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When Do You Need a CDL in Washington State

Driving a commercial vehicle in Washington State requires a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This is true whether you are a resident of the state or just passing through. The laws and regulations governing when a CDL is necessary are quite strict, so it is important to know when you will need one.

Types of Vehicles

The most common type of vehicle that requires a CDL in Washington State is a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). This includes any vehicle used in interstate or intrastate commerce that has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, or a combination of vehicles that has a combined GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds.

Other types of vehicles that require a CDL in Washington State are buses, school buses, tank vehicles, and vehicles designed to transport hazardous materials.


Certain types of vehicles are exempt from the CDL requirement in Washington State. These include vehicles that are:

  • Not used in interstate commerce
  • Used to transport 16 or fewer passengers, including the driver
  • Used exclusively to transport farm products or farm machinery
  • Designed to transport less than 8,000 pounds of gross vehicle weight

Additionally, some drivers may be exempt from the CDL requirement. This includes drivers of recreational vehicles, fire-fighting equipment, and military vehicles.


Driving a commercial vehicle in Washington State without a valid CDL is a serious offense. Depending on the circumstances, the driver may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony and may face significant fines and jail time. Additionally, the vehicle may be impounded and the driver’s CDL may be suspended.


In the state of Washington, if you plan to drive a commercial vehicle, you will need to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License. It is important to understand the types of vehicles that are covered by the CDL requirement, as well as any exemptions that may apply. Driving a commercial vehicle without a valid CDL can result in significant fines and jail time, so it is important to make sure you are compliant with the laws of the state.