Georgia’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

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

In Georgia, each type of commercial motor vehicle (CMV)—such a hazmat tanker, semi-truck, and seasonal grain-hauler—requires different types of commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) and endorsements. And each license and endorsement has different requirements and rules. This article outlines the requirements for obtaining the various types of commercial licenses and the circumstances that can lead to license disqualification or revocation.

When a CDL Is Required

Georgia defines a CMV as any vehicle designed to haul hazardous material, designed to carry 16 or more passengers, or weighing 26,001 or more pounds. Certain farm machinery, military vehicles, emergency vehicles, and recreation vehicles are exempt from CMV regulations.

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

26,001 or more pounds

26,001 or more pounds

Over 10,000 pounds

Class B

26,001 or more pounds

26,001 or more pounds

Not more than 10,000 pounds

Class C

Less than 26,001 pounds

Less than 26,001 pounds

Not more than 10,000 pounds

The limits of the driver’s license must meet or exceed the weight limit of the CMV. For example, a class A CDL permits the operation of all weights of CMVs.

Endorsements. Certain cargo can require special endorsements to the driver’s license. For example, a CMV carrying passengers must have a passenger endorsement.

Restricted CDL. Georgia authorizes a temporary license for seasonal agricultural workers. This restricted CDL does not require any testing but does require an application and a valid driver’s license. The holder is authorized to operate agriculture-related CMVs within 150 miles of the farm but only for 180 days out of the year.

CDL Testing

Prior to obtaining a CDL, all applicants must obtain a commercial driver instruction permit (CDIP). A CDIP applicant must pass the vision and knowledge tests, be at least 18 years old, and be a resident of Georgia. After holding the CDIP for 14 days, the driver can take the driving skills test to obtain a CDL. However, the driver must be at least 21 years old to transport hazardous materials or operate out-of-state.

An applicant with prior military CMV experience may be exempt from the skills test, but all CDL applicants must hold and maintain a medical certification. The certification proves that the driver is physically healthy enough to operate a CMV and must be renewed every two years.

Endorsements. The written exam is specific to the applicant’s desired endorsements and the driver must use the CMV for which the endorsement applies in the driving test.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

A CDL holder may face disqualification or revocation for failing to follow Georgia’s CMV rules or certain criminal convictions.

Major Traffic Violations

The commission of a major traffic violation will result in at least one-year CDL disqualification. Major traffic violations include chemical test refusal, DUI (driving under the influence), DUI in a CMV, leaving the scene of an accident, racing, fleeing or eluding law enforcement, theft involving a CMV, 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 driver will be disqualified for life for any subsequent major traffic violation, but the state offers a program to reinstate after 10 years. The use of a motor vehicle to distribute, sell, or cultivate controlled substances or marijuana will result in lifetime disqualification with no ability to reinstate.

Serious Traffic Offenses

A driver who has two “serious traffic offense” convictions in three years will face at least 60 days of disqualification. Having three or more violations in three years carries a minimum 120-day disqualification. “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, railroad crossing violations, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. Driving a CMV without a CDL is also a serious traffic offense.

Out-of-Service Order

A driver or the CMV can be ordered out-of-service for certain traffic offenses or equipment violations. For example, driving after consuming any amount of alcohol or drugs will result in a 24-hour OSO. Driving in violation of the OSO will result in a minimum $2,500 penalty for a first offense and a minimum $5,000 penalty for a second or subsequent offense. The driver’s license will also be disqualified depending on the number of violations within the last ten years.

  • First offense. 180-day to one-year license disqualification (maximum two-year disqualification if operating hazmat CMV or CMV designed for more than 15 passengers).
  • Second offense. Two-to five-year license disqualification (minimum three-year disqualification if operating hazmat CMV or CMV designed for more than 15 passengers).
  • Third offense. Three-to five-year license disqualification.

Railroad Crossing Rules

Georgia has special rules for operating a CMV near or over railroad tracks. CMV operators must slow down prior to crossing any tracks and must ensure there is enough forward- and below-clearance to safely cross. Railroad track violations will result in a 60-day, 120-day, and one-year license disqualification for a first, second, and third violation in three years.

Implied Consent

All CMV operators are considered to have given consent to a chemical test for the presence of alcohol. An officer who has probable cause to believe the CMV operator has alcohol in his or her system can request a chemical test. Refusal to submit to testing will result in a 24-hour OSO and at least one-year license disqualification.

Employer Liability

Many of the above-stated violations can also result in penalties for the CDL-holder’s employer. Permitting a driver to operate a CMV without a CDL carries a $2,500 civil penalty, $5,000 fine, and up to 90 days in jail. Employers also face fines ranging from $500 to $25,000 for permitting suspended driving, cellphone violations, and OSO violations.

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