dan the woman said is true but it's no wonder the state of PA is a bunch of wimps.

I just wanted to let you Ford and Dodge fans know that GM and the Duramax are going to win this shootout as well. Now the only question is which truck will finish second? ford or Dodge? I guess we will have to wait for the test. looking forward to another GM and Duramax victory and the excuses from ford and Dodge fans as to why their truck lost again to the Duramax.

So let it be written, so let it be done!

9,999 pounds??? I highly doubt what dan the woman said is true but it's no wonder the state of PA is a bunch of wimps.

are you having a bad day again, are you not selling any of your bankrupt products
are you DOT officer how do you know this is a lie, you drive a Impala
we have been thru this three times DOT officer said in the state of PA you are not allowed to pull anything over 10,000LBS with out a CDL no matter what your combination is, LOOK IT UP i would like to know if this is true

Dan, PA Non-Commercial Class A covers you to 26,000lbs. Commercial Class A has the 10,000lb restriction. I just got that off their DOT website.

@Dan the Man

I'm not sure if I'm reading it correctly, but it seems like the law is saying that you can tow in excess of 26,001 pounds without a CDL as long as the trailer is under 10,000 pounds. So if you have a 24,000 pound truck and a 9,000 pound trailer you still wouldn't need a CDL. I could definitely be wrong though.

This should be interesting to follow along. Especially for those that are already at that stage for their towing needs, right now.

so does this mean you guys can do big rig shootouts now? lol

Thanks for the info guy
here is what happened three times we got pulled over by DOT, the F-450 is rated at 15,000LBS and the trailer was rated at 11,000lbs the two together equal 26,000LBS and we were not over weight, all three times we got busted for not having a class A license all three officers said by PA law you can not pull over 10,000LBS, the one driver lost his license for 6 months

Years ago, getting a CDL license in NJ just meant taking a written test. It didn't require an over-the-road test. I know a few people that walked into the DMV to get their motorcycle endorsement, and ended up walking out with motorcycle, Class A CDL, tanker endorsement, double-trailer endorsement, ect, ect. I've just got Class A and Boat, but I kinda wish I would have just filled out the paperwork and taken the tests for everything.

Interestingly, you don't need a CDL in a lot of states if you are using the vehicle for farm use and you are within 100 miles of your farm. I've seen farmers move some pretty heavy loads through town and I doubt many of them had CDLs.

Classes of Driver's Licenses
Non-commercial Driver's Licenses
CLASS A (minimum age 18): Required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, where the vehicle(s) being towed is/are in excess of 10,000 pounds. Example: Recreational Vehicle, when the towing vehicle is rated at 11,000 pounds and the vehicle towed is rated at 15,500 pounds (total combination weight of 26,500 pounds).

Above is excerpt from the PA DOT website.

UNDER 26,0001 gross combined weight.

Read the example.

Dan, If you got busted 3X for the same infraction then you apparently have something wrong and are making no attempt to correct it, keep trying to play dumb, or are indeed dumb. If you have a Class A non commercial license you should be fine. You sure it isn't how you have your truck registered or something? I know that due to the ratings of the F450 that some need commercial or combination plates. I think there is more to your "story" than you are telling.

Rig shootouts Tom??? runs there shootout to be as fair and square as possible. They make sure that the trucks in the shootout are chosen randomly and that no altercations have taken place. Mike Levine has gone over this time and time again only to have some loser say something stupid that the shootout was rigged. That's right, I said LOSER! does everything possible to make sure the test is fair as possible and even ran with more people in the Chevy truck in rumble in the rockies to make up for the weight difference between the chevy and the ford.

So anyone claiming the test isn't fair is a LOSER and that's because their favorite truck didn't win. The shootout even states at length how they ran the tests, what rear axle ratio's etc, etc. So I don't want to hear anyone claim the test isn't fair when the Duramax beats the powerjoke and the cummings in the shootout. you got it? Good.


He was referring to a 16-Wheeler (a.k.a. Big Rigs)

LMFAO @ your intelligence!

