Do I need a special license to drive a RV in Washington?

Are you thinking of buying an RV and wondering if you need a commercial driver’s license (CDL)? Getting an RV can open up the road and make your vacations more adventurous and memorable, but make sure that you are properly qualified to drive the vehicle you are ready to purchase. The good news is that in most cases, you can drive your RV with your standard operator’s license, but let’s take a deep dive into RVs and CDLs.

What is a CDL?

A CDL is a commercial driver’s license. They’re most commonly associated with semis or big rigs, but any driver who is operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) needs to have a CDL. Commercial motor vehicles are classified as a vehicle that has double or triple trailers, any truck with a tank, any truck carrying hazardous materials or a passenger vehicle that is being used for commercial purposes.

Commercial drivers need CDLs in order to prove that they have had the training needed in order to operate a commercial vehicle safely. Receiving a CDL requires passing a skills test, a written test and a medical exam. There are also three types of CDLs, including:

  • Class A – A Class A CDL is the most common type. This CDL allows operators to drive vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) that is more than 10,000 pounds and any combination of vehicles (tractor and trailer or vehicle and trailer) of more than 26,001 pounds.
  • Class B – A Class B CDL allows the driver to operate vehicles that have a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more or drive a vehicle with a trailer that weighs no more than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class C – A Class C CDL allows the operator to drive vehicles with 16 or more passengers. This includes the driver, and they can drive vehicles carrying hazardous materials.

Drivers also need endorsements if they plan to carry passengers, transport hazardous materials or drive double-trailers. It’s important to note that triple trailers are not allowed in Washington.

RVs and CDLs in Washington State

If your RV is under 26,000 pounds and you’re not driving for a commercial purpose, you don’t need a commercial drivers license to operate it. This is also true if you’re renting a two-axle truck or towing a horse trailer.

Who else is exempt from needing a CDL?

  • Some commercial military drivers are exempt from needing a CDL. This applies if they are operating a military vehicle with their military driver’s license.
  • Individuals can also operate vehicles with air brakes if the vehicle is not otherwise classified as a commercial vehicle.
  • Individuals who have completed an Emergency Vehicle Accident Prevention Program and who are operating that emergency vehicle are exempt from needing a CDL.
  • Farmers do not need CDLs if they are operating their farm equipment, transporting equipment or transporting supplies to and from their farm.

What Types of RVs Need a CDL?

While most RVs don’t require getting your CDL, some RVs do require a CDL. These include RVs that have a GVWR of more than 26,001 pounds or an RV with a trailer and the combination of those weights is more than 26,001 pounds. Additionally, if the trailer being towed or the towable is more than 10,001 pounds, the operator needs a CDL.

For example, if you purchase a fifth wheel with a vehicle weight of 20,000 pounds, you’d need to get a CDL operator’s license in order to tow that vehicle. Some Class As also weigh more than 26,000 pounds. Most Class Bs or van campers and Class C motorhomes weigh less than 26,000 pounds. Therefore, if you’re looking to avoid getting a CDL, you’ll need to pay attention to the vehicle’s gross weight.

What’s Involved in Getting a CDL?

Regardless of your RV’s weight, you may still want to get some additional training and attain your CDL. In order to qualify for the training, you need to be at least 18 years old. It’s important to note that drivers who get their CDL at 18 are only qualified to drive commercial vehicles inside Washington. In order to cross state lines, you must be 21 years old. Drivers who wish to get their CDL must also not have any lifetime disqualifications that prevent them from getting and holding a Washington drivers license.

Once you know you have all of those qualifications, you should purchase a CDL manual and start studying. It’s also a good idea to get a medical certification stating that you are healthy enough to drive commercially. If you have diabetes, vision or hearing issues, there are waivers available. Next, you need to get your CDL training license and receive training for the type of CDL you wish to acquire. Once you’ve completed training, you must pass a skills test and a written test. Once you have completed and passed all the requirements, you can go to your local license branch to get your CDL.

RV Insurance at Boyd Insurance Brokerage Inc. in Spokane, Washington

Getting an RV and going on long-distance road trips with your own personal hotel room is exciting. It can take your vacations to a whole new level. Just remember to be safe, get the required licenses you need to operate your RV and don’t forget RV insurance. At Boyd Insurance Brokerage Inc., we can help you find the right type of insurance policy for your motorhome, travel trailer or fifth-wheel. We can also give you quotes for boat insurance, snowmobile and motorcycle insurance.

To learn more and to get a free quote for RV insurance, call us at 509-340-2693.



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