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Old 04-04-2015, 11:27 AM   #1
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Texas Class A Exempt (Non Commercial) License Requirements

Just thought I'd pass along my recent experience obtaining my Class A Exempt (Non Commercial) License and when it is needed. I read about it on another forum several months ago and was clueless before that point and never knew it was needed. If the combined GVWR of your truck and trailer exceed 26,000 pounds you need a Class A license. It's not your actual weight, it's what you could weigh. Doesn't matter if you are not a commercial operator, you need the Class A. Texas refers to it as a 'Class A Exempt".

I just took the written exam and the driving test this week. Written test is 20 questions from the Commercial Handbook, mostly chapter 14. I was told all I needed to review was chapter 14 but I reviewed all the chapters the manual referred me to for a Class A license. The chapters are listed in the front of the handbook. Most of my questions were from chapter 14 but read every word in chapter 14 and review all the pictures in detail. I had a couple of questions regarding taxis and still can't find the reference in the commercial handbook. Out of 20 questions, I had one question asked 3 different times, two worded exactly the same which was weird.

Driving test was around 30 minutes, lots of stopping, turning, exit highway, entrance and merging onto highway. I had to back up 60 feet or so, no parallel parking. For those of you that live in Texas you are all familiar with the feeder roads that run along the highways and interstate. Most are one way, but watch out for two way feeders. They are a gotcha and can be very dangerous. I was required to exit freeway on to feeder, turn at the next intersection to cross back to other side, head back in opposite direction and enter highway several times. All were one way feeders except one and as soon as you exited the highway you were on a two way feeder. Watch out for the double yellow lines on the feeders. I live north of Houston in Magnolia and did my written exam in Conroe, driving test in Bryan/College Station. Conroe was booked up for over a month and I was able to get a slot in Bryan within a couple of days. A spot actually opened up the day after my exam so I took it. Both Conroe and Bryan offer online scheduling and from my experience people cancel and spots open up on a semi regular basis if you check which can be done online. Study manuals can be picked up at local offices or downloaded online at the DPS website. All in all, not that big of a deal, just the hassle of doing it. I took the written part one day, driving portion the next.

I know this a law that a lot of people are unfamiliar with and some argue it isn't needed. It is needed in Texas and I did a lot of research and reading on it on several forums. I also talked to a couple of local DPS offices and all were familiar with the requirement. I know the odds of getting stopped are slim but I also didn't want to risk getting ticketed, getting my trailer grounded out of town, or being in an accident and not having the required license. It's a hassle but I'm glad I got it done.

One more thing that is surprising Texas trailer owners is the requirement to get your trailer inspected. The requirement is for trailers over or around 4,000 pounds, forgot the exact weight. Just found out myself that it has always been a requirement but there was no way for the state to track it. Well, recently the states computer systems have been upgraded and now in order to get your trailer tags renewed you have to show proof your trailer has been inspected within the previous 90 days. Otherwise, you can't renew your tags. Basically, they check the lights, brake lights, turn signals, nothing long or complicated. The lady doing my driving test at the DPS did want to verify my trailer inspection was current and I had just done it that morning. There was an article back in March in the Houston Chronicle about this requirement and how most trailer owners were not familiar. They are getting a notification in the mail along with their tag renewal paperwork.
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Old 04-04-2015, 11:58 AM   #2
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C130,
Nice writeup, thanks. Been considering this myself as I fit in the category grossed above 26000.
Have you notified your insurance company you now have a 'commercial' license? Interested to see if that has any effect...
Joe
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Old 04-04-2015, 01:51 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by wingnut60 View Post
C130,
Nice writeup, thanks. Been considering this myself as I fit in the category grossed above 26000.
Have you notified your insurance company you now have a 'commercial' license? Interested to see if that has any effect...
Joe
It's actually not a commercial license, it's a "Class A Exempt" which is classified as non commercial. That's what they told me it's referred as at the DPS office. The lady that did my driving test made sure to explain it correctly to the lady that entered it in to the computer after I was done.

