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  • § 383.3
    Applicability.
  • § 383.5
    Definitions.
  • § 383.21
    Number of drivers' licenses.
  • § 383.23
    Commercial driver's license.
  • § 383.31
    Notification of convictions for driver violations.
  • § 383.33
    Notification of driver's license suspensions.
  • § 383.37
    Employer responsibilities.
  • § 383.51
    Disqualification of drivers.
  • § 383.71
    Driver application and certification procedures.
  • § 383.73
    State procedures.
  • § 383.75
    Third party testing.
  • § 383.77
    Substitute for driving skills tests for drivers with military CMV experience.
  • § 383.91
    Commercial motor vehicle groups.
  • § 383.93
    Endorsements.
  • § 383.95
    Restrictions.
  • § 383.113
    Required skills.
  • § 383.131
    Test manuals.
  • § 383.133
    Test methods.
  • § 383.153
    Information on the CLP and CDL documents and applications.

Part 383

Section § 383.3: Applicability.

Below are the available interpretations for the given section. To return to the list of parts, use the Parts link above. The menu to the left provides a full list of sections that have interpretations. To view interpretations for a different section, click on the menu item.

The regulations text of the section can be found on the eCFR website. To view the regulations text, use the link below. For assistance, please send an email to FMCSA.Webmaster@dot.gov.
View regulations for Part 383

Question 1: Are school and church bus drivers required to obtain a CDL?

Guidance: Yes, if they drive vehicles designed to transport 16 or more people.

Question 2: Do mechanics, shop help, and other occasional drivers need a CDL if they are operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) or if they only test drive a vehicle?

Guidance: Yes, if the vehicle is operated or test-driven on a public highway.

Question 3: Does part 383 apply to drivers of recreational vehicles?

Guidance: No, if the vehicle is used strictly for non-business purposes.

Question 4: Does part 383 apply to drivers of vehicles used in "van pools"?

Guidance: Yes, if the vehicle is designed to transport 16 or more people.

Question 5: May a person operate a CMV wholly on private property, not open to public travel, without a CDL?

Guidance: Yes.

Question 6: Does off-road motorized construction equipment meet the definitions of "motor vehicle" and "commercial motor vehicle" as used in §§383.5 and 390.5?

Guidance: No. Off-road motorized construction equipment is outside the scope of these definitions: (1) When operated at construction sites; and (2) when operated on a public road open to unrestricted public travel, provided the equipment is not used in furtherance of a transportation purpose. Occasionally driving such equipment on a public road to reach or leave a construction site does not amount to furtherance of a transportation purpose. Since construction equipment is not designed to operate in traffic, it should be accompanied by escort vehicles or in some other way separated from the public traffic. This equipment may also be subject to State or local permit requirements with regard to escort vehicles, special markings, time of day, day of the week, and/or the specific route.

Question 7: What types of equipment are included in the category of off-road motorized construction equipment?

Guidance: The definition of off-road motorized construction equipment is to be narrowly construed and limited to equipment which, by its design and function is obviously not intended for use, nor is it used on a public road in furtherance of a transportation purpose. Examples of such equipment include motor scrapers, backhoes, motor graders, compactors, tractors, trenchers, bulldozers and railroad track maintenance cranes.

Question 8: Do operators of motorized cranes and vehicles used to pump cement at construction sites have to meet the testing and licensing requirements of the CDL program?

Guidance: Yes, because such vehicles are designed to be operated on the public highways and therefore do not qualify as off-road construction equipment. The fact that these vehicles are only driven for limited distances, at less than normal highway speeds and/or incidental to their primary function, does not exempt the operators from the CDL requirements.

Question 9: May a State require persons operating recreational vehicles or other Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)s used by family members for non-business purposes to have a CDL?

Guidance: Yes. States may extend the CDL requirements to recreational vehicles.

Question 10: Do drivers of either a tractor trailer or straight truck that is converted into a mobile office need a CDL?

Guidance: Yes, if the vehicle meets the definition of a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)s.

Question 11: Do State motor vehicle inspectors who drive trucks and motor coaches on an infrequent basis and for short distances as part of their job have to obtain a CDL?

