North Dakota’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

The requirements to obtain a North Dakota CDL and reasons for disqualification.

To operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in North Dakota, the driver must have the appropriate commercial driver's license (CDL). Different CMVs require different classes of CDLs and endorsements. A CDL can also be revoked for certain driving violations. This article outlines the requirements for obtaining the different types of commercial licenses and circumstances that can lead to commercial license disqualification.

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 and emergency vehicles, house cars and travel trailers, and rural snow removal vehicles. A registered not-for-hire farm vehicle is also generally exempt from CDL requirements when operated by the farmer within 150 miles of the farm.

North Dakota Commercial 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 commercial 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.

Endorsements. While classes govern the weight of the vehicle, the type of vehicle and cargo can require special endorsements. For example, hauling hazardous materials requires a hazmat endorsement, which entails TSA clearance and a written exam. Adding endorsements to an existing CDL requires the driver to complete additional testing.

Seasonal CDL. North Dakota also has a temporary 180-day CDL for agriculture and custom harvest use. The applicant doesn't have to take the written or driving test but must be at least 16 years old, hold a North Dakota driver's license for at least one year, and have a clean record.

CDL Testing

The path to obtaining a CDL starts with holding a class D license and taking the written exam to obtain a commercial learner's permit (CLP). The CLP allows the holder to drive a CMV under the direct supervision of a licensed commercial driver. After 14 days of CLP practice, the applicant can take the driving test to obtain a CDL. The CDL driving test can be waived for drivers with prior experience operating military CMVs.

Age requirements. Applicants must be at least 18 years old to obtain a CLP or CDL. However, drivers who are younger than 21 years old can't transport hazardous materials or operate a CDL out-of-state.

Medical exams. All CDL applicants must obtain a medical certification from their physician indicating adequate physical health to operate a CMV. Additional requirements apply if the driver travels out-of-state.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

An operator can face CDL revocation for certain rule violations and criminal convictions. Drivers are required to report any traffic convictions or license penalties to the state and to their employers.

Serious traffic violations. The commission of multiple "serious traffic violations" within three years will result in license revocation. Having two violations 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. When driving a CMV, "serious traffic violations" include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, texting and driving, driving a CMV without a proper CDL, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. Driving a CMV without a CDL in possession is also a serious traffic violation, but the charge will be dismissed if the driver presents a CDL (that was valid at the time of the citation) to the court.

Out-of-Service Order. Certain rule violations (like refusing a breath test) can result in an immediate out-of-service order (OSO). The OSO is normally issued by the investigating police officer and driving during an OSO will result in license disqualification.

  • First offense. 180-day license disqualification and minimum $2,500 fine.
  • Second offense in ten years. Two-year license disqualification (three years if in hazmat CMV or vehicle designed for 16 or more passengers) and minimum $5,000 fine.
  • Third offense in ten years. Three-year license disqualification and minimum $5,000 fine.

An employer that permits an OSO violation will also be fined $2,750 to $25,000.

Railroad crossings. CMV operators must take care around railroad crossings. Failure to leave enough room in front of or below the CMV can result in a violation. A railroad crossing violation will result in a minimum 60-day, 120-day, and one-year license revocation for a first, second, and third violation in three years. An employer that allows a railroad violation can also be fined up to $10,000.

Major offenses. A CDL holder will also face license revocation for certain "major offenses." These include chemical test refusal, DUI (driving under the influence), leaving the scene of an accident, using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony, driving a CMV while disqualified, and negligently causing a CMV-related fatality. A CDL will be revoked for one year for any offense committed in a motor vehicle and at least one year for any offense committed in a CMV. The revocation will be for three years if the violation occurred in a hazmat vehicle. Any subsequent conviction of the above-stated violations will result in lifetime CDL disqualification, but a driver may be able to reinstate the CDL after completing ten years of clean driving and a rehabilitation program. The production or transportation of controlled substances using a motor vehicle will result in permanent 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 alcohol or drugs in his or her system can request a chemical test. Test refusal will generally result in CDL revocation and a 24-hour OSO.

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