Colorado’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

The requirements to obtain a Colorado CDL and the reasons for disqualification.

Colorado and the federal government have special rules for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators. All CMV operators must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) along with the appropriate endorsements specific to the particular CMV and cargo. Each CDL and endorsement has different requirements and regulations. This article outlines the requirements, regulations, and the penalties for violations.

When a CDL Is Required

A CMV includes any vehicle weighing 26,001 or more pounds, designed to carry 16 or more passengers, or carrying hazardous materials. Generally, all CMVs require a CDL to operate, but exceptions exist for RVs, farm machinery, and military personnel.

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

26,001 or more pounds

26,001 or more pounds

10,001 or more pounds

Class B

26,001 or more pounds

26,001 or more pounds

10,000 pounds or less

Class C

26,000 pounds or less

26,000 pounds or less

10,000 pounds or less

The higher-grade CDLs can be used to operate CMVs covered by lower-grade CDLs. For instance, a class A CDL holder can drive anything covered by a class B or C CDL but may still need the applicable endorsements.

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.

Colorado's CDL Testing and Requirements

Minimum requirements. To obtain a Colorado CDL, the applicant must be at least 18 years old and complete the applicable knowledge test. Meeting these requirements will grant the applicant a commercial learner’s permit to practice driving while under the supervision of a licensed commercial vehicle operator. After holding the permit for 14 days, the applicant can take the driving skills test to obtain a CDL. The written and driving tests are tailored to the CDL class and endorsements needed.

An applicant that served in the military driving CMVs may be exempt from the written exam.

Specific requirements. Certain licenses and endorsements have additional requirements. For example, a class A CDL requires trafficking-prevention training and a hazmat endorsement requires TSA-clearance. And interstate transport requires the driver to be at least 21 years old.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

A CDL holder may face revocation, disqualification, or an out-of-service order for failing to comply with regulations or for being convicted of certain crimes. A CDL that has been revoked or disqualified is not applicable for any restricted or hardship driving privileges.

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 in three years 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 a CMV without a CDL, with the wrong certifications, or without having the CDL in immediate possession, will also be considered a “serious traffic offense.”

Out-of-Service Order. If a driver or the CMV is found to be in non-compliance with regulations (having inadequate logs, for example), law enforcement can issue an out-of-service order (OSO). Driving in violation of the OSO is a class 1 misdemeanor and will result in license revocation. The revocation period depends on the number of prior offenses in the last ten years:

  • First offense. One-year license revocation (two-year revocation if operating hazmat CMV).
  • Second or subsequent offense. Five-year license revocation.

A driver revoked for an OSO violation can request a hearing to request a reduction of the length of the revocation.

Railroad crossings. CMVs are subject to special rules when crossing over or driving near railroad tracks. For example, drivers must ensure sufficient undercarriage clearance to avoid high-centering and forward-clearance to avoid stopping on 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. Certain major criminal violations will result in mandatory CDL disqualification. Major offenses include chemical test refusal, driving under the influence, 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 negligent CMV operation. A second or subsequent major offense will result in lifetime disqualification.

Drugs. The unlawful use of any schedule 1 drug (including marijuana and heroin) while driving will result in a one-year revocation. A driver caught using a vehicle to transport any schedule 1 drug will be immediately revoked for six months. If the schedule 1 drug was a controlled substance, the driver will be disqualified for life.

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