I've read many other topics posted re: Driver's License For Motorhome Over 26,000 pounds which prompts as many different opinions as there are states which is the real answer. There are no federal standards, thus each state has its own licensing regulations. In this specific discussion, I would like to focus on the Pennsylvania DOT requirements for Driver's License For Motorhome Over 26,000 pounds.
First - As with ALL of the other forums, the common thread is:> When asked, Dealers will tell you, "No special License Required, Drive & Enjoy"! In the State of Pennsylvania, IF the Motorhome is over 26,001 pounds, a NON-COMMERCIAL CLASS B License IS REQUIRED. See the following link & read the 2nd Class Definition/Class B: http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/driverLicensePhotoIDCenter/license_classes.shtml
So - for those that believed their dealer, friend or relative that state, "Just Drive & Enjoy, You Don't Need A Special License" - THEY'RE WRONG! IF you reside in the state of PA and your Motorhome is OVER 26,001 pounds - You ARE required to obtain a NON COMMERCIAL CLASS B License. Now, here is where the fun comes in to play in dealing with PENN DOT and MY ACTUAL EXPERIENCE(s)!
AGAIN - THIS IS ONLY MY FINDINGS IN THE STATE OF PA - I AM NOT DISCUSSING ANY OTHER STATE THAN PA!
Over 3 years ago, my wife & I invested in our 1st, Class A, Fleetwood Discovery 39S, Diesel Motorhome with an Unladen Weight of 26,200 Pounds – We Drove & Enjoyed! In 2012 we upgraded & invested into a new Tiffin Phaeton 40QBH, Diesel Motorhome with an Unladen Weight of 27,200 Pounds – We’ve Drive & Enjoy! (NOTE: Unladen Weight is a PA Required Measurement which is on the Title/Registration & It means, Totally Empty, No Fluids, No Contents, Just the Coach Weight). Now, in between our 1st and 2nd coach – I decided to look at the PENN DOT Driver’s License Dept’s web site & you know what I found – See the link above – YIKES!!!
I’ve been and still currently driving our Motorhome(s) illegally! We’ve been thru every state in the continental US in our coaches except for 19. This summer, we’ll traverse the other 19 states! With that said, I started the quest to become a legal owner/operator of our motorhome and went to PENN DOT Driver’s License Dept. When I arrived and inquired about obtaining a NON COMMERCIAL, CLASS B DRIVER’S PERMIT, the gentleman asked what I needed this for, and I explained, that I have a 40’ Motorhome over 26,001 pounds. He said, you mean, “AN RV”? I said, well, it’s actually a CLASS A Motorhome Sir. He said, YOU DON’T NEED A SPECIAL LICENSE! I grabbed my smartphone, pulled up the PENN DOT web site & showed him the link (above). Now, another gentleman at the center overheard us and he said, Yeah, He’s right (meaning me). I asked about obtaining my PERMIT. He said, You’ll have to take a test first & It’s $150 – WHAT???? Here comes a 3rd gentleman at the center. Now I have 3 people working on this. The 3rd said, NO, he does not need a test for the permit & its only $5 not $150. This is a NON COMMERCIAL CLASS B PERMIT. He first quoted me a CDL Permit which needed a test & $150. Finally, I obtained my NON Commercial Class B Permit which stated – I HAD to have a LICENSED CLASS B or Higher Driver with me at ALL TIMES – I Laughed Out Loud!!!!!!! It took 3 people none of which agreed nor really knew the requirements except the 3rd one and he had to look it up. This took me over an 1 hour & many discussions.
Here comes another shocker – When I asked for the handbook (guideline or study book) for the eventual test I would have to take – They came back & said, there is no handbook for the NON COMMERCIAL CLASS B LICENSE. I asked well how is the testing done & what do I have set up for such a test. Again, 3 Different answers. Now, Here comes a Supervisor. There are now, 4 people involved in this process. The supervisor hands me my permit & says “Call this 800 Number to schedule your test” at a later time. You’ll drive to the center, park it, one of the testing agents will go for a ride with you and “IF YOU DON’T HIT ANYTHING – YOU’LL PASS” – “That’s IT” was my response? Yes Sir, however, you’ll have to travel to a center that is equipped to do BIG RIG testing (meaning Semi’s, etc.). And you’ll need to have a LICENSED CLASS B OR HIGHER DRIVER with you on the day of the test. I asked the Supervisor, is there any materials or any special requirements I need to be aware of prior to the test. No Sir, there is NO Printed Material for a NON COMMERCIAL CLASS B Driver’s License. Ok, Thank You!
