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 > CA License for 40'+ motorhomes

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natgild

Friant, CA

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Posted: 01/25/13 09:26pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I recently purchased a 42' motorhome. In California, you need a special driver's license to drive a motorhome over 40' legally. It is called a “Class B Noncommercial Housecar” license. This requires a written test, driving test and biannual physical exam. I could find very little on the internet about what to expect, particularly about the driving test. Therefore I am writing this in the hopes that it will help others.

The first thing is to obtain the DMV book, “Recreational Vehicles and trailers Handbook”. As of this writing date the pdf version is available at the Califonia DMV website at “Recreational Vehicles and trailers Handbook”http://apps.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/dl648/dl648.pdf. You can get the brochure and necessary forms, take the written test and submit your physical exam form at any DMV; however, if you can find a branch that deals just with commercial licenses, you will save a lot of time and aggravation. I did my written test at a regular DMV, and only the upper level supervisors seemed to know enough to carry the process out. This required a lot of waiting while they found a person who knew enough to complete the whole process. In Fresno there is a “Fresno Commercial Test Center” that deals only with commercial licenses.. If I had to start over, I would do everything there. There were short lines, knowledgeable and friendly personnel. It's like what I told them. It’s like they work for a different government than the employees at the regular DMV.

The written test is about what I expected and all the answers were from the book.

I was very nervous about the driving test, largely because I did not know what to expect. The last driving test I took was 50 years ago when I got my first California Driver's license at age 16.

First of all, you are required to do a vehicle walk around. I was quizzed on what to look for. Here is a list of what they expect from my scoresheet. Vehicle front: lights, windshield, mirrors. Engine compartment: fluid levels, belts and hoses. Wheels: rims, tires(visible under-inflation, sidewall cracks, wear), rims, lug nuts, obvious leaking seals. Vehicle rear: light, splash guard.

Next came the Safety check. The inspector stood outside while I tested the lights, turn signals, hazard lights, brake lights, and horn.

This was followed by the skills test. This was done in a large lot behind the commercial test center. First, I drove forward through two rows of pylons that were fairly close together. I'm guessing about 10' apart. Once I got to the end, I had to back up through the same rows. I was then asked to go back forward through the pylons and make a right turn. Next came the Campsite back-in test. I started out perpendicular to the parking spot demarcated by pylons. I drove forward past the parking spot and then had to back into the spot, making a 90 degree turn in reverse. It was pretty difficult to identify which pylons marked the spot I was supposed to enter as I was looking through the mirrors and backup camera and there were other similar pylons in the area. I was allowed to start the back-in and then go forward and straighten out and complete the back-in. Given the geometry that I was given, I think it would have been impossible to do it without at least one forward leg. I suspect some would need more if you didn't get close enough the first time. Then I had to stop the coach with the back of the coach in a 2' space marked on the pavement. If you are preparing for this test, make sure you know exactly where the back of the motorhome is relative to what you are seeing on the ground in the backup camera. I did not do this ahead of time, and I think I was docked a point for not getting exactly within the 2 foot space.

Next we did the driving test. As I said, I took the test in Fresno, so there were no hills close to the test center. The score sheet I was given at the end of my test showed the following items for driving on grades.. Start/Stop on Grade Approach: traffic check, signal, proper lane, decelerating/braking, and gear use. Start/Stop on Grade Stop: Vehicle parallel to curb, roll back, parking brake, set wheels. Start/Stop on Grade Start: traffic check, signal, parking brake, gear control, speed. Driving Up Grade: in proper gear, stays in right lane, uses 4-ways if slow, traffic check. Driving downgrade: checks brakes, proper gear, speed control/braking, clutch use, traffic check.

While driving the score sheet shows the usual things,. At intersections, they looked for traffic check, gear use, speed, complete stop if called for, yielding if necessary, and speed. During turns, they looked at similar things. The thing that I missed several times was the “traffic check”. Traffic check means looking around, including both mirrors. They want you to do a traffic check approaching the turn, during the tern and just after you complete the turn. I was docked 8 points for not doing a traffic check after my turns.

Then there is freeway section. I was graded on traffic check, signal, steering control, spacing, speed and lane position. There is a section on lane changes, but I was never asked to do a lane change on the freeway.

Another thing I was scored on way observing overpass signs. As we passed under a bridge, he asked me if I knew what the clearance for the bridge was. I hadn't looked at the warning signs that I passed before the bridge so I was dinged a point for that. My excuse was that I had already driven this motorhome under that particular bridge several times. I was till dinged the point!

You are allowed 10 errors on the skill tests and 45 errors on the driving test. One “critical error” will produce an unsatisfactory road test and necessitate a retest. Critical errors are listed as intervention by examiner, striking an object or curb, disobey traffic sign or law, disobey safety person, dangerous maneuver, speed, lane violation, and axillary equipment use(cellphone??)

