South Dakota’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

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

The operation of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in South Dakota requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Each CDL has specific endorsements and restrictions applicable to the CMV operated. A CDL can also be revoked for certain criminal convictions and rule violations. This article outlines when a CDL is required, how to obtain a CDL, and how a driver can lose CDL privileges.

When a CDL Is Required

South Dakota requires a CDL for any vehicle weighing 26,001 or more pounds or designed to carry hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers. South Dakota does not require a CDL for registered farm vehicles, recreational vehicles, emergency vehicles, or military vehicles. Farm vehicles must be operated by a farmer or family member who’s at least 16 years old and used only for agriculture needs.

South Dakota'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

Over 10,000 pounds

Class B

26,001 pounds or more

26,001 pounds or more

10,000 pounds or less

Class C

Under 26,001 pounds

Under 26,001 pounds

10,000 pounds or less

The license limits must meet or exceed the carried weight. So, a class A CDL can be used to haul any weight of CMV.

Endorsements. Endorsements require additional testing and authorize the holder to operate different CMVs such as school buses or hazmat tankers. For example, a hazmat endorsement requires the holder to pass a TSA background check, be at least 21 years old, and complete the hazmat writing and skills tests.

Restricted farm CDLs. South Dakota has a restricted CDL for agriculture use. However, the farm CDL is good for only 180 days of the year and can be used only to operate class B and C CMVs within 150 miles of the farm. The holder can also haul limited hazardous materials such as fertilizer or diesel fuel. The restricted farm CDL doesn’t require any knowledge or driving test, but the applicant must hold a valid South Dakota driver’s license for one year and have a good driving record.

CDL Testing

Prior to taking the driving test, CDL applicants must obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). The CLP requires the passage of a written CMV knowledge test and proof of residency. The CLP can be used to operate a CMV under the supervision of a licensed commercial driver who’s at least 21 years old. After 14 days, the applicant can then use the CLP to take the driving test and obtain a full CDL. Drivers must be at least 18 years old to hold a CDL and at least 21 years old to operate out-of-state.

CDL holders are required to self-certify as to the type of driving performed. Based on this certification, the driver may need to maintain a medical examiner’s certification, also known as a medical card. This medical card must be renewed every two years and may impose CDL restrictions. For example, certain diabetics must provide additional documentation and may have restricted privileges.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

Failure to abide by any of the many CMV rules or traffic ordinances can result in fines and license revocation. These violations cannot be masked by diversions or other agreements. All traffic violations or suspensions must be reported to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety and to the driver’s employer

Serious traffic violations. The commission of multiple “serious traffic violations” within three years will result in license revocation. Serious traffic violations include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, careless driving, erratic lane changes, following too closely, using a cellphone while driving a CMV, failure to stop or slow down for a school bus, eluding an officer, and any CMV traffic violation involving a fatality. Driving without a CDL in possession or with improper endorsements is considered a serious traffic violation. But the driver can get the ticket dismissed by presenting in court a CDL that was valid at the time of the citation. Having two serious traffic offenses in three years results in a minimum 60-day revocation and having three or more violations in three years results in a minimum 120-day revocation.

Out-of-service orders. An out-of-service order (OSO) is a temporary order prohibiting CMV operation. Certain unsafe practices, like driving with any amount of alcohol in the driver’s system, will result in a 24-hour OSO. Driving during an OSO will result in license revocation:

  • First offense in ten years. 120-day license revocation (180-day if in CMV designed for hazmat or 16 or more passengers), and $2,500 fine.
  • Second offense in ten years. Two-year license revocation (three-year if in CMV designed for hazmat or 16 or more passengers), and $5,000 fine.
  • Third offense in ten years. Three-year license revocation (five-year if in CMV designed for hazmat or 16 or more passengers), and $5,000 fine.

An employer can also be fined $2,750 to $25,000 for permitting an OSO violation.

Railroad crossings. CMVs also have special rules when crossing railroad tracks. Failure to stop 50 feet away from a crossing train or any other railroad crossing violation is a class 2 misdemeanor and can result in license revocation of 60 days, 120 days, and one year for a first, second, and third violation in a three-year period. The driver’s employer can be fined up to $10,000 for knowingly permitting a violation.

Major offenses. More serious crimes and offenses are known as “major offenses” result in a minimum one-year license revocation. 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 revoked, and causing a fatality due to a CMV traffic violation. The driver will be disqualified for at least three years if the violation occurred in a hazmat CMV. A driver will be revoked for life upon conviction of a second major offense but can be reinstated after ten years and completing a rehabilitation program. Using a motor vehicle to illegally transport controlled substances will result in a permanent lifetime revocation.

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