Guidance: Yes.

Question 12: Are State, county and municipal workers operating Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)s required to obtain CDLs?

Guidance: Yes, unless they are waived by the State under the firefighting and emergency equipment exemption in §383.3(d).

Question 13: Do the regulations require that a person driving an empty school bus from the manufacturer to the local distributor obtain a CDL?

Guidance: Yes. Any driver of a bus that is designed to transport 16 or more persons, or that has a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, is required to obtain a CDL in the applicable class with a passenger endorsement.

Question 14: Are employees of any governmental agency who drive emergency response vehicles that transport HM in quantities requiring placarding subject to the CDL regulations?

Guidance: No, as long as the vehicle does not meet the weight/configuration thresholds for Groups A or B (in §383.91).However, under the HMTUSA of 1990, when a Federal, State or local government agency "offers HM for transportation in commerce or transports HM in furtherance of a commercial enterprise," its vehicles are subject to the placarding requirements of part 172, subpart F. Vehicles that are controlled and operated by government agencies in the conduct of governmental functions normally are not subject to placarding, since governmental activities usually are not commercial enterprises. Based on the above, local police emergency responders driving a vehicle having a gross vehicle or combination weight rating under 26,001 pounds do not need a CDL, according to the Federal minimum standards, when transporting HM as a function of their agency. The drivers should check with their State licensing agency to determine what class of license the State may require to operate the vehicles.

Question 15: Are public transit employees known as "hostlers," who maintain and park transit buses on transit system property, subject to CDL requirements?

Guidance: No, unless operating on public roads.

Question 16: Are non-military amphibious landing craft that are usually used in water but occasionally used on a public highway Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)s?

Guidance: Yes, if they are designed to transport 16 or more people.

Question 17: Are students who will be trained to be motor vehicle operators subject to alcohol and drug testing? Are they required to obtain a CDL in order to operate training vehicles provided by the school?

Guidance:

Yes. §382.107 includes the following definitions:

Employer means any person (including the United States, a State, District of Columbia or a political subdivision of a State) who owns or leases a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) or assigns persons to operate such a vehicle. The term employer includes an employer’s agents, officers and representatives.

Driver means any person who operates a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) . * * *

Truck and bus driver training schools meet the definition of an employer because they own or lease CMVs and assign students to operate them at appropriate points in their training. Similarly, students who actually operate Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) to complete their course work qualify as drivers.

The CDL regulations provide that "no person shall operate" a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)s before passing the written and driving tests required for that vehicle (§383.23(a)(1)). Virtually all of the vehicles used for training purposes meet the definition of a CMV, and student drivers must therefore obtain a CDL.

Question 18: May States exempt motor carriers which operate wholly in intrastate commerce from the Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs), thus exempting from the CDL requirement the driver of an unplacarded vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of less than 26,001 pounds?

Guidance:

The Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) apply to motor carriers in intrastate commerce only if they transport hazardous wastes, hazardous substances, flammable cryogenic liquids in portable tanks and cargo tanks, and marine pollutants (as those terms are defined in the HMRs) (see 49 CFR 171.1(a)(3)). Such carriers transporting any other cargo are not required to use HM placards, even if the cargo qualifies as hazardous under the Federal HMRs. Unless the vehicles used by these carriers had Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWRs) of 26,001 pounds or more, they would not meet either the placarding or the GVWR test in the jurisdictional definition of a Commercial Motor Vehicle CMV (§383.5), and the driver would be exempt from the CDL requirements.

However, if the State has adopted the Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs), or the placarding requirements of 49 CFR part 172, as regulations applicable to intrastate commerce, then the drivers of all vehicles required to use placards must also have CDLs.

If the State promulgates its own rules for the regulation of HM in intrastate commerce, instead of adopting the Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs), and those rules are approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) under 49 CFR 355.21(c)(3) and paragraph 3(d) of the Tolerance Guidelines (49 CFR part 350, appendix C), the drivers of vehicles with Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)s of less than 26,001 pounds transporting such materials in intrastate commerce are required to obtain CDLs only if State law requires the use of placards.