I received 2 skills test errors, one for a single pullup on the campsite back-in and one for not getting the back of the coach in the two foot space at the back of the campsite parking spot. I received 12 errors on the driving test. 11 of these were for failing to do “traffic checks”. 8 of those were from failing to do the traffic check immediately after I completed turns. The other was for failing to observe the overpass clearance.

I hope this helps someone to prepare for the license. I am writing this because this info sure would have helped me.


Nat

2012 Tiffin Phaeton 42LH

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The Western States

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Posted: 01/25/13 10:00pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great post.

Be advised that there are many prohibited CA roads for 40'+ vehicles regardless of registration or license. Significant portions of US 1 for example. Click.

I actually called the CHP to see if there was any way to use US 20 to Ft Bragg. Apparently not.


2009 Holiday Rambler 42 Scepter with ISL 400 Cummins
2004 Honda CR-V

Bob


gsf35099

Granite Shoals, TX

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Posted: 01/25/13 10:02pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for the write up. I'm going in before too long here in Texas to do the driving portion and have not been able to find anything on what the test is like. I would think the driving test here is pretty close to out there as the written test was from the Federal Commercial booklet.


Kaven
2005 Damon Astoria 38' DP
300 Cummins ISB, Allison auto 5 speed
Normally with 20' Vnose toy hauler in tow with Harley & Golf Cart.

Life is to short not to have a good time and enjoy!!!


doc brown

Redondo Beach, CA,

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Posted: 01/25/13 10:14pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I got mine 6 years ago - I'm only 40' but good to have.


Steve,Kathy,Josh & Morpheus the Basenji
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Bumpyroad

Virginia

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Posted: 01/26/13 05:42am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

doc brown wrote:

I got mine 6 years ago - I'm only 40' but good to have.


unless you are going to buy something over 40 ft. why? I mean twice a year physicals, more hoops to jump through, etc.
bumpy





bsinmich

Holland, MI

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Posted: 01/26/13 06:10am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Bumpyroad wrote:

doc brown wrote:

I got mine 6 years ago - I'm only 40' but good to have.


unless you are going to buy something over 40 ft. why? I mean twice a year physicals, more hoops to jump through, etc.
bumpy

I think that means a physical every 2 years.


2003 Newmar Mountain Aire, Workhorse W22, 2008 Saturn Vue, Falcon 5250, & US Gear Unified Tow Brake

natgild

Friant, CA

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Posted: 01/26/13 08:13am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Oh, I forgot one thing. If you have not renewed you California Class C license within the last year, you will be required to take the regular California Driver's license written test as well.

uncle t

reno,NV

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Posted: 01/26/13 08:46am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I don't know where the 40 foot thing entered into this. The Non-commercial Class B endorsement is rerquired on RVs that have a GVWR of more than 26000 #. The only 40 foot thing in CA refers to the numerous highways where a vehicle over 40ft is prohibited. You can get the map that indicates these highways on the caltrans website.
My 40 foot Monaco is 40ft 10 inches. A 40 foot fleetwood is 39 ft 10 inches referred to sometimes as a California 40.


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ColoCamper

Somewhere in North America

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Posted: 01/26/13 09:16am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hi Nat; the testing you took for your “non-commercial Class B” license actually mirrors the testing for a “commercial Class B” license. I have a Class B CDL with Passenger (P) and School Bus (S) endorsements. All that you describe, I (and all who have Class B CDL’s) have accomplished, to include the biannual DOT physical. My question would be what would prevent you from driving a class B vehicle for commercial purposes? You could not drive a school bus, because you did not take those additional tests. Class B CDLs are issued for any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR. Additionally, Class B CDLs are issued for vehicles with air brakes. In my mind, it appears that you have met all the requirements for the commercial version of the Class B license
Just my humble opinion
John


John & Maria and Tucky - An American Eskimo Dog
2003 Newmar DSDP 4050 - On the road April 1, 2005 - Free at last!
Currently in San Diego, CA!


srx-6

Houston

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Posted: 01/26/13 11:19am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

uncle t wrote:

I don't know where the 40 foot thing entered into this. The Non-commercial Class B endorsement is rerquired on RVs that have a GVWR of more than 26000 #. The only 40 foot thing in CA refers to the numerous highways where a vehicle over 40ft is prohibited. You can get the map that indicates these highways on the caltrans website.
My 40 foot Monaco is 40ft 10 inches. A 40 foot fleetwood is 39 ft 10 inches referred to sometimes as a California 40.


This was taken from the California DMV Website

A Noncommercial Class B license and endorsement is required if you operate:

A housecar over 40 feet but not over 45 feet.

Exemptions: Holders of a commercial Class A or B license, a noncommercial Class A license, and all fire fighter license classes.


JB & MB
2009 Monaco Camelot PDQ
2008 Jeep Wrangler

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