New Hampshire’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

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

In order to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in New Hampshire, the operator must possess a commercial driver’s license (CDL). There are three classes of CDLs and various endorsements that can be added to the CDL. Each license permits the operation of a certain size or type of vehicle and comes with different requirements. This article outlines when a CDL is required, how a CDL is obtained, and the reasons that a CDL can be revoked.

When a CDL is Required

A CDL is required to operate any combination of vehicle(s) weighing 26,001 or more pounds or vehicle designed to carry hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers. Exceptions to these requirements exist for military, emergency, and recreation vehicles. Also, farm equipment used within 150 of the farm does not require a CDL.

Commerical 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

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

Less than 26,001

Less than 26,001

10,000 pounds or less

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

Cargo Endorsements

While license classes govern the weight of the vehicle, a driver might need a special endorsement to drive a certain type of vehicle and haul specific cargo. For example, carrying passengers requires a passenger endorsement and transporting hazardous materials requires a hazmat endorsement. Each endorsement comes with specific rules and testing requirements.

CDL Testing

New Hampshire uses a graduated license system for commercial drivers.

Learner permit. An applicant must hold a valid driver’s license prior to applying for a commercial driver learner permit (CDLP). The applicant must be a New Hampshire resident, at least 18 years old, and pass the applicable knowledge tests to be issued a CDLP. The CDLP can be used to operate a CMV only while supervised by a licensed commercial driver.

Full CDL. The CDLP allows the applicant to take the driving skills test to receive a full CDL. Military veterans with experience operating CMVs may be able to skip the driving test. Until a CDL holder is 21 years old, he or she can’t transport hazardous materials or operate out-of-state.

Certification. All applicants must certify with the state as to the type of driving performed. Unless exempted, all CMV operators must obtain, maintain, and file a medical examiner’s certificate.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

An operator can face CDL disqualification or revocation for certain rule violations and criminal convictions. All drivers are entitled to notice and opportunity to a hearing before revocation. A driver who is convicted of any traffic violation or subject to license suspension must promptly notify both the state and the employer.

Serious traffic violations. The commission of multiple “serious traffic violations” within three years will result in license revocation. Having two serious offenses in three years results in a minimum 60-day revocation and having three or more violations in three years carries a minimum 120-day revocation. “Serious traffic violations” include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit and any traffic violation involving a fatality. Following too closely, improper lane change, texting while driving, and unlicensed driving are considered to be serious violations only when committed in a CMV.

Out-of-service orders. An out-of-service order (OSO) can be issued to a CMV or operator for violating equipment or record-keeping requirements. The OSO is temporary but any driving during an OSO will result in criminal charges and license disqualification.

  • First offense. Class B misdemeanor and 180-day to one-year license disqualification (180 days to two years if in hazmat CMV or vehicle designed for 16 or more passengers).
  • Second offense in ten years. Class A misdemeanor and two-to five-year license disqualification (three to five years if in hazmat CMV or vehicle designed for 16 or more passengers).
  • Third offense in ten years. Class A misdemeanor and three-to five-year license disqualification.

An employer that knowingly permits an OSO violation will face a class B misdemeanor and minimum $2,500 fine for a first offense and a class A misdemeanor and minimum $5,000 for a second offense. A civil penalty of $2,750 to $25,000 will also be assessed.

One-year revocation. An operator faces a minimum one-year CDL revocation for any of the following “major offenses”: chemical test refusal, DWI (driving while impaired), leaving the scene of an injury accident, using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony, driving a CMV while disqualified, and negligently causing a CMV-related fatality. The revocation will be for three years if the violation occurred in a hazmat vehicle. A major offense can also be counted as a serious traffic violation and thus include additional penalties.

Lifetime revocation. A second or subsequent major offense will result in lifetime CDL disqualification. However, the driver can apply for reinstatement after having a clean driving record for ten years and completing the “Attitudinal Dynamic of Driving” class. The production or transportation of controlled substances using a motor vehicle will result in a permanent lifetime CDL disqualification.

Implied consent. All CMV operators are considered to have given consent to a test of the driver’s blood, breath, or urine to identify the presence of alcohol or drugs. An officer who has probable cause to believe the driver has consumed alcohol can request a chemical test. Test refusal or failure will result in CDL revocation.

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