From Endurance to Dressage
This is the fourth post in an ongoing series chronicling my journey towards a Class A Commercial Driver's License. You can read the other posts at the links below:California Commercial Driver Handbook (section 11.2.2 - Cab Check/Engine Start).
First of all, it's common sense to carry some emergency equipment, even if that just means a AAA Card. Since cell phones don't always work where trouble strikes, we all probably need more than that card in our vehicles.
Always in my truck is my original roadside kit. It's two-sided, the top half of which is seen above. Besides that kit, I always have a current insurance card and registration. I also have a jack and a spare tire. However, locating all the pieces necessary to change the tire requires a literal map. The jack is located under my rear passenger seat, bolted to the back of the truck. The jack handle and the lug wrench are under the back seat behind the driver. Once you have all of that located, you have to use the ignition key to unlock the tube in the bumper to access the spare tire. Then you assemble the lug nut wrench, an extension, and the jack handle which goes through the bumper hole. You then crank on that to lower the tire and remove the thing that holds the tire in place.
In theory, I know how to change a tire, but from experience, I know that I would have to give myself a shot of adrenaline in order to lift one of my truck's tires onto the bolts that hold the wheel. I can take the tire off, but I cannot lift the tire on; I've tried. If I were totally desperate, and if I were towing my trailer, I could probably roll the tire up onto my trailer's Jiffy Jack and try to maneuver it from there. Maybe. Without the Jiffy Jack, I'd probably be up a creek without a paddle.
What you and I think of as emergency equipment is all well and good, but the state of California has an actual list that is expected to be followed to the letter, and nothing in my roadside kit is on that list. While the list is in the handbook, it isn't very clear as to the actual specifics. You have to visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website for that. The section on emergency equipment can be found in Chapter 5: 5.14 Emergency Equipment. And once you get there, you'll need to see 49 CFR 393.95 for full emergency equipment specifications, regulations, and exceptions. CFR stands for Code of Federal Regulations.
Once you make it to 49 CFR, you'll have to wade through two pages of one of these, six of these, OR several of this other thing. Since each driver's situation is different, you'll want to look it up to verify what you'll actually need to have on board.
According to Section 11 of the California Commercial Driver Handbook. you must have spare electrical fuses. The CFR defines this as one spare fuse for each type/size needed to operate any required part or accessory. I looked through my truck's owner's manual and identified every single fuse that my truck needs to operate. The CFR isn't exactly clear on which parts or accessories are required, so I drew the line at the fuses under the hood. If one of those needs to be replaced, I am calling AAA or a tow truck. I discovered that all of your basic fuses, the ones in the cab of your truck, are pretty standard, so I ordered a kit from Amazon for $8.99.
The next piece of must have emergency equipment is three, red reflective triangles, but of course, they must conform to Federal Standard No. 125, §571.125. Since I didn't know what that standard actually said, I just looked for triangles on Amazon that stipulated that they met the DOT's (Department of Transportation) requirement. The triangles I found were $32.89 and came with a bonus safety vest.
There is an "or" here. You can also choose to have six fusees - a red signal flare used especially for protecting stalled trains and trucks, or three liquid burning flares. The CFR for fusees and flares states that each fusee shall be capable of burning for 30 minutes, and each liquid-burning flare shall contain enough fuel to burn continuously for at least 60 minutes. I couldn't find 60-minute flares, and the regulations don't state whether LED flares meet the requirement, so I bought a six-pack emergency flare kit for $24.95. I don't have to have flares since I have triangles, but I wanted to cover all of my bases.
The last required piece of emergency equipment is a fire extinguisher, but like everything else, you can't just grab the old one hanging out in your garage. I know because I tried that. First of all, the one in my garage was empty and the handbook specifically states that the one you carry must be properly charged and mounted (more on that later).
There is a lot to know about fire extinguishers, most of which I researched and then promptly forgot, but here's an excellent link explaining what you need to know. For my purposes, I needed one that had an Underwriters' Laboratories rating of 5 B:C or more. That means it is used for (B) combustible and flammable liquids like grease, gasoline, and oil and (C) electrical equipment. The number preceding the B indicates the size of fire in square feet that an ordinary user should be able to extinguish. The extinguisher I ordered is rated 10 B:C and cost $26.30.
