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  • Tennessee Driver’s License Classifications (A Complete 2022 Guide)

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Some would say that it is relatively easier to obtain a driver’s license in Tennessee than it is in other states. 

That may be true, but that doesn’t mean you get to drive ANY type of vehicle you want. 

First, you need to get the right driver’s license type

In Tennessee, the driver’s license classifications are a bit more specific. 

But don’t worry. 

We’re going to give you a complete guide on the Tennessee driver’s license classifications. Plus, we’ll also tell you how to get each license type and answer some of the most frequently asked questions. 

So shall we?

Tennessee Driver’s License Classes

  • Class A (Commercial)

A Class A Commercial license authorizes the holder to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) over 26,000 lbs. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the towed vehicle should be more than 10,000 lbs.

  • Class B (Commercial)

A Class B Commercial license permits the holder to operate a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs or more and tow a trailer or any vehicle with a GVWR not exceeding 10,000 lbs.

  • Class C (Commercial)

A Class C Commercial license allows the holder to operate any single or combination motor vehicles that do not meet the definition of Classes A and B. These vehicles should also be designed to either transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or carry hazardous materials. A bus may be considered Class B or C depending on its GCWR. 

  • Class D

Also known as the regular license, Class D permits the holder to operate non-commercial motor vehicles that do not belong to any of the above categories. You’ll be able to drive your personal car around with this class. 

  • Class H/XH (Hardship Driver License)

A Class H/XH license is a special type of license that allows the holder who is at least 14 years old to drive a Class D or a Class M motor vehicle. It is available only to operators who belong to families experiencing hardship and is limited to specific needs. To know more about a hardship driver’s license, click here

  • Class M

A Class M license permits the holder to operate motorcycles.

  • Class XD/XM (Permit)

A person qualifies for a Class XD/XM license if the federal government authorizes their legal presence in the US for a specific purpose and period. It is also called a temporary driver’s license.

Obtaining a Class D Driver’s License in Tennessee

Tennessee follows a Graduated Driver License (GDL) program. 

Tennessee’s GDL system is a three-level program that helps drivers under the age of 18 learn driving knowledge and develop skills as they ease into full driving privileges. 

Level one is the learner’s permit, which allows you to drive a vehicle, subject to the following restrictions:

  • A licensed driver who is at least 21 years old must be present and seated on the front seat.
  • You may not drive between 10 PM and 6 AM.

Below are the steps on how to apply for this learner’s permit:

  • You should be at least 15 years old.
  • You must pass a vision screening test.
  • You must pass a Class D knowledge exam.
  • Your parent or guardian must sign a minor affidavit and financial responsibility form.
  • You must submit proof of attendance from a school in Tennessee.

To advance to level two of the GDL program, which earns you an Intermediate Restricted License, you must satisfy the following qualifications:

  • You need to be at least 16 years old.
  • You must have held your permit for at least 180 days with no more than six points on your driving record.
  • You must complete 50 hours of driving practice, 10 hours of which must be done at night. To prove this, you must submit a log with verification from your parent or guardian.
  • You must pass a road skills test.

With the intermediate restricted license, you can drive unsupervised subject to the following restrictions:

  • You may transport only one passenger.
  • You cannot drive between 11 PM and 6 AM.

To advance to level three of the GDL or the Intermediate Unrestricted License, you must meet the following qualifications:

  • You are at least 17 years old.
  • You have held your intermediate restricted license for at least one year with no more than six points on your record.
  • You must not have two seatbelt violations.

Upon completing the intermediate unrestricted license requirements and turning 18, you may then obtain a regular Class D license by visiting the nearest DMV office. The word ‘Intermediate’ will be removed from your license, but it will still include indicators for drivers under 21. 

Obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License in Tennessee

To qualify for a CDL in Tennessee, you must meet the following age requirements:

  • At least 18 years old for intrastate transport.
  • At least 21 years old to drive interstate and haul hazardous materials.

Before receiving a CDL, you must first apply for a learner’s permit. 

Below are the requirements to obtain a CDL learner’s permit:

  • Valid DOT medical card
  • Proof of social security number
  • Valid non-commercial driver’s license
  • Proof of residence in Tennessee
  • Proof of US citizenship, legal presence, or permanent resident status

Click here for a list of accepted documents.

To get your full CDL, you must pass a knowledge test and a skills test. 

You can take the knowledge test at any Full-Driver Service Center and the road test by scheduling an appointment at any driver services center. 

Obtaining a Class M License in Tennessee

To obtain a Class M license in Tennessee, you need to apply in person at any full-service Driver Services Center.

If you hold a Class D license, the motorcycle exam will consist of a vision screening, a motorcycle rules of the road knowledge test, pre-trip inspection, and motorcycle skills or road test. 

If you have completed a Tennessee Certified Motorcycle Rider Education program, you may waive the skills test. 

If you do not currently have a Class D license, you will need to take the regular rules of the road knowledge exam in addition to the above-mentioned tests.

Tennessee Driver’s License Classification FAQs

Is driver’s ed required in Tennessee?

No, driver’s education is not mandatory in Tennessee. However, you can still take one to gain more knowledge about traffic laws and regulations and improve your driving skills. 

If you decide to sign up for an online driver’s education course, we highly recommend DriversEd.

Tennessee Driver's License Classifications DriversEd

This school is America’s number one online driving school. Its driver’s ed program features interactive content that makes learning fun for students. 

It contains high-quality videos, rich images, 3D animations, games, and quizzes that effectively teach students the necessary skills and keep them entertained.

What do I need a commercial driver’s license for?

You need a CDL for large vehicles, such as tankers, tractor-trailers, flatbeds, straight trucks, large passenger buses, dump trucks, etc… The license class will depend on the GVWR of the vehicle.

Also, you must use these vehicles for commercial purposes. 

How long are driver’s licenses valid in Tennessee?

Driver’s licenses in Tennessee are valid for eight years. A hardship driver’s license expires on the holder’s 16th birthday. 

Conclusion

There are seven license classes in the state of Tennessee. 

Each one gives you driving privileges, but not all of them permit you to drive certain types of vehicles. 

Knowing which license class you need helps you save time in preparing for the application requirements.  

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