Minnesota’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

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

Minnesota issues commercial driver's licenses (CDLs) for the operation of different commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Each class of CDL has special requirements and rules and a driver may be required to obtain separate endorsements to haul certain cargo or operate certain types of vehicles. Failure to comply with the CDL rules can result in fines and license suspension. This article outlines when a CDL is required, how to obtain a CDL, and the penalties of rule violations.

When a CDL is Required

Minnesota considers a CMV to be any vehicle designed to carry hazardous materials, more than 15 passengers, or that weighs more than 26,000 pounds. Military vehicles, emergency vehicles like fire trucks, and personal-use vehicles like RVs are exempt from CMV requirements. Farm trucks operated within 150 miles of the farm and snowplows in rural areas can also be exempt.

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

Over 26,000 pounds

Over 26,000 pounds

Over 10,000 pounds

Class B

Over 26,000 pounds

Over 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 CMV's weight must be within the CDL's permitted limits. For example, a class A CDL can be used to operate any weight of CMV.

Endorsements. Transporting hazardous materials or school children requires CDL license endorsements. Each endorsement requires additional testing and comes with different rules and is added to the CDL after issuance. For example, a school bus endorsement requires a school bus examination and registered sex offenders can't qualify.

Restrictions. A CDL can have certain restrictions based on the experience, age, and health of the driver. Drivers under the age of 21 or with certain health conditions are restricted to in-state operation.

CDL Testing

Commercial learner's permits (CLPs). A driver must be at least 18 years old to obtain a CLP. The applicant must hold a valid Minnesota license, show proof of residency, clear a driver history check, and complete the knowledge examination. The learner's permit can be used to operate a CMV while supervised by a licensed commercial driver.

Commercial driver's licenses. After holding the CLP for 14 days, the applicant can take the driving test to obtain a full CDL. The driving test can be waived for drivers with prior experience operating a military CMV.

Self-certification. A CDL holder must self-certify with the state as to the type of CMV operation and must hold a valid medical certificate indicating adequate general health to operate a CMV. Drivers are also required to disclose any future traffic violations or license suspensions to both the state and their employer.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

Failure to follow any of the many CMV-related rules can result in fines and license revocation. These penalties can't be avoided as Minnesota prohibits any CDL diversions or conviction masking.

Serious traffic violations. Committing two "serious traffic violations" in three years will result in a 60-day revocation. And having three serious traffic offenses in three years will result in a 120-day revocation. Serious traffic violation includes speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, erratic lane changes, following too closely, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. Driving a CMV without a CDL, without a CDL on-person, or without the proper endorsements is also considered a serious traffic violation.

Out-of-service orders. Certain actions, like exceeding the driving time limits, will result in the issuance of an immediate, but temporary, out-of-service order (OSO). Driving in violation of the OSO will result in license revocation for a period that depends on the number of prior violations in the last ten years.

  • First offense. 90-day license disqualification (180 days if in hazmat or passenger vehicle designed for more than 15 passengers).
  • Second offense. One-year license disqualification (three years if in hazmat or passenger vehicle designed for more than 15 passengers).
  • Third or subsequent offense. Three-year license disqualification.

In addition to license revocation, the driver will be fined up to $3,174 for a first offense and up to $6,348 for a second or subsequent offense. An employer that permits an OSO violation can be fined $5,732 to $31,737.

Railroad crossings. CMVs have special safety rules regarding railroad crossings. The driver must slow down or stop for all crossings and ensure the CMV has proper clearance to completely cross. A violation will result in a 60-day, 120-day, and a one-year disqualification for a first, second and third offense within a three-year period. The driver's employer can also be fined up to $16,453.

Major offenses. A CDL will be disqualified for one year for any of the following major offenses committed in a CMV: driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .04% or more, leaving the scene of an accident, driving in the commission of a felony, driving while revoked, and negligently causing a vehicle fatality. A chemical test refusal or failure or DWI (driving while intoxicated) will be a major offense even if committed in a non-CMV. The disqualification will be for three years if the violation occurred in a CMV designed to carry hazardous materials. A second major offense will result in a lifetime revocation, but a driver can request reinstatement after ten years. Using a CMV to distribute controlled substances or traffic humans will result in permanent lifetime revocation.

Alcohol. Impaired driving rules are stricter for CMV operators. Driving with any amount of alcohol (consumed or in possession) will result in a 24-hour OSO. Additionally, a police officer who has probable cause to believe the driver has consumed alcohol can request a breath, blood, or urine test. Under Minnesota's implied consent laws, a test failure or refusal will result in an OSO order, license disqualification, and other possible penalties.

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