FAQ: Licensing of Drivers and Vehicles

Question 1: What is the difference between a "Chauffeur License" and a Commercial Driver License (CDL)?

Guidance: Without being too technical, the "Chauffeur License" is a driver's license just as an "operator's license" is a driver's license. The State of Michigan requires its residents to obtain a "Chauffeur License" if they are employed for the principal purpose of operating a commercial motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more. The CDL (although it is called a license) is really a privilege required and granted by the state to operate a larger sized commercial motor vehicle.

Upon meeting the testing requirements for a CDL, a Michigan resident will have a CDL vehicle designator (A, B or C), representative of the type of vehicle he/she is permitted to operate, added to his/her "Chauffeur License." In some cases, the CDL privilege can be added to an operator's license.

The key point is that a resident of Michigan cannot merely apply for a CDL. There must be an existing driver's license (chauffeur or operator) for the CDL privilege to be added.

Question 2: I still don't understand, so what is the difference between a "chauffeur license" and a class "C" CDL privilege?

Guidance: A chauffeur license, as stated above, is a Michigan requirement for commercial vehicles with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs and above. The CDL Group 'C' is necessary for a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) less than 26,001 pounds or a vehicle having a GCVWR under 26,001 pounds towing a trailer or other vehicle and carrying hazardous materials on which a placard is required or is designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver. 

A 'C' CDL designator would be required in addition to a chauffeur license when a driver is transporting passengers in a vehicle such as a 22 passenger "Hummer" Limousine or any commercially used passenger vehicle with seating for more than 16 persons (includes driver) but having a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating less than 26,001 lbs. Also a small vehicle transporting a placardable quantity of hazardous materials would require a class "C" CDL designator.

Example: a Ford Focus transporting 3 sticks of dynamite for a construction company would require the vehicle to be placarded, a class 'C" designator on their licence with a hazardous materials endorsement.

Question 3: Is a farm vehicle driver required to obtain a CDL?

Guidance: A farm vehicle driver, by definition, is exempt from CDL requirements (within 150 miles of farm). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations - Part 390 define a farm vehicle driver as a person who drives only a commercial motor vehicle that is:

(a) Controlled and operated by a farmer as a private motor carrier of property;

(b) Being used to transport either:

(1) Agricultural products, or

(2) Farm machinery, farm supplies or both, to or from a farm;

(c) Not being used in the operation of a for-hire motor carrier;

(d) Not carrying hazardous materials of a type or quantity that requires the commercial motor vehicle to be placarded in accordance with 177.823 of this subtitle; and

(e) Being used within 150 air miles of the farmer's farm.

If all of the requirements (listed above) cannot be met, the driver ceases to be a farm vehicle driver and CDL requirements would apply. Example: If operating a vehicle requiring a CDL and traveling beyond 150 miles from the farm, he/she would have to possess a CDL. For more information pertaining to farming and farming exemptions the Michigan State Police have a Farmers Transportation Guidebook available on their web site.

Question 4: I operate a straight truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds but have registered/plated the vehicle (in Michigan) for 28,000 pounds. Am I required to obtain a CDL?

Guidance: No. The (truck) CDL requirements contained in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations ? Part 382 are based on vehicle weight ratings or the need to placard a vehicle for hazardous materials. The GVWR for a straight truck (non-placarded) must be 26,001 pounds or more before a CDL is required, regardless of registered weight and/or actual loaded weight.

Question 5: Is a CDL required for a commercial motor vehicle (truck) equipped with air brakes, even though the weight rating is 26,000 pounds or less?

Guidance: No. The GVWR or GCVWR, number of passengers or transportation of hazmat would be the sole determining factor. Air brakes, by themselves do not establish any requirements for CDL.

Question 6: In Michigan, what is "special mobile equipment?"

Guidance: Michigan Act 300 of 1949, chapter 257, section 16, defines "special mobile equipment" as every vehicle not designed or used primarily for the transportation of persons or property and incidentally operated or moved over the highways, including farm tractors, road construction or maintenance machinery , mobile office trailers, mobile tool shed trailers, mobile trailer units used for housing stationary construction equipment, ditch-digging apparatus, and well-boring and well-servicing apparatus. The foregoing enumeration shall be considered partial and shall not operate to exclude other vehicles which are within the general terms of this definition. Although not within the general terms of this definition, the combination of a mobile car crusher trailer permanently attached to a truck-tractor or road tractor shall be considered special mobile equipment for purposes of this Act (Act 300 of 1949)

Question 7: Is a person who operates special mobile equipment over the highway required to obtain a commercial driver license (CDL)?

Guidance: Yes, if the special mobile equipment is of a size requiring a CDL. Additionally, compliance with all state and federal safety regulations is required for operation of any vehicle that meets the definition of a commercial motor vehicle.

Question 8: Is a mechanic road testing a school bus rated over 26,000 lbs required to have a medical card? a CDL? A "P" endorsement?

Guidance: yes, yes, & yes In 2005 Act 181 of 1963 was amended to remove the exemption for a mechanic from medical qualification. If a mechanic is behind the wheel of a school bus, testing a vehicle after repairs have been made, they must have a medical examiners certificate, be a fully qualified driver, have a CDL 'A', 'B' or 'C' on their license they must also have a 'P' endorsement and be in the company DOT drug & alcohol testing program.

Question 9: Is a CDL holder moving a school bus on a highway required to have the S endorsement also?

Guidance: No, a driver is only required to have an 'S' endorsement if they are transporting school children in the bus. But, a driver would be required to have a CDL 'A', 'B' or 'C' (depending on the size of the bus) with a 'P' endorsement, to be fully qualified, carrying a medical examiners certificate and be in a drug and alcohol testing program.