One must be careful of knowing the rules and regulations where one lives.
Where I live there is a Class 1 licence which would be the equivalent to CDL with air brakes.
There also is a camper trailer endorsement for trailers greater than 4,600 kg or 10,120 lb.That would be an add on to one's passenger vehicle licence.
Then there is a "Heavy Trailer" endorsement for traliers greater than 10,120 lb which amounts to a CDL without air brakes.

@ Bob - you are pretty confident.
I have yet to read any tests with the new Cummins powered Ram. It definately is the dark horse of the test.
A portion of the testing (I assume) will be similar to the past shootout. The Ford diesel wasn't too far off of the D-Max GMC. It might be a different story at sea level with the "Job 2" Ford.
I'm not about to count out the new Ram.
Who knows?
It might be the new shootout winner.

Any predictions for the 1/2 ton shootout?
After all - I wonder if the GM will be last or second to last? LMFAO

If you tow a lot and you know you will be exceeding 26K more often than not then by all means get a CDL. I hear nobody mention some of the disadvantages.

Its summer, so lets say your at an outdoor bbq at a friends house. You wiegh 175 and lets say you have 3 beers in 2 hours and you head home. You get stopped by a state boy on the way home and he gives you a breathalizer. Your BAC is .05. You go to jail. With a CDL, the .08 law no longer applies, commercial drivers can only have a BAC of .04 even if your not in a commercial vehicle. Even if you go out to dinner with your wife in the fuel sipping 4 banger, you each have 2 glasses of wine and you drive home and get stopped you could get into some real trouble.

If you tow heavy and only drink fruit juice then your fine, but getting a CDL just for that 1% of the time your over 26K is stupid. If you need to tow over 26K, go slow, give yourself more time to stop, and make em pull you over for being a little overweight. If you rarely do it, and when you do you exercise greater caution then you have a low chance of getting pulled over.

IMO the baggage that comes with getting a CDL is not worth it unless you drive a truck for a living.

Just my 2 cents

@ Bob

HAHAHAHAHAHA....You can have your "Hot Rod" Diesel but when all is said and done its the one that doesnt break before it gets to the finish line. We will see which one tows the best when this "shoot out" is done.

Dan, If you got busted 3X for the same infraction then you apparently have something wrong and are making no attempt to correct it, keep trying to play dumb, or are indeed dumb. If you have a Class A non commercial license you should be fine. You sure it isn't how you have your truck registered or something? I know that due to the ratings of the F450 that some need commercial or combination plates. I think there is more to your "story" than you are telling.

you are right i did not explain the situation very well so here goes, we travel from VA to Maine in the work that we do, we at that time had six trucks and trailers on the road all F-450's, we got caught three times in a month time traveling thru PA, we did not think we were in the wrong so we decided to fight the 1st one and do some investigating and went to court long story short the Officer was right and we had charges dropped we paid the fines of the other two, what we did to resolve the issue was we re registered our trailers to 9,999LBS and we have not had any problems since, i do have my CDL's but was not the one who got pulled over

Ah, ok Dan. If you were hauling commercial for work then I see where they got you. commercial has different rules and there is a restriction. For people hauling something likea boat or camper the non commmercial class A overs them over 10,000lbs.

Link I posted has both commercial and non commercial info.

@ Keith
yea that is what we finally figured out to and i thank you for all your info it always helps and with DOT it changes all the time this country is broke and i feel they are really going to crack down on companies and get as many fines as they to help bring in more money

@ Bob Big Rig=tractor trailer=18 wheeler=big truck=semi=class 8 truck=convoy

I said big rig, not rigged lol

I still want to see the GM's in a normal altitude level rematch against the upgraded Ford and Ram. We never got a rematch and the next test will be at high altitude again.

2010 HD Quarter-Mile Acceleration Test (Loaded). 1 TON TRUCKS:
"The Sierra Denali 3500 pulled strong after a small slip at the start line but was able to get its six-ton trailer up to 60 mph in 18.8 seconds, a full half-second faster than the Super Duty. The Super Duty’s transmission seemed well-suited to bring the fight to the Denali after 60 mph. In fact, by the time the F-350 got to the quarter-mile marker, it had closed the gap with the GMC to almost nothing. The best time for the Denali was 22.3 seconds, while the best time for the Ford was 22.4, and we’re guessing if this were a half-mile flat-tow head-to-head test, the Power Stroke would have likely overtaken the Duramax in the next 200 feet."

