View Full Version : Restrictions of driving a truck in North America

Chris S
06-21-2007, 03:35 PM
Greetings. I'm interested to know what are the licensing restrictions to driving the types of trucks discussed on this page.

Dont know how it works there but in the UK you can drive a 7.5T GVW privately on a regular car license, no questions asked. And in towns many roads are limited to 7.5T which seems a threshold.

Beyond that it gets complicated and expensive with strict driving and roadworthy testing for Heavy Goods Vehicles and artics.

Wondering what the deal is in US and CAN as it would affect what vehicles were viable to purchase and prepare by regular drivers for overlanding.


Chris S

06-21-2007, 04:37 PM
In the US 26,000 lb (11700kg) is the "cutoff". Above that you need a commercial drivers licence - but drivers of RVs are exempt! As far as forbidden areas, they are signed.
That said, I intend to get a CDL with air brake endorsement before I leave North America again with the Unimog. It's very easy to get a CDL. Some of the guys I do physicals on for CDLs have IQs<80. I'm not kidding.


Chris S
06-21-2007, 04:47 PM
Thanks Charlie.

...with air brake endorsement...

Is that something special then? I would have thought all HGVs have air brakes.

Anyone know the situation in Canada?


06-21-2007, 05:25 PM
I can tell you by personal experience it is the same in Canada. There are a few vehicles in the ~26K range that have hydraulic brakes.

When I stopped at a weigh station in BC, when the operator noted that the truck weighed 11760kg and had airbrakes she inspected it to make sure it was an RV and then let me go.


06-21-2007, 09:37 PM
While CDLs are easy to get there are some limitations. I am not eligable, for instance, being a diabetic.

EDIT: Being a Type I diabetic (insulin dependent) is grounds for disqualification, but Type II may not be.

Welcome to the forum Chris, good to see you here!


06-21-2007, 09:52 PM
Yes, in Canada it is very similar. For the most part though, the standard licence isn't classified by weight. Here is a description of the standard Alberta licence:

Class 5 Licence permits an operator to drive:

a two axle single motor vehicle, excluding a motorcycle
a two axle motor vehicle towing a trailer with one or more axles, if the trailer is not equipped with airbrakes
a recreational vehicle or any combination of a recreational vehicle and a trailer, if the trailer has not more than two axles and is not equipped with airbrakes
a moped
Classes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 type vehicles, for learning only
No holder of a Class 5 operator's licence shall operate a motor vehicle:
that has a seating capacity of more than 15, while that vehicle is transporting any person in addition to the operator to transport for hire

So basically if there are air brakes or more then two axles you need an advanced licence.


06-24-2007, 02:13 AM
The older mogs have air over hydrualic brakes and mechanical parking brake. The brakes are air boosted but other than that are standard hydrualic brakes and are exempt from air brake endorsements. The endorsement mainly deals with how to handle the brake system when some part of it has failed, if the air system on an older mog fails it makes no difference to the brakes other than the pedal is more difficult to press.

SBU type mogs have a air powered parking brake, you need something like 12bar in the tanks to release the brakes. I am not sure on the legal status on these systems but nobody I know with an SBU mog has an endorsement.


10-24-2007, 09:50 PM
charlie in case you dont know,, you'll need the DOT phys and long form also otherwise you will be subject to fines and/or suspension.

11-10-2007, 01:48 AM
As long as your vehicle is a registered RV then there is no need for a CDL no matter how big it is. You can register a semi-tractor and a 53' trailer as an RV and drive it without a CDL. It does have to meet a very loose definition of RV but , it can be done. I have friends that use them to haul thier pulling trucks.

Scenic WonderRunner
11-10-2007, 02:49 AM
.....And then there is California which is like a country all unto it's own with all it's bizzare rules!

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/cdl_htm/lic_chart.htm <~Clickit!

If you are going to bring a certain rig over here...........you could check the regs. in each state you want to visit by doing a DMV search by state.

But if you follow Califorina.....it will probably work in most other states.

And then there is the All important............

http://www.dot.gov/ <~Clickit!


11-11-2007, 01:10 AM
AZCPP, your excactly right, i forgot that CDL requirements only count for a big rig if its commercial.
would you happen to know if the owner of said "big rig RV" is responsible for any of the taxes, insurance and all the other stuff commercial drivers have to pay? or is it all just like owning a winnebago?

11-11-2007, 03:21 AM
The whole scenario of privately owned heavy vehicles is very fuzzy. The taxes are tricky and vary by state, in general, you don't pay them if its registered as an RV. If the truck is custom made getting it registered as an RV can be tricky. The DMV where questioning whether my mog was an RV because the bed was folded up - you are at the whim of the idiot doing the inspection. The laws are crazy and contradict each other all over the place.

My mog with a pickup bed is registered as a commercial vehicle, I pay a weight fee with the registration every year - there are about 10 categories for weight which pay whichever you fall in. In CA there is also a gross vehicle weight sticker and this is seperate to registeration and you pay for it seperately. You can register for any gross vehicle weight you like that is under the limit stated GVWR, this makes registration cheaper but don't get caught over the registered weight. A lot of U500 mogs as well as the big older older mogs are registered this way, they may have a GVWR of 30,000 to 40,000 pounds but people will register them as 26,000 to avoid commercial head aches and its cheaper. In general nothing applies to RVs and they can weigh up to 80,000 pounds but you cannot drive them on a standard license, at least in california. California has a couple of special commercial licenses for big RVs and if you drive a vehcile over 26000 pounds you'll need a "none commercial" commercial license (yeah its a stupid name).