Anyone wanting more information feel free to let me know. Some of the test questions were poorly written in my opinion. Between the FAA and military written tests I've answered literally thousands of multiple choice questions. The best I can describe some of the questions on this test is to answer with the "most preferred" answer. An example is one of the questions asked about backing up a trailer and what would you use? Two obvious answers were to "use both mirrors and back up slowly" or use a "helper". Both answers are listed pretty much word for word in the study guide but there was only one correct answer, use a helper. It wasn't "use a helper if available" it was just "use a helper". Of course on the driving test she just told me to stop and back up. I asked if if I should get out and make sure it was clear and she said no, just back up. I had not seen any traffic behind me but we had entered an industrial complex and I wanted to make 100% it was clear behind me. Another question asked when are "registration papers always required"? Two answers making the most sense were "all trucks" and "taxi cabs". I think in the study guide it's worded as "all semi trucks" or something different. Anyways, the answer was "all trucks". I think the thing to remember is it's a commercial written exam so you have to assume it's always referring to commercial vehicle on the questions even thought the answers don't always state commercial. Another tricky question was about how many other trailers or vehicles (forgot how it was worded) can a passenger vehicle can tow? In Texas, you can tow 2 trailers, but the answer was one due to the fact it was a "passenger vehicle". I may be off on the wording a little but it's all in the study guide.

Anyways, I do think most every question came from chapter 14. Questions regarding color of flags, (red if hauling an item sticking out past 4 feet) or white on tow rope or chain if towing another vehicle. Know the combinations and maximum lengths, all the lights and colors depending on location (front or rear of trailer) and I had several questions regarding trailers over 80 inches and requirements. You'll see all of this in Chapter 14 and it'll make sense.

One question that got brought up a lot on another forum is how to get there to take the driving portion. I just asked the lady when I took the written test and she told me to not worry about it, they don't ask and don't expect you to hire someone to drive your vehicle. They are so busy doing driving tests on teenagers and commercial vehicles and no one is there watching anyways.
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Old 04-04-2015, 03:29 PM   #4
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Very informative thread thank you for writing this. I am in huntsville and was also wondering if I could go to bryan to get this class a endorsement because the huntsville dps office has a waiting line out the door every morning before they open up...I know it's crazy but with the teenagers cdl and not to mention the inmates getting their cdl license it is super busy. Glad to know I could go to bryan and do the driving portion.....thank you again for all the information...one question I do have is it a one time test or does it have to be done periodically?

Thanks again
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Old 04-04-2015, 05:35 PM   #5
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I'm in CA and the written test was a snap. Then I go to get the driving test. That was another world. First is the 'pre drive check list'. Normal vehicle stuff. Signals, lights, horn, etc. However, if you don't specifically check the passenger door, Glove
Box (don't know why) and seat belts, you failed!!
Then you do the 'walk around'. You have to specifically point out everything. Like you are checking the winshield, mirrors, lights again in front. Then you MUST open the hood and check the oil level, coolant level, power steering fluid, belts and hoses.
You must check the brake drums and linings if visible. You must verify the rims and tires have zero defects. Check the lug nuts. And repeat all the above for the trailer.
You must check that you have the emergency triangles (3). You must be sure to talk about everything that you doing and observing!


I failed my driving test and I never got behind the wheel! The DMV tester said to consider it a 'learning experience'. That it was!
The actual driving test is similar to that previously mentioned. Except the backup test is for 100'. If you hit a cone you failed. If you have to straighten up 3 times or more you failed.


Oh - - - After the written test you are given a 'learners permit' to take the driving test. But, you can't drive the rig with a learners permit without having a Class A licensed driver with you! That's like driving without a license. Just legally getting to the DMV test facility is a nightmare.


Isn't CA wonderful!


BTW, CA calls it a NonCommercial Class A license and is required if the trailer has a GVWR of 15,001 lbs or greater. I retake my test end of April.
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Old 04-04-2015, 05:44 PM   #6
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C130, I agree. a very nice write up. In response to the trailer inspection, all trailers with a GWR over 4500lbs require inspection.

mkohler30, it's a one time test. Certain renewals can be done on-line for up to two renewal periods. Physical renewals mainly require an eye test.

At least that how it was. There may have been changes since I last dealt with those things.



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Old 04-04-2015, 07:02 PM   #7
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Very informative thread thank you for writing this. I am in huntsville and was also wondering if I could go to bryan to get this class a endorsement because the huntsville dps office has a waiting line out the door every morning before they open up...I know it's crazy but with the teenagers cdl and not to mention the inmates getting their cdl license it is super busy. Glad to know I could go to bryan and do the driving portion.....thank you again for all the information...one question I do have is it a one time test or does it have to be done periodically?

Thanks again
Bryan was a great place to do it I think. I was not familiar with the area but not a lot of traffic to deal with at all. Very nice, large, DPS office also that seemed to move people pretty quick. The area out front for trailers and commercial vehicles is very large and easy to get in and out of. It was never too crowded, lunch time was the worst but still not too bad at all. I got there way too early, like two and a half hours hoping to go early. Very nice lady that did the test and everyone that worked there was great. At the end of the test she just told me to watch out for those two way feeders as most are one way and they can be dangerous, especially in unfamiliar areas.

