Why Is My Truck Registered As A Commercial Vehicle California? Read Why

Most times, it’s hard to draw the line between a personal vehicle and a business-related vehicle. That’s pretty much why you can’t tell what makes a commercial vehicle. However, some regulations are put in place to show the difference clearly.

If you register your truck as a personal vehicle, some states like California will penalize you. So, it’s best to know that your truck can be a commercial vehicle even though it’s for personal use.

Now, here’s the big question. 

Why is your truck registered as a commercial vehicle in California?

The answer is simply that your truck fits the state’s classification of commercial vehicles. In California, your truck can be a commercial vehicle, even if it’s for your personal use. It’s so because you use it to transport loads or you registered it with your business name.

It may also be because the truck has a high gross vehicle weight rating.

In this article, you’ll understand why you have to register your truck as a commercial vehicle in California. It also explains the various commercial drivers’ licenses, including how you can get one.

What Is A Commercial Vehicle In California?

A commercial vehicle in California is a vehicle used to transport people. It also brings you profit, as you can place it on hire. Also, it’s a vehicle that can transport property and goods. Some examples include taxis, pickups, and motor trucks.

Commercial vehicles include vehicles that can transport hazardous materials. They include vehicles that have high gross weight ratings. You have to register them in line with their Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). You’ll also pay fees for that.

Furthermore, you need to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) if you drive commercial motor vehicles. That will require you to go through special training to ensure you have the skills to operate them.

The vehicle should have a fully charged fire extinguisher. Make sure you place it in an obvious or marked location in your truck. Also, it must have three red emergency reflectors that are in good condition.

How To Get A Commercial Driver’s License

To obtain a commercial driver’s license, you must have the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 to drive within the state and 21 to drive between states.
  • Provide your proof of age, identity, and residency. You’ll also require an original copy of your social security documents.
  • Pay all the necessary fees.
  • Submit your driving history checks for the past ten years. You may require Transportation Security Administration (TSA) background checks.
  • Apply with the right processes and forms.
  • Pass all certification tests. They include written, physical, and on-road tests.

Note that your CDL may be denied or revoked, if you:

  • Fail the tests.
  • Don’t have the necessary documents for identity, residency, age, and others.
  • Hold CDL from another state.
  • Commit crimes, violate traffic, or commit drug or alcohol offenses.

The steps to obtain a commercial driver’s license include:

Step#1: Get a Commercial Learners Permit (CLP)

Before you get a commercial driver’s license, you have to get a commercial learner’s permit. You need to hold the CLP for at least 14 days before you can get a CDL. To apply for the CLP, you need to:

  • Have an ordinary driver’s license (DL), even if it’s a temporary one.
  • Complete your CDL application online.
  • Go to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office and submit your driving history record check for the past ten years.
  • Ensure you have your proof of social security number while in the office.
  • Have an identity document to verify your identity. You also need proof of residency.
  • Submit a recent medical evaluation form. You must have no disabilities.
  • Pay the application fee.
  • Scan your thumbprint and take a passport while at the office.
  • Pass the vision and knowledge tests. You have only three trials for the tests.

You’ll get your CLP after you satisfy the criteria. It’s valid for 180 days from the day you get it. You can also renew it if the expiry date is not more than one year from your first application date. However, before you can operate your commercial vehicle with a CLP, you have to carry a valid DL.

Additionally, a driver with a California CDL has to accompany you when you drive a commercial vehicle with your CLP. Also, the license needs to be appropriate for the commercial vehicle. Finally, ensure that the vehicle is empty while you use your CPL. That implies no passengers, goods, or hazardous materials.

Step#2: Go for a skills test

After at least 14 days of holding the CLP, you can apply for your CDL skills test. After that, you have to call or go to the DMV to schedule an appointment for your skills test.

Then go for the test with the type of commercial vehicle that suits the class of license you want. Of course, you can also go with your commercial vehicle. The skills test includes inspection of the commercial vehicle, a basic control test, and a road test.

