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Old 09-23-2020, 09:10 PM   #1
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CA Class B Non Commercial : My story

Here’s a write up of my journey to a CA Class B Non Commercial License - I hope it helps others that plan to get theirs!

Our RV is 40’ 9” long; 9” longer than allowed to be driven with a CA Class C license.


The Process:
The reference guide is DMV Publication DL 648 “Recreation Vehicles and Trailers Handbook”.

Steps:
o Pay fee
o If not taken Class C written test in prior 12 months, take it.
o Take “Recreational Vehicles Class B” written test.
o Present DL 546A Health Questionnaire
o Permit issued
  • Schedule behind the wheel test (must be at least 14 days between permit issue and test)
  • Behind the wheel test
o Vehicle Safety Check : Brake lights, horn, wipers, emergency flashers, turn signals
o Pre-trip Inspection : Describe/show how you ensure the vehicle is safe to be driven.
o Skills Test : Back up in straight line, Back up while changing into adjacent lane, 90 degree backing into camping space
o Driving test : Mixture of city & highway driving.

My experience:
  • It was a six week process from start to finish.
  • Written tests/permit was done at my local DMV
  • I travelled to a CDL Testing Location for the Behind the Wheel test.

(Even though this is a non-CDL; the DMV treats many aspects of the process as if you’re getting a CDL).

“Health Questionnaire”
This is straightforward. Fill it out DL 546A; get your doc’s signature. For the pilot’s amongst us – my AME filled it out with my FAA medical. So both medical’s are now on a two year schedule.

“The Written Test”
  • My local DMV struggled to get the computer to accept I wanted a Class B Non Commercial permit.
  • Before you visit, make sure you know all there is to know about the license classifications.
  • Bring publication DL 648 to the DMV. I loaned mine to the representative, in his words “This is Gold”. It lays out the entire process – and they just don’t do many of these to have the knowledge.
  • It was suggested to me that I needed a Class A. Technically ok – but would have been a problem as you would then need a 5th wheel or larger travel trailer to take the behind the wheel test.
  • The computer then refused to proceed with the Class B written test – something to do with RealID being incompatible with Class B. After consulting with Sacramento; they were told to flag the application as a “fire fighter’s license”.
This allowed them to proceed with the written test.
  • Paid the fee, told to go to the computer for the test
  • The computer presented me with the wrong tests (again, know what to expect). I returned to the counter, they printed the correct tests on paper.
  • YMMV: My test had no questions on towing (Pages 29-37)
  • After passing the tests; the computer refused to issue the permit. The solution was to waive the “firefighters law test” in the computer; then the permit was issued.

“Scheduling Behind the Wheel Test”
This was complicated due to COVID. When I started trying to schedule, testing had just been resumed. The final solution was:
o Call the DMV 1 (800) 777-0133 at 9am
o Select the option to speak with a representative
o Select the option to receive a call back (2-4 hours, but they do call – once)
o Ask them to schedule the test or ask them put a request for the Field Office to call you to schedule)
o It took a few attempts; but eventually the Field Office called and I got a test in < 10 days
“Practice”
- The 90 degree backing takes a couple of tries to perfect. For me (4081) backing until the rear of the coach was almost level with the parking space; stop; full lock on the steering wheel; creep backwards – and then coach would pivot back into the space. Be sure to be about 15’ from the “wall” so your front doesn’t swing out of bounds.

“The Test”
  • During check-in they will ask to see the license of the driver that accompanied you. Class A/B Commercial/Non-Commercial is acceptable.
  • Be sure the coach is working (no Rear PDM failures!)
  • Know how to walk around the coach : physically checking everything is attached; mirrors, steps retract ok, doors shut; windows not flapping; be able to talk about Power Steering fluid level, Oil, Transmission, fan blades, etc), looking for chafed hoses, frayed belts, arcing wires, bolts attached to suspension, steering knuckle, leaking oil from wheel hubs, windshield fluid, and windshield condition.
  • Air brakes : While not on the test – I ran thru “2 air tanks; one for brakes, one for air bags. Bags can feed brakes, not other way round”. “130 psi governor cuts out, 75 low air alarm ~30 brakes auto apply”. Be able to demonstrate this – std. brake check we all do, right?
  • Skills test : You get a 12 point allowance before failing. Going out of bounds, pulling up to reposition, etc. count as a point for each error.
o Straight line backup : Backup 100’ in a straight line.
o Backup into adjacent lane: 100’ backup. (I think you were allowed one free “pull up”, and one free “get out and look”
o Backing 90 degrees into camping spot. Spot is 40’ deep x 12’ wide. Total width is 70’. (Two free pulls ups; two get out and look). Must stop vehicle so rear is within 2’ of back of parking space.
  • Road test:
o 10 mile route; took 30 mins. Covered everything : City, narrow streets, turns, signals, freeway, obstacles (like trees overhanging), railroad crossing. Note freeway bridge heights – might be asked after you go under.
o You get a 30 point allowance before failing.