Section 11 of the California Commercial Driver Handbook lists optional emergency equipment. While it says these items are optional, they're so easy to procure that I put all but one of them in my emergency kit.
The first item listed is tire chains (where winter conditions require them). I am not buying chains because I am not hauling my trailer anywhere that chains would be required. Once, while on the way to an endurance race, heading through the Tehachapi Pass, there was snow on the ground, and it was pretty dicey, but no chains were required. I also have four wheel drive. If I decide to haul to a show in winter, and if there's going to be snow, I'll buy chains then. For now, they're just not something I need as I never drive in the snow.
Surprisingly, tire changing equipment is listed as optional, which I find to be hysterically funny. Why are extra fuses required but not a jack? Either way, I have tire changing equipment. See above.
The last two items that belong in the optional emergency equipment are a list of emergency phone numbers and an accident reporting kit. A list of emergency numbers was easy to compile. I also added my insurance information and vehicle make and model. Nowhere in the CFR could I find what was required for the accident reporting kit, so I downloaded two samples that seemed to have everything I might need to report an accident. All of my paperwork fits neatly into a zippered portfolio that I had laying around. I even made sure the ink pen worked.
Everything fits: electrical fuses, three red triangles, 6 liquid burning flares, a fire extinguisher, emergency phone numbers, and an accident reporting kit. As much as I would have liked to include the tire changing equipment, that stuff already had a place in my truck.
The one thing I need to check on is how to properly mount the fire extinguisher. Right now it's in the bag, stowed under my back seat, but I suspect that's not going to be good enough. That's going to take a bit more investigation.
These two parts, Emergency Equipment and Optional Emergency Equipment are just two sub sections out of sixteen in section 11.2.2 - Cab Check/Engine Start. There are eight more entire sections, each with numerous subsections with their own bullet points to know or do. Two of the sections, 11.4 School Bus and 11.6 Coach/Transit Bus don't apply to me, so that's a bonus.
I am trying not to feel overwhelmed. It's definitely a slow and steady sort of endeavor. Maybe it's a good thing that COVID-19 is slowing this all down. It actually gives me more time to learn all of the parts before I take the test.
Stay tuned for future posts.
This is the third post in a series where I am detailing the process of getting my Class A Commercial Driver's License. You can read the other posts at the links below.
As I've already written, there are a lot of steps involved in order to get a Class A driver's license. While I wait for the DMV to start accepting appointments, I've been hard at work getting my truck and trailer ready for the Vehicle Inspection Test (Section 11 of the California Commercial Driver Handbook). I've heard from several people that this is the hardest portion of the series of tests to pass.
For the most part, my horse trailer is in excellent working order. My tires are relatively new with good tread remaining, my brakes work, and there are no cracks or rot in the floor's frame. My tail lights, brake lights, and blinkers all work fine, but I did notice a few clearance lights were missing covers or not working at all.
Even though most of my trailer's clearance lights, also referred to as "running lights", worked, there were a few that either lit only intermittently or not at all. Two of them were in really bad shape but that is because Speedy has chewed on them. Jerk.
As I was listening to Kevin Reinig on a recent Facebook live post - by the way, Kevin is our current USDF Vice-President and a previous CDS President, he mentioned that it is an automatic fail if any light on the truck or trailer doesn't work. I gave an exasperated sigh and commented that I might just rip them all off and replace them with reflectors. While Kevin laughed, I could tell he didn't think that was a very good solution.
I didn't think it was a good idea either, so I did some research to find out exactly how many of the boogers I needed, and how many of them needed to be operational. According to the Electronic Code of Regulations, "All lamps required by this subpart shall be capable of being operated at all times." Well crap. All of them? That meant my five broken ones weren't going to fly.
There are also regulations as to the number and type of all lights, clearance and otherwise, that are needed as well as requirements for where they need to be mounted. I'll let you look at those yourself. Fortunately, the manufacturer of my trailer knew the DOT's rules because I have everything in the right place.
