Applying for a Colorado CDL - Class A License
Should you get a Class A CDL in Colorado? You must have a valid Class A commercial driver’s license in order to drive any combination vehicle that has a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of greater than 26,000 pounds, with a towed gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of greater than 10,000 pounds. Combination vehicles are usually semi-trailer trucks (also called tractor trailers), but can include any vehicle with a towing engine that carries cargo. Class A license holders can also drive Class B and C vehicles (which include straight trucks and buses) with the proper endorsements.
However, you do not have to obtain a Class A CDL for driving any of the following:
- Commercial vehicles for military purposes
- Farm vehicles operated by a farmer transporting agriculture-related cargo within 150 miles of his farm.
- Vehicles transporting firefighting equipment.
- Snowplow vehicles during an emergency snow removal condition declared by the Colorado State Patrol (CSP).
- Vehicles for personal recreation.
This article will overview the application process and requirements for a Class A CDL in Colorado.
Getting your CDL Instruction Permit
You must be equal to or greater than 18 years of age to apply for a CDL, and at least 20 years of age to drive without the intrastate-only “K” restriction. Be sure to have the proper documentation when applying for the CDL instruction permit:
- Regular Colorado driver’s license
- Proof of US citizen or legal alien status
- Proof of identity
- Proof of Colorado residence
- Social Security Number
- Current (equal to or less than 24 months old) Department of Transportation (DOT) medical examination certification.
To obtain a CDL instruction permit, you must take and pass a general knowledge test at a Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. For a Class A qualification, the test derives all its questions from sections 1, 2, 3, 7, 11, 12 and 13 (as well as 6 if the applicant plans to operate a vehicle that has air brakes) of the Colorado CDL Driver’s Handbook . Once you pass the test and pay the $14.00 issuance fee, you will receive your permit, which will allow you to operate a Class A vehicle when accompanied by a Class A CDL holder at least 21 years old.
Colorado Vets 2 Trucks Program
Individuals with heavy military truck driving experience who serve in the military or have been discharged 90 days or less ago may qualify for a CDL without taking a skills test. This is possible through the Colorado Vets 2 Trucks Program, which also requires potential applicants to have a safe driving record for the past two years. While these people can save a lot of time and money avoiding extra tests, rental expenses and issuance fees, they still must fulfill all the requirements for getting a CDL instruction permit.
If you are qualified, you and your Commanding Office can complete the Military CDL Skills Test Waiver application and the Colorado DMV CDL Unit 10 Year History License Certification to send to the CDL Unit of the state DMV. Once the DMV affirms your eligibility, you can purchase your CDL at the DMV.
Getting your CDL
For most people however, after getting an instruction permit, it is mandatory to take a behind-the-wheel skills test. Unlike DMV offices in other states, Colorado DMV offices do not offer skills tests. Instead, third parties, private CDL schooling businesses approved by the state, administer the test. Most but not all of these schools provide testing for Class A vehicles, so it is important to consult the CDL Third Party Testers Chart before deciding on a place to take the skills test.
For Class A CDL applicants, in addition to the necessary pre-trip inspection, basic control and on-road driving portions of the test, there is also a coupling and uncoupling testing requirement. Information for this part can be found in section 7 of the CDL Driver’s Handbook.
Upon passing the skills test, you can pay a $35.00 fee to obtain the CDL. The CDL skills test completion form must be filled out to turn your permit into a CDL, which will be valid for 4 years.
Colorado Chain Laws
The Colorado Chain Law requires commercial vehicles to use tire chains or satisfactory traction devices when being driven on mountain highways with heavy snow conditions present. The law can apply to every highway in the state, whether it is a state, federal or interstate highway. Roadway and lighted variable message signs let drivers know when they should use chains or traction devices.
Two levels of the Chain Law exist, their active status dependent on the situation:
- Level 1 requires all combination (Class A) vehicles to use tire chains, while traction devices like snow tires may suffice for other commercial vehicles.
- Level 2, usually active during times of greater snow coverage and uphill driving, requires all commercial vehicles to use tire chains.
Failure to follow this law, like any code of safety, can lead to at best a monetary penalty and at worst a fatal accident. Driving a commercial vehicle, especially a Class A combination vehicle, is a great responsibility. The need for preparation and awareness continues long after you acquire your CDL.