Do you need a special RV driver’s license? You might!

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    Driving an RV proves to be easy for most RVers after they get the feel of their rig. But for RVers in 10 states, there may be more to driving or towing an RV than climbing in the driver’s seat and heading down the highway.

    The drivers of these rigs might need a special driver’s license.

    In all but one state, California, a license is required based on the RV’s gross vehicle weight (GVW). In California, you’ll need a license if your RV is longer than 40 feet.

    In most states that require a license you’ll need to take a skills test. But others want more evidence of  your ability. Take California for instance. It requires a driver to:

    •Furnish a physician’s health report every two years.
    •Take a knowledge test.
    •Take skills test in the vehicle.
    •Do a “pre-trip” test (visual inspection).

    Learn whether you need a special driver’s license by downloading this pdf document from the RVIA.

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    22 Comments
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    Jeff
    1 year ago

    The problem with all these licensing or permit articles is the FACT that states that have these requirements don’t enforce them too (I said too) often. Many Policing Agencies don’t even know about these requirements and therefore don’t try to enforce them. Maybe an occasional State Trooper might know, but that will be a rare case!

    I am licensed in Louisiana and travel to Texas quite frequently. Never had a problem. Even driving up north, have never had a problem!

    Key point here too. Do you actually think people who live in states with medical requirements, actually seek physicals for the licensing requirements. I know Commercial Drivers that don’t have current physicals and are still driving big trucks. So, do you think someone who is in their 70’s or 80’s wanting to drive a Motorhome even bother with this requirement???? When many of these Elderly people have medical conditions that would prevent them from driving altogether.

    Too many laws in this country that go un-enforced!

    It is not something I worry about, since I always DRIVE Safely on the roads and Hiways and always under the speed limit!

    Gene Cheatham
    10 months ago
    Reply to  Jeff

    I understand what you’re talking about. I was discussing with a family member that drives professionally about getting a Freightliner Sport Chassis and not needing an air brake endorsement. He informs you may be able to drive it, but if you end up in an accident, even if it is not your fault, your insurance company may come down on you like a ton of bricks. Also, you may get cheaper insurance with an upgraded license.

    TravelingMan
    5 months ago
    Reply to  Jeff

    When traveling across the US, your license from your home state governs. If you did not need an endorsement in your state, it is not required in the alternate state.

    But going back to basics…Are you will to drive without the proper license for the vehicle? Here are a few problems:

    1) You could get pulled over by the wrong cop who IS enforcing the rule. Then, you will get an expensive ticket.

    or

    2) You COULD end up in an accident. Your insurance may not pay off because you were not properly licensed. That leaves YOU holding the bag.

    I would have to ask why you would not want to protect yourself? It implies that you are just a rebel and love to defy authority or the rules of the road. Or, you might just not fully understand the consequences. I’m not judging you. But are there any other reasons why you don’t want to have the correct license to avoid all of the possible consequences? The tests are fairly easy.

    I was a juror once in a trial. There were two drivers.

    Driver A (illegal from Mexico with no US driver’s license or insurance)
    Driver B (properly licensed and insured)

    Drive A claimed to have a RIGHT (can you believe it) to drive in the road. They stated that they were run off the road by Driver B on a two-lane road. Driver B was switching lanes into Driver A’s lane. Driver B runs off the road and runs into a telephone pole.

    The bottom line…Driver A lost the case by 12 jurors. She had NO right to be on the road due to no driver’s license or insurance.

    So I ask you, are you prepared to go thru court and answer to why you did not have the right license and then possibly be denied your insurance claim? Some of these rigs and tow vehicles are very expensive. Not to mention if the accident is YOUR fault and run into something even more expensive. I’m not ready for that kind of pain myself.

    And because no one else is doing it correctly does not justify driving without the correct endorsement. At some point, they will pay the price.

    I don’t mean to be condescending. But this is just irresponsible at best. I have to pay more for my insurance because of attitudes like this. I have to take out un-insured/under-insured insurance for folks you are describing. How fair is that?

    Tommy Molnar
    2 years ago

    I live in NV and noticed my state on that list that requires special licensing. Never heard of that! I asked a couple RV friends and they too, never heard of that.

