Ohio’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

The requirements to obtain an Ohio CDL and the reasons for disqualification.

Ohio has different commercial driver’s license (CDL) classes and endorsements to authorize the operation of each type of commercial motor vehicle (CMV). Each license and endorsement carries different requirements and is subject to varying rules. Violation of these driving rules can result in CDL disqualification. This article outlines the CDL application process and the penalties for CMV offenses.

When a CDL is Required

A CDL is required to operate a CMV. CMV is defined as any vehicle weighing 26,001 or more pounds or designed to transport hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers. School buses are considered CMVs. A CDL is not required to operate recreational vehicles, ambulances, prisoner transports, snowplows, fire trucks, military vehicles, and personal transport vehicles. A farm truck is also exempt if it’s operated by the farmer within 150 miles of the farm for agriculture purposes.

Ohio's Commercial 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

More than 10,000 pounds

Class B

26,001 or more pounds

26,001 or more pounds

10,000 or less pounds

Class C

26,000 pounds or less

26,000 pounds or less

10,000 or less pounds

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

Endorsements. A CDL operator can take additional tests to receive CDL endorsements. Endorsements are added to the license and permit the operation of special CMVs like school buses and hazmat tankers. (A hazmat endorsement also requires clearance by the Traffic Safety Administration.)

Restrictions. Ohio can also place special restrictions on the driver’s license based on health or experience. For example, a driver under 21 years old is restricted to driving in-state only.

Restricted CDL. Ohio provides a seasonal agriculture CDL that’s valid only for 180 days but does not require a knowledge or driving test. The driver must hold a driver’s license for one year and be free of any suspensions or prohibitive convictions in the last two years. The driver must also obtain a farm-related waiver and can only operate a class B or C CMV and only within 150 miles of the farm.

CDL Testing

All CDL applicants must be at least 18 years old and have a valid Ohio driver’s license before beginning the CDL application process.

Instruction permits. The applicant must then complete a driving history check, vision test, and the written exam to obtain a temporary instruction permit (TIP). The TIP allows CMV operation under the supervision of a licensed commercial driver.

CDL driving exam. After holding a TIP for 14 days, the applicant can take the CDL driving exam to obtain a full CDL. The driving exam can be waived for TIP holders with prior military experience operating CMVs.

Medical exam. All CDL holders must certify as to the type of driving performed and obtain a medical certificate. The medical certificate is a physician-signed document indicating adequate general health to operate a CMV.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

Failure to follow an of the many CMV rules and regulations can result in CDL revocation and other penalties. A CDL can even be revoked for failing to pay child support. A revoked CDL is not eligible for a hardship license.

Serious traffic violations. A commercial driver faces license revocation for committing multiple “serious traffic violations” within three years. Having two offenses will result in a 60-day revocation and having three or more violations carries a 120-day revocation. Serious traffic violations include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, wanton driving, lane violations, texting while driving, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. Driving a CMV without the proper license and endorsement is also considered a serious traffic violation.

Out-of-service orders. A police officer can issue an out-of-service order (OSO) to both a driver and a CMV, temporarily prohibiting operation. Driving in violation of the “out-of-service order” is a simple misdemeanor and the penalties depend on the number of prior violations and the vehicle driven.

  • An OSO violation in a standard CMV will result in a 180-day, two-year, and three-year revocation for a first, second, and third offense in ten years.
  • Hazmat or 16 or more passengers. An OSO violation that occurs in a CMV designed to carry hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers will result in a 180-day revocation for a first offense and three-year revocation for a subsequent offense.

An employer that permits an OSO violation (or driving while suspended) will be fined up to $10,000.

Railroad crossings. CMVs are required to either stop or slow down prior to crossing railroad tracks and must ensure there is proper clearance to cross safely. A violation will result in license revocation of at least 60 days for a first offense, 120 days for a second offense, and one year for a third or subsequent offense in three years.

Major offenses. A CDL will be disqualified for one year for a conviction of any of the following “major offenses”: chemical test refusal, OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence), an OVI in a CMV, failure to stop at an accident, driving a CMV while revoked, and using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony. A violation occurring in a vehicle designed for hazardous materials will result in a three-year revocation. Any second or subsequent conviction of the above-stated violations or the use of a motor vehicle to distribute or produce controlled substances will result in lifetime disqualification.

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