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In the state of Alabama, there are different driver’s license classifications issued by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

Now, if you’re looking to get a driver’s license, the classifications, as well as requirements, may be overwhelming. 

Which license should you get?

What are the requirements to get that license?

We’re here to help. 

In this article, we’ll explain the different Alabama driver’s license classifications. We’ll also explain the basic requirements and what you must do to obtain an Alabama driver's license. 

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started right away!

Driver’s License Classifications in Alabama

The different  license classifications (and endorsements) issued in the state of Alabama are:

  • Class A - valid for any combination of vehicles with Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001lbs or more (if the vehicle is towing an excess of 10,000 lbs).
  • Class B - valid for a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001lbs and is NOT towing an excess of 10,000lbs GVWR.
  • Class C - valid for a single vehicle (less than 26,001lbs GVWR) or a vehicle towing another vehicle that does not exceed 10,000lbs GVWR. 
    • This includes vehicles designed to carry 16 or more passengers with the driver, and vehicles used to transport hazardous materials.
  • Class D - valid for private passengers or a standard/regular operator.
  • Class M - valid for motorcycle and motor-driven cycles.
  • Class V - valid for motorized watercraft.

Here are the permits: 

  • Learner's Permit (15 years old)
  • Learner's License and Restricted License (16 older)
  • Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Learner License Permit

How to Obtain a Standard Class D License in Alabama

In Alabama, the minimum driving age is 16. However, you can already obtain a Learner's Permit at 15. This is so you can learn how to safely and effectively operate a motor vehicle for behind-the-wheel training. 

Now, there are three stages for a Class D license. These are:

  • Stage I (Learner’s Permit) for applicants 15 years or older.
  • Stage II (Restricted License) for applicants 16 years old or older.
  • Stage III (Unrestricted or Regular License) for applicants 17 years old or older.

Let’s check the requirements for each stage.

Stage I (Learner’s Permit)

To get this, you need to pass the examination for this permit. The exam will be based on the information found in the Alabama Driver's Manual.

Side note: if you want to ace the exam on your first go, it’s a great idea to take an online driver’s ed course from schools such as DriversEd and DriverEdToGo.

Alabama Driver’s License Classifications and License Requirements DriverEdToGo

Side note II: although driver’s ed isn’t required in Alabama, it’s best to take it for more understanding of driving safety and road rules/laws.

Once you pass the required examination, you will be issued a Class D driver's license with a "Y" restriction.

This restriction limits you to only operate a vehicle while accompanied by a person who is at least 21 years old and is a fully licensed driver or a certified driving instructor. This person should always occupy the seat beside you. 

This license is valid for 4 years.

Stage II (Restricted License)

This 2nd stage is you driving without supervision. However, there are still some restrictions, including:

  • No driving from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. unless you are accompanied by:
    • a parent or legal guardian
    • a licensed driver 21yo or older (with a parent or legal guardian’s consent) going to or from an event sponsored by the school or religious organization
    • You are going to or from a place of employment
    • You are driving for a medical, fire, or law- enforcement-related emergency
  • No more than one passenger in the vehicle (except for parents, legal guardians, or family members)
  • You are not allowed to use any handheld communication devices while driving

To apply, you must be at least 16 years old.  Plus, you need permission from a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian. 

This time around, you need to take an exam and a road skill test. Again, these are based on the 

Alabama Driver's Manual

Stage III (Unrestricted or Regular License)

This license can be obtained by applicants age 17 or older. 

Side note: those who are still 17 years old must have a Stage II license for at least six months before they can apply for a Stage III license.

Meanwhile, applicants who are already 18 years or older may apply immediately for a Stage III license after passing the required road skills exam.

This license is a regular Class D license. 

How to Obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (Class A, B, C) in Alabama

If you want to drive a commercial vehicle, you need a CDL. Let’s review the CDL Class types again.

  • Class A: operates vehicles that weigh more than 26,001 pounds that tow trailers or other vehicles that weigh over 10,000 pounds
  • Class B: operate vehicles more than 26,001 pounds and tow trailers or vehicles that weigh less than 10,000 pounds
  • Class C: operate vehicles that transport hazardous materials or those that can transport 16 or more passengers

Side note: if being issued a CDL for the first time, or upgrading, a Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP) shall be issued first and must be held for at least 14 days before trying for the CDL. You can check the Commercial Driver's License Manual for more information.

