From Endurance to Dressage
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%: