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So you were driving down the road the other day, gazing at the dump trucks lined up at a construction site, and thought, Gee, I’d love to drive one of those as my commuter! It’s true, people would probably get out of the way whenever you honked. And you’d never have to worry about cargo room again.

The truth is that what you can drive on public roads depends on how the vehicle is outfitted and what endorsements you have on your license. There are also some roads that allow no commercial-sized trucks at all.

So what are the classes of dump truck? Think of it this way, you can drive a regular pickup truck on most roads in this country, with a regular old license. And you can also have a pickup truck modified, swapping its standard bed out for a small dump body. That means it would technically be a dump truck, and you could easily drive it as your personal vehicle. But as your dump truck gets bigger, there’s going to be a lot more red tape.

White one-ton dump truck parked on a dirt road in the woods.
One-ton dump truck | Laura Ohlman via Unsplash

The next class of dump truck is a one-ton truck with a single rear axle and hydraulic (regular) brakes. These often have tall grilles and cabs, so they look a lot bigger than a pickup truck. But they aren’t actually rated to carry much more than the heaviest pickup trucks. While finding a parking spot might be tricky, driving them doesn’t require a lot of technical know-how. So in many states you won’t need a special driver’s license to operate one as your personal vehicle. You may, however, be banned from certain roads such as parkways. Other roads, with low clearance, can’t allow vehicles as tall as a dump truck. And on the highway you may pay a bunch more in tolls.

Every state offers what’s called a “Commercial Driver’s License.” You need additional training and testing to hold one of these. There are levels of CDLs and they also have endorsements for tricky jobs such as transporting passengers or dangerous explosives. The maximum cutoff for a CDL being required is a 26,000 pound gross vehicle weight rating. But states are allowed to set the bar lower. This means that “smaller” commercial vehicles would require a CDL.

In most states, any truck heavy enough to have two rear axles is going to require a CDL to drive. In addition, a truck with compressed air brakes, regardless of number of axles, will require special training and thus usually require a special endorsement.

Most municipalities don’t police what you are using your dump truck for. A multi-axle dump truck may be banned from smaller roads and bridges. But where dump trucks are allowed, many are empty because they are driving home from a job. So if you had the proper CDL, and were on a legal road, you probably won’t get pulled over for taking your empty dump truck for a cruise. But some cities do have set hours when heavy trucks are banned, so you definitely want to do your research.

Learn more about how much a dump truck owner/operator can expect to make in the video below:


Why Do Some Dump Trucks Have Wheels Up Top?