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One of the challenges that come along with traveling in an RV is knowing the different driving laws when you cross state lines. The rules of the road vary between states, especially when it comes to people driving larger vehicles like RVs.
So, do you need a CDL to drive an RV with air brakes?
The only states requiring a CDL to drive an RV with air brakes are Washington D.C. and Wisconsin. However, this only applies to RVs that are longer than 45 feet (Wisconsin) or weigh more than 26,000 pounds (D.C.). Some states also require a special license or endorsement depending on the size of your RV.
Next, we’ll take a closer look at the license requirements for driving an RV in certain states and when you do need a commercial driver’s license to drive an RV.
Do You Need a CDL to Drive an RV with Air Brakes?
No, you do not need a CDL to drive an RV with air brakes. That being said, you do need a CDL to drive an RV that’s longer than 45 feet in Wisconsin or greater than 26,000 pounds in Washington, D.C. In Washington D.C., you take a knowledge test on CDL practices to get a CDL endorsement.
In some states, you’ll also need a special license or endorsement for driving or towing an RV. Most states go by either the total weight or total length of your drivable RV or the weight and total length of both vehicles if you’re towing an RV. Don’t worry if you don’t know the average weight of your 30-foot camper– you can find this information in your manual.
CDL vs. Non-CDL
Even though you don’t need a CDL (commercial driver’s license) to operate most RVs, there are still some states that require a non-commercial driver’s license or endorsement. It really depends on the size of your RV and the requirements in the state. Just like whether or not you can drive in the HOV lane with an RV, this varies.
Something you’ll notice for a lot of states is that you don’t need a special license except in the case of Class A motorhomes. Class A motorhomes are generally larger (weighing an average of 13,000 to 30,000 pounds).
By contrast, Class B motorhomes usually weigh less than 8,000 pounds and Class C RVs are between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds. While there are some states where you’ll need a license for a Class C RV, most states don’t have any restrictions on Class B RVs because their smaller size makes them user-friendly.
There are some exceptions, but most states do not require you to have a license as long as the RV weighs 26,000 pounds or less. This means the average person’s RV probably isn’t large enough to need any type of special license.
When considering the weight of your RV, the number you need is called the gross vehicle weight rating. This is basically the weight of the RV plus all its occupants and any of your cargo. In the case of travel trailers, this is the combined weight of the truck, trailer, cargo, and occupants.
What Kind of RVs Have Air Brakes?
Most RVs do not have air brakes, even if they are bigger, longer vehicles. The exception to this rule is certain models of Class A motorhomes. Models that are diesel-powered, weigh more than 26,000 pounds, and longer than 35-40 feet usually have air brakes.
The reason you only find air brakes on larger vehicles is because of their reliability. Air brakes have an unlimited supply of air, so there’s no risk of running out of hydraulic fluid or experiencing a leak like you would in a traditional brake system. When you’re driving around something that big, having reliable brakes is important for staying safe.
A Detailed Breakdown of Licenses You Need to Drive an RV in Different States
This chart will give you an overview of which states require a CDL, which states require a special license or endorsement, and which states do not have any restrictions on driving an RV, fifth-wheel, or travel trailer regardless of the size. I’ll break down some of the more specific requirements on the states with limits after the chart.
|License Requirements for Driving an RV||States|
|States That Require a CDL to Drive an RV||Washington D.C. and Wisconsin|
|States That Require a Non-Commercial Driver’s License or Endorsement to Drive an RV||California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Wyoming|
|States Where You Can Drive an RV with a Regular Driver’s License||Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia|
States Requiring a CDL
You’ll need to take a written CDL test to drive a vehicle weighing more than 26,001 pounds, regardless if it is an RV or not. However, some areas do not require the road test in addition to the writing test, so it’s best to call your local DMV for more information.
Driving any RV is legal without a CDL, except in the case of RVs that exceed 45 feet in length.
Requirements in States That Need a Non-CDL or Endorsement
Most of the states that do not require a CDL do still require an endorsement or special license for driving an RV greater than 26,000 pounds, which is limited to Class A motorhomes. There may also be restrictions on the weight that a travel trailer or towable RV can be, which usually ranges from 10,000 to 15,000 pounds depending on the state.
You’ll need a non-commercial Class A license for trailers over 10,000 pounds or fifth-wheels over 15,000 pounds. A non-commercial Class B license is required for RVs between 40 and 45 feet.
You’ll need a Class 2 license to pull a travel trailer greater than 10,000 pounds.
A Class E or F license is required for an RV weighing more than 26,000 pounds.
Any trailers or RVs weighing between 15,000 and 26,000 pounds require a Class 4 license.
You need a non-commercial class A, B, or C license to drive an RV greater than 16,000 pounds or to tow an RV larger than 10,000 pounds.
A non-commercial Class A or Class B license is required for RVs bigger than 26,000 pounds.
You’ll need a non-commercial Class A or Class B license for RVs bigger than 26,000 pounds.
You’ll need a special “R” endorsement if you are pulling two trailers. This would apply to towable RVs with toy haulers designed to pull your recreational gear behind you.
You need a non-commercial Class A or Class B license for RVs weighing more than 26,000 pounds.
A “J” endorsement is required for towing a trailer that weighs more than 10,000 pounds. You’ll need a non-commercial Class A or Class B license for RVs heavier than 26,000 pounds.
A Class E license is required for recreational vehicles greater than 26,000 pounds.
The Class C license was eliminated in 2005 and people driving RVs greater than 26,000 pounds now need an “R” endorsement.
A non-commercial Class A or B is required for RVs greater than 26,000 pounds.
You’ll need a non-commercial Class A or Class B license for recreational vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds.
Class E or F license is required for RVs bigger than 26,000 pounds.
You’ll need a non-commercial Class A or Class B license for RVs greater than 26,000 pounds. Class A or B licenses are also required for towing a recreational vehicle greater than 10,000 pounds.
Class A or B licensing is required for RVs bigger than 26,000 pounds.
How Do I Get a Special Endorsement or CDL to Drive an RV?
The first step in getting any type of license or endorsement that you need is contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. This is the same place you’d contact if you needed to renew or replace your driver’s license.
You may even find that you don’t need a special license to drive your RV. Anyone who passed their driver’s test has a Class D license.
With the exception of the states mentioned, most states allow anyone with a Class D license to operate any vehicle that weighs less than 26,000 pounds. There are also exceptions. For example, in the state of Ohio, you also cannot pull a travel trailer over 10,000 pounds, transport hazardous materials, or drive a bus with more than 15 people.
Do you need a CDL to drive an RV with air brakes? Not necessarily. There are only a few states that require a CDL to drive an RV and their requirements are based on the total weight and length of the RV, not whether the RV has air brakes or not.
That being said, there are some states (including Washington D.C. and Wisconsin) where you may need a CDL based on the size of your RV. Some states also require special licensing, while others don’t have any restrictions on who can operate an RV. Hopefully, this article has cleared some of that up!