    ANTHONY NOVELLO
    2 years ago
    Reply to  Tommy Molnar

    tommy-

    if your m/h is over 26000 GVWR you do need a non commercial class B license in Nevada.

    This requires a written test and a separate one if the rig has air brakes and a 30 minute driving test. Plus a few demonstrations in a parking lot including pre-trip inspections. You have to have someone with the proper license drive your rig to the DMV and they ask for proof from that person.
    Does everyone get one? very doubtful. Let us say you get in an accident and heaven forbid someone is seriously injured or worse. Regardless of fault, will the other driver’s attorneys have a case that since you were not legally licensed is there some liability on your part. Will your insurance company have an opinion on that? not a lawyer but something to ponder. Perhaps you should inquire of your insurance company what their feelings about it are. I would do it without giving my name.

    TravelingMan
    5 months ago
    Reply to  Tommy Molnar

    When you buy an RV (new or used), you are processed by a salesman. Take note…THEY ALL LIE!!! I have NEVER run into an honest one!!!

    If they tell you a special license is required, you will walk and they may loose the sale. If this is your career, you do what you have to to feed your family. They will only tell you what they want you to hear. At the least, you might hear “I don’t know if there is anything for that or not. I’ve never heard of one”.

    I tested this by going to several local dealerships and even to an RV show. They ALL lied and said a license was not required (I used the purchase of a 40′ 5th wheel when discussing this with them. That is over the 10,001 lb tow limit although under the 26,001 GCWR required in Texas). All you have to do is read the Commercial Driver’s Handbook. There is a special section in there specifically about RV’s. As I recall, I think for the test, it was over Chapter 14 ONLY. NOT the entire handbook).

    To be safe, call your local DPS and ask. Go to their website and see if they have a commercial handbook. It may have a section for RV’rs. TEXAS DOES when you reach certain size rigs.

    Call your insurance company and ask what happens if you are driving without the proper endorsements.

    You’ll be glad you did!

    BTW…I do NOT sell insurance. I just have to buy it like you. And I have to buy extra for those of you that do not have an insurance policy that pays off (Un-Insured/Under-Insured). And I also have a legal subscription to pursue those that don’t have the proper insurance and can’t pay off. So don’t think you’ll be off the hook. Just saying…

    Debi Pitzer
    2 years ago

    Retired from Texas DPS DL with 28 years.
    We have a Class B driver license (Texas) for our motor home (36,000 lbs, GVWR). If your recreational vehicle is over 26,000 lbs. GVWR, , you are required to have a Class B (vehicle is exempt from CDL laws). If your towing unit is over 10,000 lbs. and the GCVWR is over 36,000 lbs., You are required to have a Class A (non-CDL). A knowledge exam and a skills (driving) exam are required with $11.00 upgrade fee. If you already hold a Class A CDL, you can drive all types of vehicles except motorcycle.

    TravelingMan
    5 months ago
    Reply to  Debi Pitzer

    This is what I find in the 2019 Texas Commercial Handbook. Has something changed? I don’t see any reference to 36,000 lbs:

    CLASS A: Any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle or vehicles towed exceeds 10,000 pounds;

    CLASS B:Any single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, any one of those vehicles towing a vehicle that does not exceed 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating, and any vehicle designed to transport 24 passengers or more, including the driver; and a Class B license will be restricted to operating busses under 26,001 pounds GVWR if the skills test is taken in a bus with a GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds; and

    Ben Granger
    2 years ago

    We live in California and had to get a Recreational Vehicle endorsement as our fifth wheel is over 10,000 lbs. Only a written test was required and $35. Nothing else. The downside is that VERY few people are aware of this requirement, including dealerships and the DMV. The DMV didn’t know what we were talking about and had to ask 3 different people in order to give me the right written test.

    Jeff
    1 year ago
    Reply to  Ben Granger

    Exactly. Most DMV agencies don’t even know of the requirements. And that will usually set off a Firestorm with the UN-EDUCATED DMV Persons.

    TravelingMan
    5 months ago
    Reply to  Jeff

    They just process forms. They don’t need to know the law. They would blame that on you.

    TravelingMan
    5 months ago
    Reply to  Ben Granger

    Go to the California DMV Web-Site:

    https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/dl648/dl648pt2

    This will give you the requirements.

