Massachusetts’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

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

Massachusetts issues commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) for the operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) like semi-trucks, fuel-trucks, and school buses. There are different classes of CDLs and a variety of endorsements that authorize the operation of various CMVs and hauling of different cargos. Each license has different requirements and can be revoked for certain rule violations or criminal convictions. This article outlines when each license is required, how they can be obtained, and how they can be revoked.

When a CDL Is Required

Generally, Massachusetts requires a CDL for any CMV operation. CMVs include any vehicle designed to carry hazardous materials or more than 16 passengers or that weighs 26,001 or more pounds. However, emergency responders can operate emergency CMVs (such as firetrucks) and farmers can operate farm machinery (within 150 miles of the farm) with a class D license. Exemptions also exist for military personnel in military vehicles, construction workers operating off-road, and civilians operating RVs.

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

10,000 pounds or less

Class C

26,000 pounds or less

26,000 pounds or less

10,000 pounds or less

The CMV’s weight must be exceeded by the CDL’s permitted limits. For example, a class A CDL can be used to operate any weight of CMV.

Cargo Endorsements

Endorsements are added to the CDL and authorize special cargo and equipment but also come with additional requirements for drivers. For example, the hazardous materials endorsement requires a written examination and a Transportation Safety Administration background check.

Restrictions

A CDL can also include restrictions based on the age, experience, and health of the driver. A driver who’s younger than 21 years old or has certain health issues will be limited to in-state travel only.

CDL Testing

Commercial learner’s permits. A driver must obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) prior to obtaining a CDL. The applicant must be at least 18 years old, possess a class D license, show proof of residency, and pass the written and vision examinations. The instruction permit can be used to operate a CMV while supervised by a licensed commercial driver.

Commercial driver’s licenses. After practicing with the CLP, the holder can take the driving test to obtain a full CDL. Applicants with prior experience operating military CMVs may be exempt from the skills test.

Reports. A CDL-holder must self-certify to the type of driving performed and maintain a medical certificate indicating adequate general health to operate a CMV. Drivers must also report all future traffic violations and license suspensions to the state and the driver’s employer.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

Failure to follow CMV-related rules can result in fines and license disqualification. Massachusetts prohibits any conviction masking or deferrals for CDL holders.

Serious traffic offenses. In Massachusetts, “serious traffic offenses” include excessive speeding, reckless driving, erratic lane changes, following too closely, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. Driving a CMV without a CDL, without a CDL in possession, or with improper endorsements is also a serious traffic offense. Having two serious traffic offenses in three years will result in a minimum 60-day revocation. Having three serious traffic offenses in three years will result in a minimum 120-day revocation.

Out-of-service orders. Law enforcement can issue an out-of-service order (OSO) to a CDL holder or for a CMV. OSOs are temporary but immediately prohibit operation. OSOs are issued for driving after consuming alcohol and a variety of other safety violations. Driving in violation of an OSO will result in license disqualification.

  • First offense in ten years. Minimum 90-day license disqualification (180 days if in hazmat or passenger vehicle designed for more than 15 passengers).
  • Second offense in ten years. Minimum one-year license disqualification (three years if in hazmat or passenger vehicle designed for more than 15 passengers).
  • Third or subsequent offense in ten years. Minimum three-year license disqualification.
  • In addition to license revocation, the driver will be fined $1,100 to $2,750. An employer that permitted an OSO violation will be fined $2,750 to $11,000.

Railroad crossings. CMVs have special safety rules related to railroad crossings. Failure to follow railroad crossing rules and traffic signs will result in disqualification.

Major offenses. A CDL will be disqualified for one year for a chemical test refusal or failure, OUI (operating under the influence), an OUI in a CMV, leaving the scene of an accident, or using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony. The disqualification will be for three years if the violation occurred in a CMV carrying hazardous materials. A driver will be disqualified for life upon a second major offense or for using a CMV to distribute controlled substances.

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