The first thing I did was check for any blown fuses in my trailer. It would be pretty stupid to go in for a repair only to hear that a $0.10 fuse was blown. I pulled all of the fuses out and discovered that they were all good. I was actually disappointed because replacing a fuse is super easy and cheap. When I realized that wasn't the problem, I gave Pensingers a call.
Pensingers is my go-to trailer repair shop. They've fixed a few things for me over the years. A year and a half ago they fixed the trailer plug receptacle in Blue Truck's bed, and since I was going to be there for that job, I had them install two 12-volt fans in the horse compartment of the trailer. I love those fans by the way; that was the best idea ever.
The guys at Pensingers do a really good job, and they don't mind answering questions. I now know why some of the lights are amber and some are red. Everything that you see as you approach the rear of the trailer is red ...
... But as you approach from the front, those lights should be amber. This helps you know which direction a large rig is traveling which is particularly helpful in the dark.
While most of my nineteen clearance lights were working, I did not want to mess with this situation every time a bulb quit coming on. I asked that everything, even the working ones, be replaced with LED lights which are much more expensive, but they last forever. I am so glad I did as they are now much brighter and definitely safer.
When I called Pensingers yesterday to see how much it was going to cost and when the trailer would be ready, I was a bit panicked to hear that it would be done in the next few minutes, "But you never called to confirm the price!" I squeaked out to the tech. We had agreed that they'd call me if the job was going to be north of $800 which I was fully expecting. Turns out, they found the LED lights much cheaper than expected, so they didn't bother to call and confirm the price.
Replacing nineteen clearance lights and the license plate light came in at $503.22 out the door. I have never been so thrilled to drop half a grand on light bulbs.
I am one step closer to my Class A license. Stay tuned for more.
In the first post in this series, I talked about how to know if you need a Commercial Driver's License. Because my horse trailer has a GVWR of more than 10,001 pounds, I do indeed need a Class A CDL. Once I made that determination, I started doing some research. For this post, I am going to share some resources I found to help you get started.
Once you know for sure that you need a Class A driver's license, whether it's commercial or noncommercial, you need to start at the California DMV. This link will get you to the Driver License (DL) and Identification (ID) Card Information page. Everything you need to get started is there.
The first thing I did was print the four pages that explain the process for getting a Commercial Class A Driver's License. At first glance, it's overwhelming. It's four pages of line by line items. Last year at this time, I did the same thing. I printed out the steps, and then I quit. This year, knowing that the CHP is enforcing a law that dates back to the 1990s, I decided to look at getting my CDL as though it were a USDF Bronze Medal. We all know that's not easy, and it can takes years to get the right scores from the right number of judges. Getting a CDL can't be any harder.
On a separate, but related note, there has been recent legislation aimed at changing the law. The first bill died in congress, and the second, SB-415, written by State Senator Shannon Grove, was pulled before it expired. In a recent Facebook post, Mrs. Grove pledged to continue working on this issue:
Thank you all for your input and for being engaged on this issue. I am invested in working on a solution to this problem and wanted to provide you a quick update on our efforts.
Horse Trailer Legislation Survey
Given that the law might not change anytime soon, I am going to continue to pursue my Class A license. I have also heard rumors that the CHP is talking about releasing a new bulletin that would indicate that the CHP would not be pulling over trailers to check for Class A licenses. This would replace a bulletin from February 5, 2019 that clarified for officers what types of licenses drivers should have, essentially giving them "permission" to pull drivers over who were pulling larger trailers.
Back to getting a Class A license ... When I looked over the list with a firm goal to actually accomplish getting a CDL, I realized that I had some of it done already. Just like when you start thinking about a Bronze Medal, and you realize you already have your First Level Scores. And even better is when you realize you are actually half-way to the Bronze with your score at Second Level. It's motivating when you realize you're farther along than you thought.
Here are all of the steps you need to complete to obtain a Commercial Class A License. Remember that some of the steps are far more involved than others, but still, a checkmark is a checkmark.
2) provide proof of your Social Security Number (ready to show)
3) provide necessary documents for a REAL ID (I already have a REAL ID, but I regathered the necessary documents anyway)
4) pay a fee
5) give a finger print scan
6) pass a vision test
7) pass the applicable knowledge test (this is the written test - I've taken two practice tests and passed them easily).
