Virginia’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

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

A Virginia commercial driver’s license (CDL) is necessary to operate a wide array of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Generally, each CMV is covered by a different class of CDL and the different cargo is covered by different CDL endorsements. Each CDL class and endorsement have different tests and requirements. This article will outline the CDL requirements in Virginia and the reasons a CDL can be revoked.

When a CDL Is Required

A CDL is generally required to operate any size of CMV. Any vehicle weighing 26,001 or more pounds or designed to carry 16 or more passengers or hazardous materials is considered a CMV. Exemptions to the normal requirements exist for firefighters driving firetrucks, military driving military CMVs, and civilians driving RVs. Farmers are also permitted to operate not-for-hire agriculture-transport CMVs within 150 miles of the farm without a CDL.

Virginia'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 or more pounds

26,001 or more pounds

Not over 10,000 pounds

Class C

26,000 pounds or less

26,000 pounds or less

Not over 10,000 pounds

The CDL class must meet or exceed the CMV weight. For instance, a class A CDL holder can drive anything covered by a class B or C CDL but may still need the applicable endorsements.

Cargo Endorsements

Endorsements are designated on the CDL and authorize the holder to carry certain cargo. Each endorsement also has unique tests and requirements. For instance, a hazmat endorsement requires the driver to be at least 21 years old, complete an entry-level training course, and obtain TSA clearance. And a school bus endorsement requires seven to 24 hours of approved training and is not available to registered sex offenders.

Seasonal CDLs

Virginia also has a seasonal CDL that can be used for custom harvest and livestock feeding. The seasonal CDL does not require a knowledge or skills test but does require a Virginia driver’s license (minimum of one year) and a clean driving record. The CDL is only valid for up to 180 days and can be used only for agriculture purposes within 150 miles of the farm or business.

CDL Testing

Virginia uses a graduated license system for drivers who want to obtain commercial driving privileges. Drivers start with a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). An applicant must be a Virginia resident, be at least 18 years old, pass a background check, and pass the knowledge examination to obtain a CLP. A CLP allows the holder to operate a designated CMV under the direct supervision of a licensed commercial driver. After having the CLP for 14 days, the CLP holder can take the driving test to obtain a full CDL.

Special requirements. A driver must be at least 21 years old to obtain a hazmat endorsement or to drive a CDL out-of-state. An entry-level driver training course is required for a class A or B CDL and a passenger or hazmat endorsement.

Medical cards. All drivers are required to certify with the state the type of driving engaged in and to obtain a medical card. The medical card is a certificate issued by a physician indicating the driver is healthy enough to safely operate a CMV.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

A CDL can be revoked for failing to comply with regulations or for being convicted of certain crimes. These violations cannot be deferred or masked for CDL holders.

Serious traffic violations. Virginia considers speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, improper lane changes, following too closely, texting while driving, and any traffic violation involving a fatality to be “serious traffic violations.” Driving a CMV without a CDL or without the proper endorsements is also considered a serious traffic offense. Having two serious traffic violations in a three-year period results in a 60-day CDL revocation. A third or subsequent serious violation in three years results in a 120-day CDL revocation. A violation committed in a non-CMV is considered a serious traffic violation only if it results in the suspension of the driver’s non-commercial driving privileges.

Out-of-service orders. Failure to comply with state or federal regulations can result in the driver or CMV being issued a temporary out-of-service order (OSO). For example, driving with any amount of consumed alcohol mandates a 24-hour OSO. Driving in violation of the OSO will result in a revocation period and fine dependent on the number of prior offenses in the last ten years.

  • First offense. One-year license revocation (two-year revocation if operating hazmat CMV or CMV designed for 16 or more passengers), class 2 misdemeanor, and $2,500 fine.
  • Second offense. Five-year license revocation, class 2 misdemeanor, and $5,000 fine.

Major offenses. Certain violations and convictions classified as “major violations” result in a one-year CDL revocation. The list of major violations includes failing to stop for an accident, DWI (driving while intoxicated), driving a CMV during revocation or OSO, using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony, or maiming due to intoxication. Vehicular manslaughter in a CMV is also a major offense but mandates a five-year revocation. A major offense committed in a CMV designed to carry hazardous materials results in a three-year revocation. A second or subsequent major offense will result in lifetime disqualification, though reinstatement is generally possible after ten years. A driver will also be disqualified for life for using a CMV to distribute or manufacture controlled substances.

Railroad crossings. CMVs are required to abide by all railroad crossing rules, including stopping or slowing down prior to crossing and ensuring proper clearance to safely cross. Railroad track violations will result in 60 days, 120 days, and a year license revocation for a first, second, and third violation in three years.

Employers. A driver is required to inform his or her employer of all traffic violations, CDL revocations, and prior work history. An employer that knowingly allows a CDL holder to drive illegally or to violate certain rules can be fined.

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