License to Drive: Taking Your Water Trailer Out on the Road

When operating a vehicle towing a water trailer, a common question is whether you need a commercial driver’s license. The answer to that question depends on factors such as the size of the vehicle, the size of the trailer, and what the trailer will be used for. We’ll take you through some of these requirements and why an 800 gallon water trailer might be the right size for your needs.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Act of 1986
Driving certain vehicles requires the acquisition of a commercial driver’s license to prove you’re capable of handling the size. Prior to 1986, states set regulations for driving commercial vehicles themselves. This created a problem when those vehicles crossed state lines, where there were potentially different regulations. To solve this issue, Congress enacted the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 which set federal standards regarding these commercial vehicles.

What is a Commercial Vehicle?
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) defines a commercial motor vehicle as a vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property, if that vehicle and any towed is greater than 26,000 pounds. It also applies if the vehicle is towing more than 10,000 pounds. Additionally, if the vehicle weighs less than 26,000 pounds but can carry 16 people or more, including the driver, it is considered a commercial vehicle and requires the acquisition of a commercial driver’s license. There may be additional requirements for what constitutes a commercial motor vehicle, such as having more than two axles, so check with your individual state’s DOT if you have any questions.

How Do You Know the Weight of Your Vehicle?
The United States DOT classifies all vehicles by their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), and ranks them from class one to class eight by weight. They’ve done this for safety regulation, commercial designation, and registration purposes. Most residential vehicles are classified between class one and class three, meaning they weigh 14,000 pounds or less. While these vehicles typically are not considered commercial vehicles, they can be if they tow enough weight. Vehicle classifications as defined by the United States Department of Transportation are as follows:

Class 1 – 6,000 lbs. or less (minivan, cargo van, SUV, pickup truck)
Class 2 – 6,001 lbs. to 10,000 lbs. (minivan, cargo van, full-size pickup, step van)
Class 3 – 10,001 lbs. to 14,000 lbs. (walk-in, box truck, city delivery, heavy-duty pickup)
Class 4 – 14,001 lbs. to 16,000 lbs. (large walk-in, box truck, city delivery)
Class 5 – 16,001 lbs. to 19,500 lbs. (bucket truck, large walk-in, city delivery)
Class 6 – 19,501 lbs. to 26,000 lbs. (beverage truck, single-axle, school bus, rack truck)
Class 7 – 26,001 lbs. to 33,000 lbs. (refuse, furniture, city transit bus, truck tractor)
Class 8 – 33,001 lbs. or more (cement truck, truck tractor, dump truck, sleeper cab)

In addition to the DOT classifications, most vehicles feature a sticker on the inside door that will tell you the GVWR.

When Would You Need a Commercial Driver’s License?
If you’re just hauling the water trailer around your job site or private farm, you won’t need a commercial driver’s license. However, if you use public roads to reach your destination, you’ll want to be prepared. While you may not take your trailer on public roads now, you may need to in the future. In that instance, you’ll want the highest capacity water trailer available that falls under the 10,000-pound amount.


GEI Works Water-Hauling Experts are standing by to answer your questions!  Call us at 772-646-0597 or email us at for more information – or better yet – get a Quote Today!

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