    For all 50 States, this may be in need of updating, but its a great start:

    http://changingears.com/rv-sec-state-rv-license.shtml

    Ron
    2 years ago

    RE: California’s requirement of a Class B NCDL for motorhomes over 40′. Many, and I emphasize many, owner/drivers of “model 40” motorhomes feel that this requirement does not pertain to them….even though their coach is over 40′.

    TravelingMan
    5 months ago
    Reply to  Ron

    It also goes by weight (GVWR and GCVWR). Be sure to check.

    https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/dl648/dl648pt2

    Rusty
    2 years ago

    Iam required to have a motorcycle endorsement. I see no reason why owners of RV’s over the length of X shouldn’t have an endorsement too. Drive I-70, I-25, any Highway USA, doesn’t take long to realize some Rv owners are driving way above their skill level and ability. It’s not an age issue to me it’s a understanding skill.

    Jeff
    1 year ago
    Reply to  Rusty

    I agree with you in part! It does become an AGE issue after a certain point! The Skill level is correct, but AGE plays a factor. 70, 80 year old drivers, driving large RV’s have cognitive skills that decline over time. I’ve seen it on the highways, Older drivers weaving down the road!

    TravelingMan
    5 months ago
    Reply to  Jeff

    AMEN to a different skills set! Longer, heavier rigs require different skills. Take on a 15% grade with sharp turns and demonstrate that you can keep control of that rig. And don’t say that will never be your case. You’re in an RV traveling the country. You will encounter restrictions and grades in route. How many people do you know that can’t use the outside mirrors or turn their head when changing lanes? How many continue to run into bridges because they can’t read a sign? How many take out street lights because they can’t seem to understand how much room it takes to turn a large rig? I personally think they should expand any test to include understanding weights of a rig and how it affects the tow vehicle or the rig suspension. Owner’s should be made to take a driver’s course for ANY towable, 5th wheel, Class C, Class B or Class A rig. They should ALL be separate endorsements. Just because you can drive one does not mean you can ALL!

    When I took my test for a 42′ 5th wheel, the DPS person took me on a path that over 80% of the people fail it. I had no trouble as I had pulled RV’s before in a lesser category. I understood the differences.

    Concerning “age”… eye site, hearing and cognizance can be a significant factor. I agree. But this can also happen at any age possibly due to hereditary issues, physical limitations or medical issues. Some just don’t have the IQ…I’ve seen 30 year old’s I would not give a license to period! But unless you are a CDL driver, it’s hard to specifically identify these issues. A rule change could be implemented but how many of you will object to spending an extra $50-100 a year for a medical exam? Then, how many of you will be willing to take a psychological exam? And what would that cost (much less, what does that look like)? And what does that prove? It only proves that as of the medical date, you were fit. A week from now, that could change. I think even the government understands this and what it will create. Heck, it may soon weed itself out. There are far fewer 16-20 yr olds that are even getting a driver’s license these days. And when the electric AI cars come out, there will likely be less drivers (private or truckers). It could eventually include RV owners…I dread the day the satellites get taken down by hackers or enemy missiles…

    Ed Fogle
    2 years ago

    The article and .pdf weren’t clear on whether the requirement is based on residency or operation in a state.

    Ron
    2 years ago
    Reply to  Ed Fogle

    State driver’s licenses are honored by all the other states. If your license is legal in your state, it’s legal in all the other states.

    Ortep
    2 years ago

    So what does this mean to those of us who don’t reside in one of these states but happen to be driving through and may get pulled over for a “burned out taillight” or some other small infraction?

    Eric Stephan
    2 years ago
    Reply to  Ortep

    If you are properly licensed in the state your drivers license is issued in, there would be no problem. But if your state, Texas in my case, requires you to have a Class A (non-CDL) license for the truck and fifth wheel or Class A and a trailer, you could be cited if you only have a normal drives license (class C). Retired last May after 36 years with the Sheriff’s office.

    TravelingMan
    5 months ago
    Reply to  Eric Stephan

    Thanks for the confirmation!

    Just curious…How many RV folks did you pull over in your career and how many had an improper license? I’m just making a bet here with myself, but I bet the number is low since most RV’s are just plain slow to begin with. If it involved an accident, I bet it would be more evident? Did you ever check their weight to see if they were in compliance with the tow ratings of the rig or TV?