As for the requirements, here are the basics for a CDL:

  • You must have a current Class D driver's license
  • You must have your Social Security card for verification
  • You must live or are domiciled in Alabama
  • Proof of insurance
  • Unless medically exempt, a current Department of Transportation long medical form
  • A transportation Security Administration background check if the applicant is transferring or obtaining a hazardous materials endorsement

In addition to the above requirements, you will also need to pass the appropriate knowledge tests and skills tests to get a CDL. These are:

  • Knowledge tests
  • Skills tests
  • CDL self-certification
  • Military skills waiver

Knowledge Tests

Depending on the class of license and what endorsement you need, you will have to take the 

General knowledge test or other knowledge tests from this list:

  • Passenger transport test
  • Air brakes test
  • Combination vehicles test
  • Hazardous materials test
  • Tanker test
  • Doubles/triples test
  • School Bus test

Skills Tests

If you pass the required knowledge test(s), you can take the CDL skills tests. This will require you to drive the type of vehicle for your license Class. The 3 types of skills tests are:

  • Pre-trip Vehicle Inspection
  • Basic Vehicle Control
  • On-road Test

Side note: you cannot use any vehicle that has components marked or labeled for the Pre-Trip Inspection Test.

CDL Self-Certification

According to Federal Regulations 49 CFR 383, 384, 390, and 391, all holders of a CDL license class (A, B, or C) must certify to the type of commercial operation they’re engaged in. 

You can self-certify on the ALEA website to a single type of commercial operation on your driver license application form. 

Side note: you may be required to provide ALEA with a current medical examiner’s certificate and, if applicable, provide any variance (waiver) you may have along with the medical certification card depending on that self-certification.

Military Skills Waiver

You can get a military skills waiver if:

  • You are a licensed military service member
  • You are, or were, employed in any military transportation unit within the past 12 mos
  • You were required to operate a military motor vehicle equivalent to a commercial motor vehicle

With this waiver, you won’t need to take the skills test. But you must still take the required knowledge CDL test, depending on the type of vehicle you wish to operate.

You should request the waiver form at any ALEA CDL testing office when you take your knowledge test(s).

How to Obtain a Motorcycle or Class M License in Alabama

Since May 2015, Alabama has required a Class M license for those that want to drive a motorcycle. 

This is different in that it isn’t a license on its own. It’s more like an endorsement, which you can add to your, say, Class D license. 

To obtain the class M endorsement, you’ll need to:

  • Be at least 16 years old 
  • Complete the DPS’ motorcycle knowledge exam
  • Complete a motorcycle safety course

Side note: studying both the Motorcycle Operator Manual and the Driver’s Manual will help you pass the exam.

If you are 14 or 15 years old, you can get a B-restricted motorbike driving license. With this restriction, you will only be allowed to ride bikes that are motor-driven, meaning:

  • It is a lower-speed bike that is not suitable for highways
  • It weighs less than 200 pounds 

As for the motorcycle safety course, you can take any one of these:

  • Basic Rider Course (BRC)
  • Basic Bike Bonding Rider Course (BBBRC)
  • Basic Rider Course 2 (BRC2)
  • Advanced Rider Course (ARC)
  • Ultimate Bike Bonding Rider Course (UBBRC)
  • Ridercoach Preparation Course

How to Obtain a Class V Boat License

If you intend to operate a motorized watercraft, you must apply to have the vessel class "V" endorsement added to your license.

The minimum requirement to operate a motorized water vessel on Alabama's waterways is to be at least 12 years old.

To be licensed, you must pass a written examination, except if:

  • You were already 40yo or older on April 28, 1994
  • You have completed the boating courses given by the:
    • U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
    • U.S. Power Squadron
    • Alabama Marine Police "Boating Basics"

If interested, you may apply and take the exam at any Department of Public Safety Driver License Offices across the state. 

Side note: if you are under the age of 14, you will only be given a Vessel Learner License and you must be accompanied by a Vessel Licensed driver that is 21 years old or older when you operate.

For more information on this, you can check the Alabama Boat Certification Manual.

Conclusion

As with each state, or country, driver licensing laws can be a bit overwhelming as there are lots of classifications, restrictions, requirements, endorsements, etc… 

For the people in Alabama, we hope that we made it a bit more understandable and bearable with this article. 

Remember, this guide provides the basic requirements, but don’t forget to review the entire licensing process for the complete details. You can check the ALEA website or the following manuals for reference:

Good luck!

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