Rereading an article from the October 1993 issue of Newell’s News reminded me that Alice (my wife) once talked her way out of being issued a couple of hefty traffic citations, one of which pertained to an ongoing issue for Newell owners: How do you avoid being required to carry a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)? The story sheds some light on the subject and reveals how my own perspective has changed.
Here’s the 1993 article (slightly revised):
As Alice was driving a show coach home to Miami, Oklahoma, from a Newell rally in Winthrop, Washington, she was pulled over by a South Dakota State Trooper. First he commented on her speed—clocked at a cool 82 mph on his radar. Next, he asked Alice the weight of the coach. She didn’t know, but together they located the GVWR plate on the coach specifying its weight rating was 45,000 pounds.
The officer then pointed out the fine print on the back of Alice’s driver’s license. It indicated that she was not licensed to drive any vehicle over 26,000 pounds.
He gave Alice a stern lecture directing her to obtain a CDL upon her return home, and sent her on her way—without issuing a ticket either for a lack of proper license or speeding. This outcome is mysterious only if you don’t know Alice. Her engaging ways and “control skills” are legendary. The officer probably never had a chance.
But he was wrong that she needed a CDL. Oklahoma, like virtually every other state, exempts motorhomes from the 26,000-pound threshold to require a CDL. But there’s not enough room on the back of a driver’s license to print all of the details of the state law.
We recommend that you verify your state laws concerning CDLs.
But wait, she DID need a CDL!
That was 20 years ago! And with age comes wisdom, right? I now know that my opinion that Alice didn’t need a CDL was wrong. Here’s why…
Commercial vs. private use
Operating a large motorhome for private use is exempt from the CDL requirement. If the use is commercial, however, a CDL is required. In Alice’s case, the officer was right that she needed a CDL, but wrong that the weight of the vehicle was the determining factor. Alice was driving a vehicle with “commercial” dealer plates, and she was doing so as an employee of the company. Both indicate commercial use, so a CDL was actually required.
Since few of us share Alice’s negotiating skills when confronted by an officer of the law whose lights are flashing, it’s well worth knowing how to avoid situations that would require a CDL. So we still recommend that you check your own state’s laws about CDLs.
As for how to get off scot-free after being caught doing 82 mph? You’ll have to ask Alice about that. Or bring her along as your driver.
Newell Coach Corp. President and CEO