Once you do everything listed above, you will be issued a Commercial License Permit (CLP). The permit is good for 180 days, and it may be renewed for an additional 180 days. This leaves plenty of time to prepare for the skills test which includes these three components:
If you fail any segment of the three skills test, all other testing will be postponed and it will count as one failure towards the maximum of three attempts you are allowed. There's also a retest fee tacked on. When and if you pass the skills test, you will be issued an interim CDL that is valid for 90 days until you receive your brand new, shiny CDL in the mail. I added the brand new, shiny part.
If you're interested in obtaining a Commercial Class A CDL, but you're worried it might be too hard, read over Section 11 of the California Commercial License Handbook. Another really helpful document is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) Safety Planner. This thing provides simple explanations to help you understand and comply with federal safety regulations as they apply to commercial vehicles.
I've already started working on my Emergency Equipment and my Optional Emergency Equipment, but I'll share that in an upcoming post. Until then, Drive Safely!
I've decided to do it. I am getting my Commercial Driver's License. Since it's quite a process, I thought I'd blog about how to get it done in case anyone else is considering it as well. Under normal circumstances, I think you can get it done within a month. Since the DMV is not taking appointments right now, it's going to take me longer. That's okay because there's a lot that I need to do to prepare. As I complete various steps in the process, I'll share them here. Knowing if you need a CDL is the first step.
The first thing is to understand the types of licenses that you can get here in California. This info graphic offers a mostly clear explanation. Basically, you can have a:
So now that we know what kind of licenses there are, how do you know if you need a Commercial Driver's License? If you're a truck driver for hire, the answer is easy. Yes, you need one. But why in the world does an amateur who drives her own pickup truck and a horse trailer that is not for hire to a show need a Commercial Driver's License? When you start looking for an answer, especially here in California, be prepared to find a lot of confusing information on the DMV's website.
The first thing you need to figure out is your trailer's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) which refers to the maximum allowable weight of any given vehicle. The GVWR is what the manufacture stipulates that your trailer is rated to weigh when fully loaded. That's what determines what kind of license you need. My trailer's GVWR information is under the gooseneck on a metal plate. Every trailer will have one somewhere. And actually, it has a lot of other interesting information that you might find helpful.
If your trailer's GVWR is 10,001 pounds or more, you need a Class A driver's license. The question is which one. There is a Noncommercial Class A license which permits you to haul a travel trailer with a GVWR of over 10,000 pounds. There is also a Commercial Class A license, which is also for hauling trailers with a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more. This license is much, much harder to obtain.
It would seem that I should be able to get a Noncommercial Class A. After all, my trailer has a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds, and I am not hauling for hire. Here's the rub: horse trailers are not classified as travel trailers, even those with living quarters. And this sucks. Big time. Those big toy haulers you see? They're travel trailers. And although they transport property, they're still travel trailers first. Those drivers are eligible for a Noncommercial Class A license.
Page 1-2 of the California Commercial Driver Handbook states, "Horse trailers are defined as property carrying vehicles and the addition of "living quarters" to a trailer does not permanently alter that vehicle for human habitation. The "living quarters" are secondary or incidental to the primary function of the vehicle, which is transporting property." That means I can't use a Noncommercial Class A license which is much easier to obtain.
On page 1-1, the handbook also states, "Horse trailers with living quarters and GVWR over 10,000 pounds require a commercial Class A DL. Restriction 88 will be added onto the DL if the truck and trailer GCWR [Gross Combined Weight Rating] is under 26,001 pounds." Restriction 88 means that even though you have a commercial Class A license, you would be restricted to hauling trailers that together with your truck have a combined weight of under 26,001 pounds.
It's frustrating that drivers of RVs, like the jumbo-sized toy haulers, are exempt from this law. Those drivers can haul a much heavier vehicle than I can, even with a Commercial Class A license. How is that fair? It's not, but until the law changes, we're all stuck with it the way it is. So, this means I am getting a Class A Commercial Driver's License. I've already started the process.
Stay tuned for more.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: