Knowing the Difference between a Special License and an Endorsement

by Joshua on September 11, 2013

Each state has their own policies and procedures when it comes to the licensing process for any class but regardless of the Class names or usages there are some similarities in each. You will find a special program for minors where they are eased into the driving experience in an attempt to reduce young driver’s accidents. A standard license, known by many Class names is the license that the majority of US drivers posses. It allows drivers to operate a smaller vehicle which may include light trucks, vans, SUVs and car on public roadways without restrictions above the law.

Special License circumstances include those that operate a motor vehicle for the purpose of making money or earning an income. These include larger commercial vehicles such as semi trucks of differing varieties, construction equipment and tow trucks. Some states also require a special license or endorsement for driving smaller vehicles that will provide some sort of revenue for the driver such as taxi cabs or catering vans. In addition, states that provide a larger portion of agriculture have addition license types of operation of farm equipment.

You will also find that a motorcycle, moped or three wheel recreation vehicles will require one or more special licenses or endorsements. In addition, boating areas have special classes listed for watercrafts including Ski Do type vehicles. There is a special license or endorsement available for just about any type of vehicle with a motor including bicycles.

Endorsements verses a Class License

Knowing the difference between an endorsement and special class license is important if you wish to make the DMV procedure go smoothly without hassle. An endorsement is a special marking on an already existing license in the form of a sticker or decoration printed directly on the license itself that gives an already licensed driver additional permissions for special vehicles.

While a special license must be applied for and carried separately from the standard license whenever operating the special vehicle type. In some states, you may only carry one license at a time but many special licenses such as commercial classes allow the driver to operate both a commercial and standard vehicle. Some examples for a better understanding may include:

  • A driver with a standard license that receives an endorsement for motorcycle driving.
  • A driver with both a standard license that must be carried while operating a vehicle and a special class motorcycle license that must be carried while riding motorcycle.
  • A commercial driver with only a CDL that is allowed to operate a commercial vehicle for work and a person vehicle after hours.

A combination of special license circumstances, endorsements and personal lives as well as the states policies make each driver’s license unique to their lifestyle.

Similarities between Endorsements and Licenses

Regardless of whether you are receiving an endorsement on a current license or a separate operator’s license to carry, there are some similarities between the two. In many cases where the driver will be operating a special type of vehicle such as a commercial truck or motorcycle, there are special abilities necessary to drive safely. Therefore the DMV creates training and testing procedures to help the new driver in this class learn the rules of the road for the vehicle type and practice operating the vehicle.

Motorcycles, large commercial vehicles and in some cases farm equipment will often require special written tests in addition to the standard license testing. Due to the difference and often dangers involved in operating both commercial vehicles and motorcycles on roadways these two particular special license circumstances have their own separate process from a learners permit to written and road testing, even if the permission will be only an endorsement.

Other special endorsement designed specifically for those commercial drivers may include:

  • Bus Drivers endorsements
  • Hazardous materials endorsements
  • Specific Commercial Vehicle Types
  • Passenger Vehicles
  • Farm or construction equipment

Written Endorsement or Special License Tests

In most circumstances a written test will be required in order for a new driver to receive any endorsement type. The tests are similar to the standard written tests for a regular license and will be multiple choice questions based on traffic laws, rules of the road and signs found on the road. The information covered on the written test will be specific to the type of license or endorsement the driver wishes to receive. For example a motorcycle license or endorsement will have a written test involving the operation of a motorcycle and special rules they must follow.

Studying for these tests is equally as important as for standard written tests. All of the test questions on special license tests will be found in a combination of the Drivers Handbook for the state, Special Handbooks for that type of license, flyers and informative pamphlets created by the DMV. You will also find helpful information on most endorsements and special licenses through cheat sheets and articles found Study the material in detail to be fully prepared for the special driving tests and if applicable take any practice tests available.

Road Testing Special Circumstances

Not all endorsements or special licenses will require a road test. Farm equipment, three wheel and off-road vehicles and in some states moped will not require a skills test. Commercial endorsements such as the hazardous materials may also not require addition road tests. Motorcycles, standard CDL licenses, passenger vehicles carrying over 14 passengers will require a road test using the specific vehicle type you intend to operate. For example if you intend to receive a school bus endorsement you will take a road skills test in a school bus.

Check with your local DMV to assure that you follow all necessary steps for each special license or endorsement you wish to receive.

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