My mog camper although significantly heavier than the mog pickup does not have to pay the weight fee, its registered as an automobile (its just a very big one), I have a commercial license but the wife drives it on a normal license and I only pay about $80 a year. As for insurance you need liability and thats it, you don't need the same insurance as a commercial big rigs, having high limits may be benifical due to the amount of damage you can do - you can take out a bridge in a big rig. I was suprised how cheap RV insurance is especailly if you don't drive it fulltime, my mog insurance is $125 a year and that includes $1,000,000 liability. Its calculated differently to car insurance, thats based on an estimated 30 days on the road a year, off road does not count and its not fully covered when offroad. I have a waiver for unlimited mileage due to it being an offroad vehicle. Typically they assume you can only drive so many miles in so many days on the road, as mine can go offroad they don't enforce any milage limits. As with most things the insurance company may enforce stricter rules than the law itself.

In some states if you don't have a commercial license you'll need an air brake endorsement (only if you have air brakes) but this is also fuzzy. In some states its for commerical use vehicles, in some states its only for full air brakes while in other states air over hydraulic need the endorsement. In CA there is no airbrake endorsement outside of a commercial license. My advise would be to get a commercial license if you are going to drive a big truck, like I said in CA over 26,000 you need one. Even if you don't need one, if you are going to travel it makes things a lot easier, while you may not be breaking the law, try telling that to an officer in another state nevermind another country. While in another state, the ultimate fallback is the reciprocation laws. As a private vehicle, if you are legal in your registered state other states obey it as long as you are not resident in that state.


11-11-2007, 03:44 PM
AZCPP, your excactly right, i forgot that CDL requirements only count for a big rig if its commercial.
would you happen to know if the owner of said "big rig RV" is responsible for any of the taxes, insurance and all the other stuff commercial drivers have to pay? or is it all just like owning a winnebago?

I have two friends that have Semi RV's (Van Haisley and Kent Crowder), they don't pay road tax, have to run a fuel permit (although some states charge additional takes at the pump), and niether have a CDL. Their license plate is an RV plate but, I am not sure how much they pay for insurance. I am sure it is not as much as what I used to pay for my commercial trucks.

07-10-2014, 03:18 AM
Here in MN, I had to license my RV-to-be (presently a 20,000lb ambulance) as a commercial vehicle - the DOT told me that that was the only option other than RV, and that can't happen until I install running water, a propane cook top, and a refrig. They also told me that I could drive in other states as long as I was hauling my own stuff (nothing for business). I asked about hauling a couple of Kayaks up north on vacation, and they told me OK. When I bought it in PA and drove it back to MN, they suggested that I use a 30 day permit to minimize confusion at scales.

Apparently that's how UHAUL, RYDER, PENSKE, and the rest rent a less-than-26,000 Lb truck to someone without a CDL --- the renters are hauling their own stuff. If the truck weighs more than 26,000 Lbs, then it requires a CDL, even if you are hauling your own stuff.

nick disjunkt
07-10-2014, 03:59 AM
I would just do the Class C test in the UK and be done with it. The experience of driving a large truck with splitter gearbox will be useful, and it's not a lot of cash when compared with the cost owning a big truck an riving it around the states. I spent a little over a grand ( sterling) on the medical, the theory test, a 3 day course, and the driving test. I can now drive anything rigid up to 32 tonne in the UK and every country I've been to in the truck has been OK with that endorsement (including America and Mexico).

In the USA I'm certain nobody would know either way. A US traffic cop will have no idea what the letters on your license entitle you to, and most likely wont care.

07-19-2014, 03:23 PM
In the USA I'm certain nobody would know either way. A US traffic cop will have no idea what the letters on your license entitle you to, and most likely wont care.

I dont remember whether California CHP has them, but in NY, there are State Police units driving the expressways, solely dedicated to stopping, inspecting, and ticketing (if needed), commercial, heavy, and even light/passenger, trailered vehicles right there along the expressway...I believe they even have portable scales....So while driving rural state roads, or inner city surface streets, you may get an officer that doesnt know the ins-and outs of the regulations, driving the expressways is another matter.

07-19-2014, 04:41 PM
Read it if you like but basically the 1949 Convention on Road Traffic states that if you are licensed to drive your vehicle in your home country you are legal to drive in any of the signatory countries. The same goes for the vehicle. An international drivers permit may help in some countries.
By the way in Ontario you can drive a motor home up to 75' long total length including up to 2 trailers, up to 11000kg on your standard car license! If it has air brakes you do need an air brake endorsement.

07-19-2014, 06:19 PM
This is a real thread necro!

Anyways, the thing I have to keep remember is that even though a Mitsubishi Fuso is a medium duty truck, my vehicle is a House Car (the North Carolina version of an RV) and is legally treated as a "very very big car" not a "truck"