"The Ford diesel wasn't too far off of the D-Max GMC. It might be a different story at sea level with the "Job 2" Ford." - Lou

This is what I want to see. Normal altitude or sea level with the Job 3 Ford and upgraded Ram. But unfortunately Mike will only test at high altitude in the next shootout.

At regular altitude, the difference between the job 1 Ford and GM was only 0.1 seconds.

Mike said the Ford diesel would have overtaken the GM if the test would have been 200 ft longer.

Bob, You better pray that the next shootout will be at high altitude only.

This is the problem I have with the GMC/Chevy... I don't live at high altitude I live at sea level and if I do go on the mountain we are talking Appalachian mountains compared to the Rockies. Not quite as bad, or as steep. Any professional driver will tell you they want to make good time going up a hill but we don't need a rocket ship, especially if you are towing a heavy load. The whole GM is faster than Ford going up a hill is pretty mute for me.

Also Mike if you can get a pic of the backside of the trucks you will be testing in to get your CDL's see what frame it has so these people can see. Every big rig and dump truck has open channel C frame. Box frames do have an advantage in going off road (stiffer frame) and in a rear accident but mean nothing when pulling heavy loads people. In fact the extra weight mean lower fuel economy. Open channel C frame is just fine as long as it is properly braced for towing heavy loads so the GM fanboys need to stop bringing it up at every argument. If its good enough to tow a max of 80,000 lbs then its good enough for 30,000 lbs in a pickup. Toyota makes out fine with it in there 1/2 tons and Ford makes out fine with it in their SD and its a heck of a lot better adding aftermarket stuff to a C channel frame than it is to a fully boxed frame.

you seem to have fixed the problem Thanks

Boxed frames are better for suspension. Being more rigid means the suspension absorbs more leading to better handling because it is controlled by the suspension, not suspension and chassis flex. The only thing that off sets me with the Tundra is that it isn't straight C channel. It is a hybrid with IIRC 3 types of frame joined together. Front boxed, mid semi boxed, rear C channel. Time will tell how it holds up compared to a continuous frame rail.


if the gm smokes the ford with less air up high *mountains* its gonna still smoke the ford down low with more air *sea level* rolls eyes

@Erik- reading from
"The FMCSA has established 0.04% as the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level at or above which a CDL commercial motor vehicle operator who is required to have a CDL is deemed to be driving under the influence of alcohol and subject to the disqualification sanctions in the Federal regulations. "
That would suggest that a BAC over .04% will jepardize your CDL, but should not impact your non-CDL driving privileges, as long as the officer doesn't deem you "impaired" (which can happen with ANY BAC, or you are over the .08% limit.

@Chevy Guy My point isn't who is going to smoke who... I'm just tired of the my truck goes up a hill faster argument. I don't have any problem with Chevy/GM I'm just looking at this from a professional truck driver standpoint as well as a safety standpoint. IF you tell idiots that you can pull 10,000 lbs up a steep grade they damn sure will try it, but it don't mean its safe to do so.

@Keith You make a good point and you are correct. If a truck is properly set up for C channel though then it should be just fine. If it wasn't fine then you wouldn't see old pickups on the road... last time I checked I sure see a lot still on the road. Just trying to say that C channel is fine for heavy towing. If you plan on off road then boxed frame would be better.

@chevy guy - you need to read the 2010 HD shootout.

I'm more curious about how the new Cummins Ram will fare.
It is the newest HD of the bunch.

I'd like to see these trucks put to work on gravel roads pulling a heavy load.
Put them in a rough worksite type environment as well.
That is why I own a 4x4.
I don't care about first to the top of a mountain on a freeway. (I'm 500 miles from the closest freeway)
I care about getting to the top of the mountain on dirt roads with a load or a trailer.
I don't camp, hunt or fish from the freeway.

Could not have said that better Lou...

It's not that hard to get a cdl if i remeber correctly it only took me a week or two.

nice post, can't wait for the "part 2", and if you have already posted then please provide its link. Thanks for this post.

One company that can assist in getting a CDL is in Weatherford, Texas. They put safety first on their list, and will assist you through all the test. Check it out

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