Question 19: Must a civilian operator of a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV), as defined in §383.5, who operates wholly within a military facility open to public travel, have a CDL?

Guidance: Yes. The CDL requirement applies to every person who operates a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) in interstate, foreign or intrastate commerce. Driving a CMV on a road, street or way which is open to public travel, even though privately-owned or subject to military control, is prima facie evidence of operation in commerce.

Question 20: Does the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) include the Space Cargo Transportation System (SCTS) off-road motorized military equipment under the definitions of "motor vehicle" and "commercial motor vehicle" as used in §383.5?

Guidance: No. Although the SCTS has vehicular aspects (it is mechanically propelled on wheels), the SCTS is obviously incompatible with highway traffic and is found only at locations adjacent to military bases in California and Florida, and is operated by skilled technicians. The SCTS is moved to and from its point of manufacture to its launch site by "driving" the "vehicles" short distances on public roads at speeds of five Miles Per Hour (MPH) or less. This is only incidental to their primary functions; the SCTS is not designed to operate in traffic; and its mechanical manipulation often requires a different set of knowledge and skills. In most instances, the SCTS has to be specially marked, escorted, and attended by numerous observers.

Question 21: Are police officers who operate buses and vans which are designed to carry 16 or more persons and are used to transport police officers during demonstrations and other crowd control activities required to obtain a CDL?

Guidance: Yes. The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 (CMVSA) applies to anyone who operates a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV), including employees of Federal, State and local governments. Crowd control activities do not meet the conditions for a waiver of operators of firefighting and other emergency vehicles in §383.3(d).

Question 22: May fuel be considered "farm supplies" as used in §383.3(d)(1)?

Guidance: Yes. The decision to grant the waiver is left to each individual State.

Question 23: Is the transportation of seed-cotton modules from the cotton field to the gin by a module transport vehicle considered a form of custom harvesting activity that may be included under the Farm-Related Service Industries FRSI waiver (§383.3(f))?

Guidance: Yes. The transportation of seed-cotton modules from field to gin may, at the State’s discretion, be considered as custom harvesting and therefore eligible for the Farm-Related Service Industries FRSI waiver. However, cotton ginning operations as an industry and, specifically the transport of cotton from the gin, are not eligible activities under the Farm-Related Service Industries FRSI waiver because these activities are not considered appropriate elements of custom harvesting.

Question 24: Does the amendment of the CMVSA by the Motor Carrier Act of 1991 exempt all custom harvesting operations from the CDL requirements or only the operation of combines?

Guidance:

Section 4010 of the Motor Carrier Act of 1991 (Title IV of Pub. L. 102-240, 105 Stat 1914, 2156, December 18, 1991) modifies the definition of a "motor vehicle" in 49 U.S.C. 31301(11) by excluding "custom harvesting farm machinery" from the definition. The conference report clarifies the intent of the exclusion by stating: "The substitute[provision] removes custom harvesting farm machinery from the Act. Operators of such machinery are not covered by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986. A State, however, may still impose a requirement for a commercial driver’s license if it so desires. The change does not apply to vehicles used to transport this type of machinery." (H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 404, 102d Cong., 1st Sess. 449 (1991)).

Therefore, the intent of Congress was only to exempt operators of combines and other equipment used to cut the grain and not the operators of trucks, tractors, trailers, semitrailers or any other CMV.

Question 25: May a State (1) require an applicant for a CDL farmer waiver (§383.3(d)) to take HM training as a condition for being granted a waiver and (2) reduce the 150-mile provision in the waiver to 50 miles if the driver is transporting HM?

Guidance: Yes. The Federal farm waiver is permissive, not mandatory.

Question 26: Do active duty military personnel, not wearing military uniforms, qualify for a waiver from the CDL requirements if the CMVs are rental trucks or leased buses from the General Services Administration?

Guidance: Yes. The drivers in question do not need to be in military uniforms to qualify for the waivers as long as they are on active duty. In regard to the vehicles, they may be owned or operated by the Department of Defense.

Question 27: Are custom harvesters who harvest trees for tree farmers eligible to be considered "custom harvesters" for purposes of the FRSI waiver from selected CDL requirements?

