Montana’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

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

Montana requires commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators to obtain and hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Different types of CMVs require different types of CDLs and there are rules and requirements specific to each type of CDL. This article outlines the requirements for obtaining a commercial license and violations that can lead to license revocation.

When a CDL is Required

A CDL is required to operate a CMV, which is defined as any combination of vehicle(s) exceeding 26,001 pounds. CMVs also include vehicles designed to carry hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers. Registered farm vehicles and personal-use RVs are not considered CMVs. Additionally, exemptions exist for military personnel and emergency responders.

Montana's CDL License Classes

There are three classes of CDLs corresponding to the weight of the truck and/or trailer(s).

Combined Weight

Tractor Weight

Trailer(s) Weight

Class A

Exceeds 26,001 pounds

Exceeds 26,001 pounds

Exceeds 10,000 pounds

Class B

Exceeds 26,001 pounds

Exceeds 26,001 pounds

10,000 pounds or less

Class C

Less than 26,001

Less than 26,001

10,000 pounds or less

The CDL must meet or exceed the applicable weight limits of the vehicle. For example, a class A CDL can be used to operate any size or weight of CMV.

Cargo Endorsements

While classes are specific to the weight of the vehicle, endorsements govern the type of cargo that a driver can transport. Each endorsement comes with special rules and testing requirements. For instance, to transport hazardous materials, the driver must have TSA clearance and complete hazmat testing.

Interstate Commercial Travel

CDLs are also designated as Type 1 for interstate travel or Type 2 for intrastate travel. The driver certifies with the state as to the type of driving to be performed. A driver must be at least 21 years old and hold a medical certificate (indicating adequate general physical health) to operate between states.

Seasonal CDL

A seasonal CDL is available for class B or C CMV operation related to custom harvest, agri-business, and livestock feeding. The application requires a Montana driver’s license and a good driving record but no written or driving tests. However, the license is valid only from March 15 to September 11, can be used only within 150 miles of the farm, and must be renewed annually.

CDL Testing

Montana’s CDL testing procedures use a graduated license system to advance an applicant from a standard license to a CDL.

Instruction permits. A CDL applicant must first obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) by passing the written knowledge exam and vision test. The applicant must be 18 years old and a licensed Montana resident. The instruction permit authorizes the operation of a CMV only under the supervision of a licensed commercial driver.

CDLs. After practicing with the CLP, an applicant can take the driving skills test to obtain a full CDL. The test can be waived for military veterans with CMV experience.

Record. The state will also perform a background check to ensure the driver doesn’t have any prohibitive prior convictions. Future traffic violations must also be reported to the driver’s employer.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

CMVs are subject to special rules and regulations. Rule violations and certain traffic offenses can result in license disqualification or revocation. A revoked CDL is not eligible for probationary or work-restricted reinstatement.

Serious traffic violations. A CDL will be revoked for 60 days for having two “serious traffic violations” in three years. Any subsequent violations will result in a 120-day revocation. Montana considers speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, erratic lane change, following too closely, texting and driving, and any traffic violation involving a fatality to be serious traffic violations. Driving without a CDL, with the improper class or endorsement, and without a CDL in possession are also serious traffic violations.

Major offenses. More severe violations will result in a mandatory one-year license revocation. These violations include leaving the scene of an injury accident, chemical test refusal or failure, DUI (driving under the influence), impaired CMV operation, using a motor vehicle to commit a felony, negligently causing a CMV-related fatality, and operating with a revoked CDL. Any major offense committed in a vehicle designed for hazardous materials results in a three-year license revocation. A second major offense violation will result in a lifetime revocation, but reinstatement may be possible after ten years. The use of a motor vehicle in human trafficking or controlled substance distribution will result in permanent lifetime disqualification.

Out-of-service orders. Some safety violations can result in a temporary and immediate out-of-service order (OSO). The revocation period and fines for driving during an OSO depend on the number of offenses within the past ten years.

  • First offense. Six-month license revocation, misdemeanor, $25 to $500 fine, and maximum $2,985 civil penalty.
  • Second offense in ten years. Two-year license revocation (three years if in hazmat CMV or vehicle designed for 16 or more passengers), misdemeanor, $25 to $1,000 fine, and a maximum $5,970 civil penalty.
  • Third offense in ten years. Three-year license revocation, misdemeanor, $25 to $1,000 fine, and a maximum $5,970 civil penalty.

An employer that knowingly permits an OSO violation will be subject to a $2,750 to $11,000 civil penalty.

Railroad crossings. CMV operators must take care around railroad crossings. Some CMVs must completely stop prior to crossing and others must slow down. A railroad crossing violation will result in a 60-day, 120-day, and one-year license revocation for a first, second, and third violation in three years. An employer that permits a railroad crossing violation can also be fined up to $10,000.

Implied consent. All CMV operators are considered to have given consent to a test of their breath or blood to identify the presence of alcohol or drugs. An officer who has reasonable grounds to believe the driver has consumed alcohol or drugs can request a chemical test. An unlawful test refusal will result in license revocation and other penalties.

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