Do You Need a CDL to Drive a Tow Truck? Find Out Here

do you need a cdl to drive a tow truck

The answer to the question “Do you need a CDL to drive a tow truck?” is simply yes. However, there are some cases where you may not need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), depending on the type of tow truck you are operating and the regulations of your state.

CDL Requirements for Tow Truck Drivers

The requirements for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) vary based on the size and weight of the towing truck and the cargo it will tow. 

To become a tow truck operator, it is essential to understand the state laws and regulations governing towing operations. These laws and regulations vary from state to state, making it crucial to research the specific requirements in your state.

In most cases, if the tow truck’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is 26,000 pounds or less, and it will not tow a weight over 10,000 pounds, you do not need a special license. Your regular driving license is sufficient to operate this truck.

If the GVWR and towing weight exceed the limit mentioned earlier, you will need a CDL and additional endorsement.

Classes of Commercial Driver’s License (CDL):

The Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is divided into three different classes, as mentioned below:

1. Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

Obtaining a Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is essential if you plan to operate any combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, along with a towed vehicle weighing over 10,000 pounds.

By acquiring a Class A CDL, you demonstrate your commitment to safety and professionalism on the road. This license opens doors to new job opportunities and equips you with the skills and knowledge necessary to handle larger and more complex vehicles.

Whether you aspire to drive tractor-trailers, dump trucks, or any other heavy-duty vehicles, a Class A CDL is the key that unlocks these possibilities.

2. Class B Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

To operate a single vehicle weighing over 26,000 pounds, regardless of its towing weight being less than 10,000 pounds, a Class B commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required.

Obtaining a Class B CDL allows individuals to safely and legally drive vehicles such as buses, delivery trucks, and other large vehicles.

Having the proper certification ensures that drivers are knowledgeable and qualified to handle the size and weight of these vehicles, promoting road safety for everyone involved.

3. Class C Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

Suppose you are driving a vehicle with 16 passengers, including the driver, or a vehicle transporting hazardous materials as defined by U.S. laws. In that case, you will need to obtain a Class C commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

This license ensures that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to operate such vehicles safely. It’s important to follow the appropriate licensing requirements to ensure the safety of yourself, your passengers, and others on the road. 

Final Words:

In short, the requirement for a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) when operating a tow truck depends on factors such as weight, type, and cargo. However, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the specific regulations established by your state or jurisdiction. 

You can ensure compliance and navigate any necessary licensing requirements by doing so.

If you dream of becoming a tow truck driver, there are specific steps you need to follow.

  • Obtaining a regular driver’s license is essential as it is the foundation for this career.
  • Training in towing and recovery is crucial to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge for the job.
  • Obtaining relevant certifications will significantly enhance your credibility in the field.

To excel as a professional tow truck driver, it is essential to gain practical experience. Additionally, staying updated with industry trends and developments by actively engaging in continuing education opportunities can significantly benefit your career.

Committing to learning will ensure continuous professional growth in this dynamic field.


1. What is the most you can tow without a CDL?

If your tow truck’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is less than 26,001 pounds, you do not need a commercial driver’s license (CDL). However, it is essential to check the regulations of your state or jurisdiction.

2. What does GVWR mean on a trailer?

The GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) refers to the combined weight of the trailer and the cargo/equipment you intend to transport.

3. Does tow capacity include passengers?

The tow truck manufacturer company determines the vehicle’s tow weight capacity, including the driver’s weight. If you add a passenger, the weight limit may be subject to change.

Note: To become a tow truck driver, you will need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles can provide information about the specific requirements for obtaining a CDL in your state.

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