Maryland’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

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

As in all other states, Maryland requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). Since there are many types of CMVs, Maryland has a number of CDL classes and endorsements. Each class and endorsement—which corresponds to the vehicle or cargo—has unique requirements and tests. This article will outline the process to obtain a CDL and the consequences of violating CDL regulations.

When a CDL is Required

A CDL is required to operate any vehicle (including towed trailers) weighing 26,001 or more pounds. A vehicle designed to transport hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers also requires a CDL to operate. Certain vehicles are exempt from CDL requirements. These include:

  • emergency vehicles with lights and sirens
  • military vehicles operated by military personnel
  • vehicles (like RVs) with temporary living quarters for travel or camping, and
  • farm equipment and agriculture transports when operated by the farmer and his or her family 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

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 over 10,000 pounds

Class C

Less than 26,001 pounds

Less than 26,001 pounds

Not over 10,000 pounds

The CMV’s weight must be within the stated CDL weight limits. For example, a class B CDL cannot be used to haul a trailer over 10,000 pounds, but a class A CDL can be used to haul any weight.

Endorsements. While the CDL classes govern CMV weight, endorsements are used to authorize special cargo and equipment. Each endorsement requires additional testing and requirements. For example, a hazardous materials endorsement requires a hazmat knowledge examination, a criminal history check, and clearance from the Transportation Safety Administration.

Restrictions. The state can also place certain restrictions on the CDL based on age, experience, or health issues of the driver. For example, a driver who’s under 21 years old cannot operate out-of-state and cannot transport hazardous materials.

Medical card. CMV operation also requires a medical certificate, indicating the driver’s physical health is adequate to operate a CMV. Certain restrictions may apply to persons with prohibitive medical conditions. Failure to maintain a valid medical card will result in CDL cancelation.

CDL Testing

Commercial learner’s permits. A CDL applicant must obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) prior to taking the driving test for a full CDL. The applicant must be a Maryland resident, be at least 18 years old, and pass the vision test and written knowledge examination. Once issued the CLP, the holder can operate a CMV under the direct supervision of a licensed commercial driver. The supervisor must be at least 21 years old and have a minimum of three years of CDL experience.

Commercial driver’s licenses. After obtaining the CLP, the applicant can take the driving skills test to obtain a CDL. The driving skills test can be waived for drivers with prior military experience operating a CMV.

Disclosures. A CDL holder must complete a background check during the application process. A CDL holder is also required to notify the state and his or her employer of any future traffic convictions or license suspensions.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

Failure to follow any of the many CMV-related rules can result in fines, jail, and license revocation. A CDL driving record can’t be expunged and revoked drivers can’t obtain a hardship CDL.

Serious traffic offenses. The commission of multiple serious traffic violations in three years will result in CDL revocation: having two violations results in a 60-day revocation and having three or more violations results in a 120-day revocation. Serious traffic violations include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. A serious traffic violation committed in a non-CMV vehicle is counted only if the offense resulted in license suspension. Unlicensed driving and driving without a CDL in possession are serious traffic violations and can result in jail time and fines.

Out-of-service orders. Certain violations, like driving a CMV after consuming alcohol, can result in law enforcement issuing an immediate, but temporary, out-of-service order (OSO). Operating during an OSO will result in a revocation period dependent on the number of prior offenses in the last ten years.

  • First offense. 180-day to one-year license revocation (180 days to 2 years if in hazmat or passenger vehicle designed for 16 or more passengers).
  • Second offense. Two-to five-year license revocation (three to five years if in hazmat or passenger vehicle designed for 16 or more passengers).
  • Third or subsequent offense. Three-to five-year license revocation.

Railroad crossings. Federal rules require drivers to take special care when approaching and crossing railroad tracks. Failure to comply with these rules will result in a minimum 60-day revocation for a first offense, 120-day revocation for a second offense, and a one-year revocation for a third offense in three years.

Implied consent. Under Maryland’s implied consent laws, CDL operators are generally required to submit to a breath or blood test if asked to do so by a law enforcement officer. However, the officer must have reasonable grounds to request a test. An unlawful refusal will result in a one-year revocation. If the driver has been previously suspended for more than a year, an implied consent violation will result in the driver being disqualified for life.

Criminal convictions. Certain criminal convictions will result in a one-year license revocation. This list includes chemical test refusal, DUI (driving under the influence), driving a CMV with a blood alcohol content of .04% or more, leaving the scene of an accident, negligently causing a CMV-related fatality, driving while revoked, and using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony. A second violation of any of these offenses will result in lifetime disqualification but reinstatement is possible after ten years if the driver is clear of any traffic violations and has completed a rehabilitation program. Using a CMV to transport controlled substances or for human trafficking will result in a permanent lifetime disqualification.

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