Between figuring the process, getting the test/permit, scheduling, and finally the test I’ve spent a fair amount of time interacting with the DMV. Approach the experience with patience and appreciation – all my interactions with them were 100% positive.
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Old 09-23-2020, 09:22 PM   #2
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Chris,
This is very helpful information.
Originally I was not going to get the Class B but I have decided it would be wise to do so.
You mentioned that if you have not taken Class C written test in prior 12 months, take it.
Is this a requirement?
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Old 09-23-2020, 09:27 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShelbyTom1 View Post
You mentioned that if you have not taken Class C written test in prior 12 months, take it.
Is this a requirement?
Sure is I’m afraid. I had to - and it’s more work to revise for than the RV Class B test!
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Old 09-24-2020, 09:18 AM   #4
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Chris:

Great write-up. Thanks for the hard work. I'd like to add a few notes from my experience if you don't mind.

I got a copy of the Commercial Driver Handbook and reviewed the sections for the Class B requirements noted on page 1-12. It addresses the sections of the book specific to study for Class B knowledge. There were a few questions on my written test that came from that book. https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/upload...6/comlhdbk.pdf

Request the written test. I had to take my Class C and Non-commercial B. If you take the computer test, you better be sure of your answer when you click the box. There is no opportunity to go back and review or change your answers. With the written test, you can review and change your answer if you need to.

My driving test included parallel parking. I think its up to the examiner as to what you have to do. I was also asked what the marked clearance was on an overpass we just went under, so be sure to note the clearances when you go under them in case they ask.

As Chris stated. DMV does not do many of the non-commercial licenses, so know what you need to do and bring the books with you. They need to "fool" their computer to get the right information and testing requirements. Be patient and work with the DMV personnel. They are trying to do the right thing. If you fight them, they will fight back. Guess who has the bigger club?

Tom: If you have any questions or need a driver for your driving test, PM me and I'll be glad to come down to San Jose.

Good luck guys.
Mike
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Old 09-24-2020, 04:32 PM   #5
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Amazing write up. Much more difficult in California than it is in Texas. We only have the 100ft backup. No parking or campground type maneuvers. Also no medical exam.

I feel safer seeing a CA class B licensed Rv than a Texas or Florida one
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Old 09-24-2020, 06:31 PM   #6
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Red:
Its not that difficult at all. Anyone with a good working and driving knowledge of their large coach (As we all should have) and with a little bit of book studying, will have no problem passing the written and driving tests. Its just a process. In my opinion, the hardest thing about the whole process is the DMV understanding the correct tests to administer.
I certainly feel better knowing that I am operating my coach legally.
Thanks for the positive comments.
Cheers,
Mike
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Old 09-24-2020, 06:39 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by redbaron73 View Post
Amazing write up. Much more difficult in California than it is in Texas. We only have the 100ft backup. No parking or campground type maneuvers. Also no medical exam.

I feel safer seeing a CA class B licensed Rv than a Texas or Florida one
Not required in Florida.
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Old 09-24-2020, 06:43 PM   #8
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In California, a Non-Commercial Class B alone will not allow you to drive a motorhome (housecar) over 40' in length. You will also need the 45' Housecar endorsement (https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/handbo...-requirements/)

It took me 3 trips to CA DMV to get the correct license & endorsement. I already had a Commercial B license, so all I had to do was "downgrade" my license. I did not have to retake the driving test since I already had a Commercial B. I no longer needed the Commercial Rating - in hindsight, it probably would have been easier to keep it.

When I told them I needed to get the 45' Housecar Endorsement, they looked at me like I was not from this world. After several discussions... they finally came back and gave me a paper test for the endorsement to go on my Class B. I passed the written test (maybe 20 questions if I recall correctly). My new license arrived in a few weeks...

It was now a Non-Commercial Class B, but the endorsement was to drive Fire Fighting equipment ??? Went back to the same DMV a second time, a few more conversations, a few phone calls... and thought they had it corrected.

My second license arrived, now with a restriction that I could not drive a vehicle that had air brakes and a restriction on back that said "50 - Customized restrictions on file - Contact DMV".

Back to the same DMV for a 3rd time... several more phone calls & discussions... several weeks later, I received my 3rd license. It now has the "No Air Brakes" restriction removed, the "Fire Fighting Equipment" removed, but still has the same "Contact DMV" wording on the back.
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Old 09-24-2020, 06:51 PM   #9
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I try to avoid Cali at all costs
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Old 09-24-2020, 08:23 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by DSDP-PZ View Post
Back to the same DMV for a 3rd time... several more phone calls & discussions... several weeks later, I received my 3rd license. It now has the "No Air Brakes" restriction removed, the "Fire Fighting Equipment" removed, but still has the same "Contact DMV" wording on the back.

