British Columbia, just as throughout the rest of Canada, divides driver’s licenses into nine different categories. Although technically any driver’s license used to drive a business vehicle, British Columbia generally considers Class 1-4 licenses to be “commercial” driver’s licenses.
A Class 1 driver’s license can be used to drive semi-trailer trucks, making it the most common category of license thought of as a “commercial driver’s license”. Anyone holding a Class 1 license can also drive any other vehicle permitted in Class 2, Class 3, Class 4 and Class 5. Holding a Class 1 driver’s license does NOT give you permission to operate a motorcycle.
Generally speaking, a Class 2 driver’s license is for the operation of a large bus, including city buses, special activity buses, school buses and special vehicles. The holder of a Class 2 license can also drive any vehicle from Class 4 and Class 5.
A Class 3 license is used to operate large trucks with multiple axles, but not buses carrying passengers. Many common Class 3 vehicles include dump trucks, tow trucks and mobile truck cranes. A person holding a Class 3 license can also legally operate any Class 5 vehicle.
This is often called an “unrestricted” Class 4 license, because it allows drivers to operate buses, including school buses, special activity buses and special vehicles, as long as they are capable of transporting 25 or fewer people. A Class 4A license can also be used to drive ambulances, taxis and limousines, as well as any vehicle in Class 5.
Referred to in British Columbia as a “restricted” Class 4 license, drivers can operate a taxi or limousine so long as it holds 10 people or fewer, including the driver. A class 4 license can also be used to drive ambulances or any special vehicle so long as it cannot transport more than 10 people, including the driver. British Columbia specifically requires anyone driving for an on-demand payment system such as Uber or Lyft to obtain a Class 4B license. All holders of Class 4 licenses can operate a Class 5 vehicle.
All driver’s license have minimum requirements that must be met in order to obtain the license. Because commercial vehicles are often much larger, the driver’s license necessary to operate them has more stringent requirements than other forms of driver’s licenses.
Anyone who wishes to obtain a Class 1, Class 2, or Class 4 license must be 19 years or older. Anyone who wants to obtain a Class 3 license must be at least 18 years of age or older.
A person wishing to obtain a commercial driver’s licence in BC must already have a Class 5 or Class 6 British Columbia driver’s license, or an approved out-of-province comparable class driver’s license.
Anyone wishing to qualify for a commercial driver’s license must have a relatively clean driving record, with fewer than four penalty points in the past two years, as well as no criminal convictions within the past three years for driving-related offenses.
All persons wishing to obtain a commercial driver’s license must undergo a medical exam beforehand. A variety of medical conditions, including, but not limited to: brain hemorrhages, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and extreme obesity may preclude a person from obtaining a commercial driver’s license. Amputees and people with other physical disabilities are permitted to use prosthetic devices or operate modified vehicles in order to conduct their driving license exams.
Out of Province Licenses
If you hold a valid driver’s license from another province, territory or state in Canada, or even from another country, you can apply to the Registrar of Motor Vehicle to be awarded an equivalent class of license in British Columbia.
Steps to Getting your Commercial Driver’s License
Here are the steps necessary to obtaining a Class 1-4 driver’s license in British Columbia:
- Study – Read and learn the rules of driving commercial vehicles.
- Road Signs – Take the road signs practice test.
- To Bring – Don’t forget your ID, any glasses or contact lenses, and money.
- Air brake – Make sure you’ve already completed an air brake course. Take the air brake knowledge test. If you fail three times, you’ll have to re-do the test later.
- Vehicle – Remember you’re responsible for bringing a vehicle suitable for the class of license you’re testing for.
- Take and pass the road test – Once you’ve passed all inspections, you can take the Commercial Driver Road test.
If you passed the prerequisites, exams and road test, you now are now legally able to operate commercial vehicles in British Columbia.