You can’t move to another test without passing the previous one. Also, you have three trials for the skills test, and you have to pay a fee for each retest. So, make sure you succeed in all the tests. If you fail three times, you’ll have to start the application process again, including paying the fees.

However, you can obtain your CDL without a skills test if you have a Certificate of Driving Skill from your employer (if authorized by DMV).

Also, you won’t need a skill test if you have an equivalent CDL from any other state that’s valid or expired for less than two years. You’ll need to submit the license or proof.

Furthermore, you won’t need a skill test if you submit a Commercial Military Waiver and have military driving experience.

Another reason you won’t need a skill test is if you complete the training, pass the skill test in another state, and have a California CPL. So, the state where you succeed in the skills test will send the results to the California DMV. But you have to finish your application process before the CPL application expires.

After you pass your skills test, you’ll get a temporary license (printed) that is valid for 90 days. You’ll receive your plastic CDL within that period through the mail.

Note that you’ll need to get your CDL within 12 months of applying, or it’ll become invalid, and you’ll have to reapply.

Types Of Commercial Driving Licenses

Class A CDL:

You require this license if you operate combination vehicles. But the commercial vehicle’s gross combination weight rating (GCWR) should be 26,001 pounds or more. However, the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle it tows should exceed 10,000 pounds.

Your endorsements determine your towing allowances. You can also use it for commercial vehicles towing more than one vehicle. For example, you can use it for trailer bus, or some vehicles within class B or C.

Other commercial vehicles include tractor-trailer, livestock carriers, and tanker vehicles. You can drive with the license depending on your endorsement.

Class B CDL:

It’s for a single commercial vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more. It also covers combination vehicles towing vehicles that are about 10,000 pounds. Also, it includes a 3-axle vehicle that’s not over 6,000 pounds.

Like Class A, you need an endorsement to operate some commercial vehicles. Some vehicles include large buses, box trucks, straight trucks, segmented buses, and dump trucks. You can also use it for some class C vehicles.

Class C CDL:

You’ll require it if your vehicle does not meet the criteria for class A or class B CDL. Also, you can go for it if the vehicle is for transporting about 16 passengers, including you. It also includes vehicles that transport hazardous materials (HAZMAT).

With proper endorsements, you can operate small combination vehicles, small HAZMAT vehicles, or passenger vans.

Types Of Trucks That Are Commercial Vehicles

Box truck:

This truck has a closed cargo area, which is usually separate from the cabin area. Sometimes, there’s a rear door between the two areas.

Dump truck:

This is also known as a tipper truck. It has an open-box bed, has hydraulic rams to push up the front part. The rear part of the bed is hinged. So, when the front bed pulls up, the materials in it dumps on the ground. Examples of such dumps include sand, stones, and so on.

Garbage truck:

It collects and transports wastes to a solid waste treatment facility. It’s also known as a trash truck.

Refrigerator truck:

This truck that transports perishables at low temperatures. It consists of a cooling apparatus that makes it ice-cool.

Flatbed truck:

It has a flat body with no roof, and it makes it easy to load goods. It also transports heavy goods that can’t damage from rain and are not fragile. Also, it’s best for loads that can’t go into a closed-body vehicle.

Bucket truck:

Again, this is also called a boom truck. It has a large bucket that can lift to various heights through the help of an extendible hydraulic boom. It carries workers to reach areas in such heights. It’s useful at construction sites, utility companies, and works that require you to get to high areas.

Grapple truck:

It has a loader on its frame that loads and hauls large wastes. It works as a waste collection and road construction.

Tow truck:

It’s a recovery truck that’s moves impounded, damaged, or wrongly parked vehicles. It helps to pull vehicles to a drivable surface or a repair shop. It also has various types and sizes like boom, flatbed, wheel-lift, and lift flatbed.


Now that you know why you register your truck as a commercial vehicle in California ensure you register your vehicles accordingly, henceforth. And don’t forget to obtain your commercial driver’s license. Doing so will prevent you from any inconveniences when driving within the state.

After getting the proper documents, all you need is the appropriate training to pass your skill tests. Then, you can get your CDL and drive freely. 

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