Thanks DSDP-PZ - I’ll check the license when it arrives; sounds like I’m likely not done yet; as they did the firefighter trick to get anything to work...

Are you willing to post the exact wording (or photo) so I can verify/show to my local DMV?
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Old 09-24-2020, 09:51 PM   #11
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For what its worth, I asked them (DMV) if there was ANYTHING else I needed to do and they said "no" I was good to go with the Non-commercial Class B. They said no additional endorsement was required. Could the additional endorsement be for a 45' coach?
The information published by DMV is somewhat confusing at best.
Chris. Let us know what you dig up.
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Old 09-24-2020, 09:52 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSDP-PZ View Post
In California, a Non-Commercial Class B alone will not allow you to drive a motorhome (housecar) over 40' in length. You will also need the 45' Housecar endorsement (https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/handbo...-requirements/)

It took me 3 trips to CA DMV to get the correct license & endorsement. I already had a Commercial B license, so all I had to do was "downgrade" my license. I did not have to retake the driving test since I already had a Commercial B. I no longer needed the Commercial Rating - in hindsight, it probably would have been easier to keep it.

When I told them I needed to get the 45' Housecar Endorsement, they looked at me like I was not from this world. After several discussions... they finally came back and gave me a paper test for the endorsement to go on my Class B. I passed the written test (maybe 20 questions if I recall correctly). My new license arrived in a few weeks...

It was now a Non-Commercial Class B, but the endorsement was to drive Fire Fighting equipment ??? Went back to the same DMV a second time, a few more conversations, a few phone calls... and thought they had it corrected.

My second license arrived, now with a restriction that I could not drive a vehicle that had air brakes and a restriction on back that said "50 - Customized restrictions on file - Contact DMV".

Back to the same DMV for a 3rd time... several more phone calls & discussions... several weeks later, I received my 3rd license. It now has the "No Air Brakes" restriction removed, the "Fire Fighting Equipment" removed, but still has the same "Contact DMV" wording on the back.

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Old 09-25-2020, 07:37 AM   #13
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MD also has the non-commercial Class B. It’s about 6 weeks just to get the appointment to take the written test. After you get your permit, you need to have it for 2 weeks before you are eligible to schedule the road test. I suspect that appointment will be at least another 6 weeks out, so looking at about 14 weeks to get the license here in MD.
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Old 09-25-2020, 09:26 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by ChrisFSB View Post
Thanks DSDP-PZ - I’ll check the license when it arrives; sounds like I’m likely not done yet; as they did the firefighter trick to get anything to work...

Are you willing to post the exact wording (or photo) so I can verify/show to my local DMV?
The exact wording on the back of my license is:

CLASS: B - Veh, No A & No M/C
ENDORSEMENTS: None
RESTRICTIONS: 50 - Customized restrictions on file - Contact DMV


Also, for reference, CA Veh Code Section 12804.10 indicates the following...

VEHICLE CODE - VEH
DIVISION 6. DRIVERS' LICENSES [12500 - 15326] ( Heading of Division 6 amended by Stats. 1961, Ch. 1615. )
CHAPTER 1. Issuance of Licenses, Expiration, and Renewal [12500 - 13008] ( Chapter 1 enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3. )

ARTICLE 3. Issuance and Renewal of Licenses [12800 - 12819] ( Article 3 enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3. )

12804.10.
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person issued a class C license under paragraph (3) of subdivision (b) of Section 12804.9 may drive any house car of 40 feet in length or less without obtaining a noncommercial class B driver’s license with house car endorsement as described in subdivision (b).

(b) Any person seeking to drive any house car over 40 feet in length, excluding safety devices and safety bumpers, shall obtain a noncommercial class B driver’s license with house car endorsement as described in this subdivision. The applicant for that endorsement shall pass a specialized written examination and demonstrate the ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in operating that vehicle by driving it under the supervision of an examining officer. Upon satisfactory completion of the examination and demonstration, the applicant shall be issued a noncommercial class B driver’s license with house car endorsement by the department. Upon application for an endorsement to operate this vehicle, and every two years thereafter, the applicant shall submit medical information on a form approved by the department.

(Added by Stats. 2001, Ch. 658, Sec. 3. Effective October 10, 2001.)


I agree that DMV's handouts & documentation is lacking and somewhat confusing. But, according to the CVC section above, if you drive a "housecar" that is OVER 40' in length, you will need a Non-Commercial Class B with endorsement (a Commercial A or B will also allow you to drive a housecar over 40' without endorsement).
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