Arkansas’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

The requirements to obtain an Arkansas CDL and the reasons for disqualification.

To operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in Arkansas, the operator must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Each type of CDL has specific endorsements and restrictions. Drivers must pass tests and meet various requirements specific to the type of license and endorsements. CDLs can be revoked for improper operation and certain criminal convictions. This article outlines the requirements for obtaining the different types of commercial licenses and circumstances that can lead to commercial license disqualification or revocation.

When a CDL Is Required

Any vehicle weighing 26,001 or more pounds is considered a CMV. A CMV can also include busses designed for 16 or more passengers and vehicles carrying hazardous materials. Generally, all CMVs require a CDL to operate, but exceptions exist for farmers and emergency responders.

CDL License Classes

There are three classes of CDLs based on the weight of the truck and/or trailer(s).

Combined Weight

Tractor Weight

Trailer(s) Weight

Class A

Over 26,000 pounds

Over 26,000 pounds

Over 10,000 pounds

Class B

Over 26,000 pounds

Over 26,000 pounds

10,000 pounds or less

Class C

26,000 pounds or less

26,000 pounds or less

10,000 pounds or less

The driver’s license must be sufficient to operate all applicable weights. For example, a class A CDL permits the operation of all weights of CMVs.

Endorsements. Endorsements are designated on the CDL and authorize the holder to operate special CMVs (like tankers) or carry special cargo (like hazardous materials).

Restrictions. A CDL can also have special restrictions based on the driver’s abilities and experience. For example, a driver might be restricted to intrastate travel or farm-related transport.

CDL Testing

A CDL applicant must be at least 18 years old and pass the applicable knowledge and skills tests prior to licensure. The driver can obtain a commercial driver permit prior to licensure to practice driving a CMV with a licensed supervisor. A driver must be at least 21 years old for interstate travel.

An applicant with prior military CMV experience may be exempt from the skills test, but all CDL applicants must hold and maintain a medical examiner’s certificate, indicating the driver is physically healthy enough to operate a CMV.

Each license type has unique requirements and mandatory training. For example, a class A CDL requires trafficking-prevention training and a hazmat endorsement requires TSA-clearance.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

The improper use of a CDL or the commission of certain criminal violations will result in license revocation or disqualification.

Serious Traffic Offenses

The commission of multiple “serious traffic offenses” within three years will result in license revocation. Two offenses in three years will result in a 60-day revocation and having three or more violations carries a 120-day revocation. “Serious traffic offenses” include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, erratic lane changes, following too closely, texting while driving in a CMV, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. Driving without a license is also a serious traffic offense but will not result in revocation if the driver is able to prove he or she was properly licensed at the time of the offense.

Out-of-Service Order

A driver or the CMV can be ordered out-of-service for certain traffic offenses or for equipment violations. For example, driving with a container (even unopened) of alcohol will result in a 24-hour out-of-service order (OSO). Driving in violation of the OSO will result in a $2,500 penalty for a first offense and a $5,000 penalty for subsequent offenses. The driver’s license will also be revoked depending on the number of violations within the last ten years.

  • First offense. 180-day to one-year license revocation (maximum two-year revocation if operating hazmat CMV).
  • Second offense. Two-to five-year license revocation (minimum three-year revocation if operating hazmat CMV).
  • Third offense. Three-to five-year license revocation.

Railroad Crossings

Arkansas has special rules for operating a CMV near or over railroad tracks. Railroad track violations will result in a 60-day, 120-day, and one-year license revocation for a first, second, and third violation in three years.

Major Offenses

Aside from serious traffic violations, Arkansas also has major criminal offenses that will result in license revocation and possible lifetime disqualification. A CDL will be revoked for one year upon the following convictions: chemical test refusal, DWI (driving while intoxicated), a DWI in a CMV, leaving the scene of an accident, using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony, driving a CMV while revoked, and causing a fatality due to a CMV traffic violation. A second or subsequent major offense will result in lifetime disqualification, though reinstatement is possible after ten years. The production or transportation of controlled substances using a CMV will result in lifetime revocation without the possibility of reinstatement.

Reporting Honesty

CDL drivers are required to report all traffic convictions to both the state and to their employer. Failure to self-report is a 90-day revocation or one-year revocation for a second offense. A third failure-to-report will result in lifetime disqualification. CDL holders can also be suspended for failure to pay child support and are not eligible for traffic ticket diversions.

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