Farmers, do you need a CDL? An update on regulations

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CONTACT: Brendon Wold, Deputy Communications Director | 360-786-7698

Farmers, do you need a CDL? An update on regulations

OP-ED by Rep. Joe Schmick, for the Capital Press


Hey, Rep. Schmick, do I need a CDL if…?

If I had a dime for every time I've been asked this question in the last couple of years, I'd be in a serious position to help bail out our state from its continuing budget shortfall.

Regulations have changed recently and farmers, truckers and business owners are playing a frustrating game of “catch up” on whether or not a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is required for varying situations.  With this short article, I am going to attempt to explain what I know about the most commonly asked questions and hope to alleviate citizens' concerns.

The most frequently asked question I receive is: “Do I have to have a CDL if I'm hauling my own product to market in my own vehicle?”

The answer is NO, with a couple of caveats.  You are not required to have a CDL if you're hauling your own product to market in your own vehicle, as long as you're not traveling more than 150 miles (air mile radius) and as long as that vehicle is not used in the operation of a contract motor carrier.  This CDL exemption is valid even if you're traveling to Idaho or Oregon.

However, if you are traveling over 150 miles or if your vehicle is also used as a contract motor carrier, you would not qualify for the farm exemption and would have to have a CDL.

Another commonly asked question is a little more difficult: “Do I have to have a CDL if I'm hauling my neighbor's product to market?”

This particular question includes several different scenarios and is more likely to cause frustration and confusion as many farmers rely upon the old fashioned “hand shake” barter system to get through the year.  I know I've had to ask my neighbors for help, especially during session when I'm over in Olympia away from the farm.

First of all, if any money changes hands, then a CDL is absolutely required.  However, if the hauling service is part of a barter transaction in exchange for a future or previous service, and the neighbor is driving a vehicle that belongs to the farmer, no CDL is required.

Finally, the issue of CDLs for employees of agribusinesses has generated many questions.

Until June 30, 2011, individuals operating commercial motor vehicles for agribusiness purposes are eligible for a five-year restricted CDL without meeting state minimum training requirements.  This agribusiness restricted CDL is only good for agribusiness purposes — no moonlighting as a freight carrier or driving truck for John's Trucking.

After June 30, 2011, agribusiness employees will have to comply with all prescribed health, safety and training requirements in order to obtain a CDL.

It is important to note that the scenarios mentioned in this article are by no means exhaustive.  But so far, these are the ones that seem to come up most frequently in discussions with local residents.

As any farmer or small business owner can tell you, it is imperative to know the rules and laws that govern our transactions.  It can be frustrating, especially when things change.  But there is truth to Benjamin Franklin's old adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

If you have further questions or want to explore this issue more, you can contact my office at 360-786-7844, or e-mail me at  You can also visit the Washington State Department of Transportation commercial vehicle page at:

Rep. Joe Schmick represents the 9th Legislative District.  He is a second-generation farmer and small-business owner.  Joe lives in Colfax with his wife, Kim.

Contact: Brendon Wold, Senior Information Officer, (509) 921-2356


Washington State House Republican Communications