Guidance: If the State considers a firm that harvests trees for tree farmers to be a custom harvesting operation, then its employees could qualify for the FRSI-restricted CDLs, subject to the stringent conditions and limitations of the waiver provisions in §383.3(f).

Question 28: May a farmer who meets all of the conditions for a farm waiver be waived from the CDL requirements when transporting another farmer’s products absent any written contract?

Guidance: If a farmer is transporting another farmer’s products and being paid for doing so, he or she is acting as a contract carrier and does not meet the conditions for a farm waiver. The existence of a contract, written or verbal, is not relevant to the CDL waiver provisions.

Question 29: May a State exempt commercial motor vehicle drivers employed by a partnership, corporation or an association engaged in farming from the CDL requirements under the farmer waiver (49 CFR 383.3(d)) or is the waiver only available to drivers employed by a family-owned farm?

Guidance: The purpose of the farmer exemption was to give relief to family farms (53 FR 37313, September 26, 1988). The conditions for the waiver were established to ensure that the waiver focused on this type of farm operation. However, "farmer" is defined in §390.5 as "any person who operates a farm or is directly involved in the cultivation of land, crops, or livestock which (a) [a]re owned by that person; or (b) [a]re under the direct control of that person." Since farming partnerships, corporations and associations are legal "persons," States may exempt drivers working for these organizations from the CDL requirements, provided they can meet the strict limits imposed by the waiver conditions.

Question 30: May a State exempt commercial motor vehicle drivers employed by farm cooperatives from the commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements under the farmer waiver (§383(d))?

Guidance: No. The waiver covers only operators of farm vehicles which are controlled and operated by "farmers" as defined in §390.5. The waiver does not extend to ancillary businesses, like cooperatives, that provide farm-related services to members. As stated in the waiver notice (53 FR 37313, September 26, 1988), "[t]he waiver would not be available to operators of farm vehicles who operate over long distances, operate to further a commercial enterprise, or operate under contract or for-hire for farm cooperatives or other farm groups. Such operators drive for a living and do not drive only incidentally to farming."

Question 31: Is a person who grows sod as a business considered a farmer and eligible for the farmer waiver?

Guidance: Yes, a sod farmer is eligible for the farmer waiver provided the State of licensure recognizes the growing of sod to be a farming activity.

Question 32: Do the regulations require that a person driving an empty school bus from the manufacturer to the local distributor obtain a CDL?

Guidance: Yes. Any driver of a bus that is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, or that has a GVWR of 11,794 kilograms (26,001 pounds) is required to obtain a CDL in the applicable class. However, a passenger endorsement is not required.

Question 33: Must the driver of an empty tank vehicle that is being transported from the manufacturer to a local distributor or purchaser have a tank endorsement on his or her commercial drivers license (CDL)?

Guidance: Yes. One of the primary objectives of the CDL program is to ensure that drivers are qualified to safely operate the type of vehicle they will be driving. To achieve this objective, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) require a driver to pass a knowledge and skills test for the CMV group they intend to drive. In addition to this requirement, if the driver will be operating double/triple trailers, a tank vehicle, or a CMV used to transport passengers, they must also obtain an appropriate endorsement on their CDL. The specific requirements for the knowledge and skills tests an applicant must meet to obtain a CDL and the various endorsements can be found in Subpart G of part 383 of the FMCSRs.

Question 34: Would a tillerman, a person exercising control over the steerable rear axle(s) on a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), be considered a driver or "* * * person who operates a [CMV] * * *" (§ 383.3), and thus subject to applicable commercial driver’s license regulations?

Guidance: A person physically located on the rear of the CMV who controls a steerable rear axle while the CMV is moving at highway speeds would be considered a "* * * person who operates a commercial motor vehicle * * *" (§ 383.3), and would therefore be subject to the applicable commercial driver’s license regulations in 49 CFR part 383. A person walking beside a CMV or riding in an escort car while controlling a steerable rear axle at slow speeds would not be considered a "* * * person who operates a [CMV] * * *" (§ 383.3), and therefore would not be subject to applicable commercial driver’s license regulations.


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