Now, I asked my close friend who is a Class B & HIGHER (CDL Class A License Driver) if he’d take a ½ day off of work to take this test with me (The test center is over 30 miles away). He was glad to help & took the time away to assist me in obtaining my proper credentials from Penn DOT. We arrive at the center early, met by the testing agent in my coach. He reviews my friend’s paperwork, my permit, current license, my PA registration and insurance card (the normal stuff).He excuses my friend out of the coach & into their facility. The agent began asking routine questions of the coach & my background. He then said, does this vehicle have air brakes? I said that in does have air brakes and we’re on a Freightliner chassis. The agent then says, Ok, let’s proceed with the AIR BRAKE TEST! Remember, there was NO Study guide, Handbook, nothing available to ready/study/learn with. It’s Just Get In & Drive while we observe your driving skills. I relayed this entire process along with my initial meeting with the Driver’s License Center to the testing agent. He listened and then stated, “Let’s proceed with the AIR BRAKE TEST”! Unsure what he was after, I remembered my friend who rode with me to the test showing me about bleeding off the air on the air brakes to the point where the “Parking Brake POPPED” and I assumed that was the AIR BRAKE TEST the agent was referring to. Guess What? – WRONG!! He said, IN THE HANDBOOK it talks specifically about Air Brakes and the testing procedures to ensure your air systems are producing and maintaining proper air to stop the coach safely under any situation. My response was – “HANDBOOK” – WHAT HANDBOOK? I asked 3 other gentlemen and a supervisor on my initial meeting about a study guide or handbook and they all said there wasn’t one. He said – “they’re right there isn’t a Class B handbook – But there’s the COMMERCIAL CDL Driver’s Manual that Covers Air Brakes and the testing procedure!!!!! WHAT?????????????
The testing agent stopped the test and said, “shut the coach down, lock it up, let’s go inside to talk with my supervisor. He said that he wanted to get permission to give me the handbook, give me time to study that AIR BRAKE test and then he’d re-test me as soon as I was ready (meaning within an hour).” I said, Ok, but why have I been getting all this confusing information and lack of proper direction. He didn’t respond. He handed me the HANDBOOK – highlighted the Air Brake Test Section and said, read this, and know it like you do your S.S. Number – I’ll be back after I speak with my supervisor. The Handbook is 12 Sections long and in small print on phone book style paper and at least 150 pages long. Remember, I was told there was NO HANDBOOK to study or learn from!! The Supervisor finally comes out to the hall where I’m reading and without introducing himself or saying anything other than – YOU NEED TO RESCHEDULE AND COME BACK ANOTHER DAY! We’re too busy today to wait around for you today!
That’s about the time – IT HIT THE FAN!!!!!!!!! I stated again only with emotion this time about the insane and inept process. I had to ask my friend to take time off to do this for me and then waste ALL of my Diesel fuel driving the 100 round trip to the testing center only to be told WE’RE TOO BUSY TODAY TO WAIT ON YOU WHEN I WAS TOLD THERE WAS NO HANDBOOK!!! I looked at this STUPID-VISOR and claimed – Guess What – I’m going to do what 90% of the PA Motorhome Owners do – I’m gonna Drive & Enjoy! Forget IT !!!!!!!!!!
He shouted to me as I walked out the door, you shouldn’t do that - I’ll make this a NON TEST as opposed to a Failure on your permit – I smiled (kinda) and said, “Whatever” & left….
WHAT HAD JUST HAPPENED – This was like a scene from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory!!!!!!!!!!
My friend & I left for home discussing the entire debacle that just unfolded – He said, you tried, NOW, Go, Drive & Enjoy!!!!!
After several hours and finally calming down, I called the main Penn DOT Driver’s License Center (1-800-423-5542). I spoke with a very nice operator and asked if there was a different facility than the one I went to earlier that day which there was but it was another 20 miles north than where I had just gone. I explained that happened, she transferred me to her immediate Supervisor who listened to the entire process and what took place at the testing center.
After a 1 hour phone call with this Supervisor and being apologized to at least 12 times – He proceeded to inform me that he had been checking with other Supervisors in the Main Licensing Center and they had sent messages to other divisions across the State of PA and ALL CONFIRMED that for the PA NON COMMERCIAL CLASS B TESTING – It was to be a DRIVING & SKILLS TEST ONLY!!!!
He apologized numerous times again and then asked me what center I had gone to and who the testing agent was which I only had his 1st name and then he asked the Stupid-Visor’s Name which I explained he didn’t introduce himself and just told me to reschedule for another test on another day! I was asked WHAT DID HE LOOK LIKE? I did my best to give a description and also did my best not to laugh (or cry) at this point! He closed the phone conversation stating that by the middle of next week, I will receive a phone call from himself or another Main Center Supervisor to confirm their findings and WHY I was being asked to do more than the Driving & Skills Test Only!
Now, at this point, I am going to see this through and I WILL GET MY PENNSYLVANIA NON COMMERCIAL CLASS B LICENSE!
I share this entire process and story ONLY to give a True Life Experience with “Government in Confusion” and how people with Titles of Stupid-Visors need to KNOW what their JOB is and what proper guidance/direction is needed to both their employees and the civilians who come to their centers with unclear answers seeking proper guidance and directions as well…….
There are those that really do care and want to perform at a high level in their occupation – It’s sad that this is so hard to find in government where actually THEY work FOR US!!!!!!!!!!!!!
PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES AS I STRIVE FOR UNDERSTANDING – THANKS