She did check my turn signals, brake light, and horn before we started. Her briefing was to stay in my lane at all times, both hands on the steering wheel, use my turn signals along with she wanted to see head movement, not just rely 100% on the mirrors.

I love California but man am I glad I didn't have to take my test there, that would be hard to pass! I was not given a learners permit though I did ask about it and told I didn't need one.
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Old 04-04-2015, 07:27 PM   #8
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Thanks alot I am actually at aggieland rv park on hwy 6 and hwy 21 just staying the weekend but I drive in bryan alot so I will try to come here and take it....again thank you alot
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Old 04-05-2015, 07:08 AM   #9
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If the combined GVWR of your truck and trailer exceed 26,000 pounds you need a Class A license..
Not perzactly correct....

Need of an A is determined by two separate things....

Combination is over 26k gross ... AND ... towed portion of the combination is over 10k

If you don't meet that second part then a B will cover you.

Example... Heavy motorhome towing a car on a trailer might break the 26k threshold, but weight of car and trailer only 7k, then no A needed.
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:16 AM   #10
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Not perzactly correct....

Need of an A is determined by two separate things....

Combination is over 26k gross ... AND ... towed portion of the combination is over 10k

If you don't meet that second part then a B will cover you.

Example... Heavy motorhome towing a car on a trailer might break the 26k threshold, but weight of car and trailer only 7k, then no A needed.
True, I suggest anyone concerned read the Drivers Handbook, it explains the Class A and Class B at the very front.

Is it true that the larger motor homes (over 26,000 pounds) would need the Class B?
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:37 AM   #11
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Thank you, C130. Great write-up. This test is in our future (October). \ken
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:46 AM   #12
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True, I suggest anyone concerned read the Drivers Handbook, it explains the Class A and Class B at the very front.

Is it true that the larger motor homes (over 26,000 pounds) would need the Class B?
Yes, any motor home over 26,000 pounds needs a Class B non-commercial license (assuming the toad is under 10,000 lbs). A few months ago I went through the whole process that was outlined in the OP. It was a pain in the rear, but I have much more peace of mind now knowing that I am fully legal.

Here's the DPS website link explaining the different license classes:

TxDPS - Classes of Driver Licenses
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Old 04-05-2015, 10:56 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by rskeans View Post
I'm in CA and the written test was a snap. Then I go to get the driving test. That was another world. First is the 'pre drive check list'. Normal vehicle stuff. Signals, lights, horn, etc. However, if you don't specifically check the passenger door, Glove
Box (don't know why) and seat belts, you failed!!

Then you do the 'walk around'. You have to specifically point out everything. Like you are checking the winshield, mirrors, lights again in front. Then you MUST open the hood and check the oil level, coolant level, power steering fluid, belts and hoses.
You must check the brake drums and linings if visible. You must verify the rims and tires have zero defects. Check the lug nuts. And repeat all the above for the trailer.
You must check that you have the emergency triangles (3). You must be sure to talk about everything that you doing and observing!


I failed my driving test and I never got behind the wheel! The DMV tester said to consider it a 'learning experience'. That it was!
The actual driving test is similar to that previously mentioned. Except the backup test is for 100'. If you hit a cone you failed. If you have to straighten up 3 times or more you failed.


Oh - - - After the written test you are given a 'learners permit' to take the driving test. But, you can't drive the rig with a learners permit without having a Class A licensed driver with you! That's like driving without a license. Just legally getting to the DMV test facility is a nightmare.


Isn't CA wonderful!


BTW, CA calls it a NonCommercial Class A license and is required if the trailer has a GVWR of 15,001 lbs or greater. I retake my test end of April.
'

Wow, I don't know what DMV you went to, but they were a LOT more extensive than where I went (Bakersfield). None of the highlighted red above was a requirement for me. In addition to the 100' back up, I also had to do back (from a 90 degree turn) into a "campground space" marked off with red cones and had to stop the back of the mh within 1' of a line marked at the end of the space. I was also required to have a physical medical check up (and has to be redone every other year) and also a eye exam from an optometrist.

License was required because my motor home is longer than 40'.

Oh, and my new driver's license is a "Class B non-commerical" license...not a Class A.

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Old 04-05-2015, 03:54 PM   #14
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The CA DMV treats the Class A different than the Class B. Class A is for 5th wheels. Non-Commercial Class A does not require a signed physicians report. The DMV testers have a pre-printed checkoff list labled NonCommerical Class A that would be common to all locations. When I questioned some of the required items the DMV examiner explained that this IS a Class A license but Non-Commerical. Basically saying that this is not supposed to a 'walk in the park'. So, I'll do exactly what they want. Hopefully I'll remember everything at test time.
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