CDL Requirements in New York


New York’s commercial trucking industry is highly regulated by state and federal agencies. Drivers need special licenses to demonstrate their qualifications and training before they can operate a vehicle commercially.

Most tractor-trailer operators are consummate professionals who work hard to transport goods across the country safely. But sometimes, unlicensed or unqualified truck drivers cause devastating accidents resulting in catastrophic injuries. When these tragic events occur, victims can hold those irresponsible drivers accountable and demand fair compensation in truck accident injury cases.

What Are the Different Types of CDLs?

There are three primary types of CDLs in New York:

  • Class A CDL holders can operate combination vehicles like tractor-trailers with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) over 26,000 pounds. Drivers must be at least 21 years old to obtain Class A CDLs. Class A vehicles can tow vehicles with GVWRs of more than 10,000 pounds. Class A CDL holders can get hazardous materials (H), metal coil (M), tank vehicle (N), double- and triple-vehicle (T), tow truck (W), and hazmat tank endorsements (X).
  • A Class B CDL is for driving large, single vehicles, like a bus or truck weighing more than 26,000 GVWR pounds. Drivers must be at least 21 to be eligible for Class B CDLs. Class B vehicles can tow vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds GVWR or less if the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) is 26,000 pounds or less. Class B CDL holders can get H, M, N, T, W, and X endorsements.
  • CDL Class C licenses are for driving single vehicles such as heavy trucks or buses weighing 26,000 pounds or less GVWR. Class C vehicles can be stretch limousines, hazmat vehicles, or vehicles that carry 15 or more passengers. Class C CDL drivers must be at least 21 years old. CDL Class C holders can get H, M, N, W, and X endorsements.

Additionally, Non-CDL Class C licenses allow for driving single vehicles like trucks or buses weighing 26,000 pounds or less GVWR and do not require CDL endorsements. Drivers must be at least 18 to obtain non-CDL Class C licenses. Non-CDL Class C drivers can tow 10,000 pounds or less GVWR for vehicles with GCWRs of 26,000 pounds or less. They can also obtain farm-class (F and G), large recreational vehicle (R), and W license endorsements.

Who Needs a CDL in New York?

Anyone who operates a commercial truck or vehicle in New York needs a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues CDLs. Applicants must first have a regular Class D, E, or non-CDL Class C driver’s license to get a CDL. Residents of New York who have any of those licenses can apply to the DMV for a CDL. They can also trade in a valid, out-of-state CDL to get a New York CDL if they move to New York and continue driving commercially.

How Do You Get a CDL in New York?

Commercial drivers must complete a multi-step process that includes both written and practical tests before they can obtain CDLs in New York. Here are some of the main steps drivers must take:

  • Have a regular Class D, E, or non-CDL Class C driver’s license. All drivers need a regular license before they can apply for a CDL in New York.
  • Go to a DMV office and apply for a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). Drivers must pay fees and pass written tests for the types of CDL they need. The CLPs are valid for one year.
  • Practice driving with a supervising driver. The supervising driver must have a valid CDL for the same class of vehicle the applicant will use for their road test.
  • Schedule a road test appointment between 14 days and one year after obtaining a CLP. If drivers don’t pass the road test within one year of getting their CLPs, they must re-apply.

What Types of Tests Must Drivers Pass to Get a CDL?

The following types of commercial driving tests ensure CDL holders are prepared and qualified to drive commercial vehicles safely:

  • Medical exams – Drivers must pass medical, physical exams from approved medical professionals who certify they meet minimum federal health requirements.
  • Skills tests – Also called road tests, these evaluations assess the ability to safely operate the type of commercial vehicle the applicant intends to drive. They includes a pre-trip inspection, basic vehicle control skills, and on-road driving.
  • Written knowledge tests – These multiple-choice tests cover topics like vehicle inspection, operation, and safety. CDL holders must pass tests on general knowledge and any relevant endorsements they need.

What Happens When Unqualified Drivers Operate Big Trucks?

Unqualified drivers lack the training and skills to safely operate big rigs, increasing the likelihood of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Drivers without proper qualifications are more likely to:

  • Cause dangerous wear and tear – Improper gear shifting, braking, or loading by unqualified drivers can contribute to faster deterioration of critical truck parts. Coupled with poor inspection and maintenance practices, this accelerated wear and tear can be a recipe for accidents.
  • Commit driving violations – Some unqualified drivers might not fully understand the many state and federal regulations that apply to them. As a result, they are more prone to committing violations like speeding, unsafe lane changes, and disregarding road-specific truck restrictions. Any of these violations can significantly increase the risk of truck accidents.
  • Lose control of their vehicles – Larger vehicles require greater skill, experience, and care to control, especially when fully loaded or in difficult conditions. Unqualified drivers are more prone to losing control, possibly leading to rollovers, jackknifes, and other severe accidents.

Get in Touch with Finz & Finz, P.C. Today

State and federal regulations like those involving commercial drivers licenses exist to keep people safe. When those regulations are violated, innocent people can get hurt.

Were you or a loved one injured in a truck accident in New York? If someone else was to blame, they could owe you compensation for your medical bills, vehicle repairs, lost wages, and more. The New York truck accident attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C. are ready to help you demand that compensation. Contact us today for your free case review to learn more about your legal options.

  • About the Author
  • Latest Posts

Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.