Warren Leith never had occasion to parallel park his motorhome — or drive it through a college campus on streets lined with low-hanging tree branches — until he tested for his Texas noncommercial Class B drivers license this past November.
“I passed it, and find it rather amusing now, but not at the time,” said Mr. Leith, a full-timer based in Pflugerville, Texas.
At an RV insurance seminar in the fall, Mr. Leith and his wife, Wilma, learned of Texas’ special license requirements for motorhomes that weigh more than 26,000 pounds. They had been driving with standard Class C auto licenses.
“My registration says my unit weighs 24,114 pounds,” Mr. Leith said. “But that’s the dry weight. The gross vehicle weight rating determines what license you have to have.”
The Leiths’ diesel-powered Fleetwood Discovery, 38 feet 11 inches long, has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 27,910 pounds. They tow a Saturn VUE that weighs approximately 3,300 pounds.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), drivers whose motorhomes' GVWR exceeds 26,000 pounds should hold an exempt (noncommercial) Class B or Class A license.
A Class B is required if the motorhome does not tow anything, or tows a trailer with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less. A Class A is required if the combined weight of the vehicle and any towed vehicle is more than 26,000 pounds and the towed vehicle has a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds.
“I’ve been a full-timer based in Texas since March 2003 and was not aware of the special license requirement,” Mr. Leith said. “I wonder how many others aren’t aware of it either, in their states. I’m told many states have similar license requirements.”
Beth Roberts of the commercial drivers' license (CDL) section at DPS headquarters described the requirements for obtaining a Texas exempt Class B or Class A license. “When a driver goes to the driver license office to upgrade their license, they will need to fill out the CDL-2 form, which states that they seek a Class A or B license that is exempted by the Texas Commercial Driver License Act. The option they will need to check is number 4, for ‘A recreational vehicle that is driven for personal use.’
“They will be exempt from various fees, laws, and regulations that apply to CDL holders,” Ms. Roberts continued, “but they will still need to take the core CDL written test and a driving test in the class of vehicle they would like to have on their license. If the vehicle has air brakes, they will also need to take the air brakes test. Each test costs $10.”
The Leiths have talked with other motorhome owners who have tested for the noncommercial Class B license in other Texas towns. “Some of our friends didn't have to parallel park but had to do other things that we didn't ... and examiners took them out in the country for the road test," Mr. Leith said.
Before taking the driving skills tests -- which consisted of basic vehicle control and on-road driving -- Mr. Leith passed a 20-question written test. The test questions for motorhomes over 26,000 pounds are covered in the Texas Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook, he said.
For specific information on the testing, Ms. Roberts advises Texas residents to contact their local Texas DPS driver license office that administers the tests.
Mr. Leith, meanwhile, encourages all FMCA members who drive heavier coaches to make sure they are legally licensed. "I hope people check their states' requirements before getting in trouble with the law or their insurance companies," he said. "I've heard that some RV insurance companies are denying coverage for accidents if drivers don't have the correct license."