From Endurance to Dressage
The Steps For Getting a CDL
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!
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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%: