Idaho’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

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

Idaho enforces both state and federal rules regarding the operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). All CMV operators must have the corresponding commercial driver’s license (CDL) and endorsement for the type of CMV operated and cargo carried. This article outlines the process for obtaining a CDL and the violations that can lead to the loss of those privileges.

When a CDL Is Required

A CDL is required for any vehicle weighing more than 26,000 pounds or designed to carry 16 or more passengers or hazardous materials. Emergency responders and military personnel are sometimes exempt from the CDL requirements. Additionally, vehicles used for personal transport or recreation are exempt, as are farm implements used within 150 miles of the farm.

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

More than 26,000 pounds

More than 26,000 pounds

More than 10,000 pounds

Class B

More than 26,000 pounds

More than 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 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 add-ons to a CDL and authorize the operation of specialized CMVs like school buses and tanker-trucks. Each endorsement has special requirements and examinations.

Seasonal CDL. Idaho also has a special license for agriculture and custom harvest needs. This seasonal CDL can be obtained by drivers who are at least 16 years old but requires one year of driving experience. Additionally, the holder can only operate a class B or C CMV and only within 150 miles of the farm. A seasonal CDL is only good for up to 180 days.

CDL Testing

A CDL applicant must first obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). The CLP is issued to the driver after he or she passes a written exam. A CLP authorizes CMV operation while under the supervision of a licensed commercial driver. After 14 days of practice, the CLP-holder can take the driving test to obtain a CDL. A driver must be at least 18 years old to apply for a CDL but must be at least 21 years old to drive a CMV out-of-state.

Medical card. All non-exempt commercial drivers must maintain a medical examiner’s certificate. The certificate verifies that the holder is physically healthy enough to operate a CMV.

Honesty. CDL applicants are required to disclose all license and employment history. Lying on the CDL application will result in a 60-day disqualification and possible retesting.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

A CDL can be revoked, disqualified, or placed out-of-service if the driver fails to comply with regulations or is convicted of certain crimes. A CDL can also be canceled if the Federal Motor Carrier Administration deems the driver to be an “imminent hazard.”

Serious Traffic Offenses

“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, driving a CMV without a CDL, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. The commission of two serious traffic 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.

Out-of-Service Order

Certain safety violations (such as having any amount of alcohol in your system while operating a CMV) will result in a temporary out-of-service order (OSO). The OSO is typically issued by law enforcement and driving during an OSO will lead to penalties that depend on the number of prior violations in the last three years.

  • First offense. 180-day to one-year license revocation (180-day to two-year revocation if operating CMV designed for hazmat or 16 or more passengers) and a minimum $2,500 fine.
  • Second offense. Two-to five-year license revocation (three-to-five-year revocation if operating CMV designed for hazmat or 16 or more passengers) and a minimum $5,000 fine.
  • Third offense. Three-to five-year license revocation and minimum $5,000 fine.

Railroad Crossings

Idaho has special laws for CMVs crossing railroad tracks. A railroad track violation 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 convictions or withheld judgments (diversions) will result in mandatory CDL disqualification. A first-offense chemical test refusal, DUI (driving under the influence), operating a CMV with a .04% or more blood alcohol content (BAC), leaving the scene of an accident, using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony, driving a CMV while revoked, or causing a fatality due to negligent CMV operation will result in one-year license revocation. A second or subsequent major offense will result in lifetime disqualification. A driver can also be disqualified for life for using a motor vehicle to distribute, manufacture, or transport controlled substances.

Revocation Appeal

A driver subject to disqualification is allowed to appeal the decision in court. However, a disqualified CDL cannot be modified to a restricted work license.

Employer Liability

Many CMV violations can result in fines for the CDL holder’s employer. An employer that knowingly permits operation during an OSO will be fined $2,750 to $25,000. Knowingly permitting a railroad violation is a maximum $10,000 fine.

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