Driver's license for BIG trucks

Felipe

Observer
Hello,
Wife and I are starting to plan a trip from La Paz in Baja Sur to Tuktoyaktuk. We want to travel summer 2019.
Our rig is BIG, it's registered in Mexico and we are Mexican citizens. We have Mexican driver's license that allows us to legally drive our truck in Mexico.

After doing some research, we have many doubts of what kind of driving license we need to drive our truck in the USA and Canada. . Our rig is 18 ton gross weight (40,000 pounds) Actual weight loaded is only 14 ton (30,000 pounds) but it clearly exceeds the 26,000 pound limit for RV’s.
I have read in different forums that for Mexican truck drivers (commercial trucks) to be allowed to drive in the US and Canada, they need a “Mexican Federal Driver’s Licence” but information is not clear and most times confusing and contradicting. Our truck is not a commercial truck, it's an RV, but is BIG.

Following some advise that was given in other thread, we have tried to contact AAA, CAA, AAMVA (American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators) and DOT (Department of Transportation) by e-mail several times to find out, but we have got no answer.

My concern on the driver’s licence is that I don’t want to have any trouble with authorities in case I get stoped for any reason with Mexican License Plates on the truck or in case I have an accident. I need to be sure Im all “legal”

Can someone point us in the right direction on where/how we can find out ?
How European travelers with similar trucks deal with this ?
Picture of my truck attached for reference
Thanks a lot in advance
Regards
Felipe

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luthj

Adventurer
I haven no firsthand experience with importing/operating this vehicle in the USA. I am familiar with the international driving treaty, and have imported my vehicle into other countries. Under this treaty you are entitled to operate your temporary import as long as your license is valid for that vehicle class in your home country. For example, in New Zealand our vehicle was classed as a heavy vehicle, and we would have needed a special license if we operated it commercially. However, as it was a temporary import, we were allowed to use our Oklahoma drivers license.

In my experience (not the USA) you are allowed/entitled to operate the vehicle which is attached to your VISA via the temporary import permit (TIP). The vehicle must not be used for commercial purposes, and you must be properly licensed to operate it in your home country.

In most (all?) USA states you will be avoiding commercial driver laws, because you vehicle is an RV. Is it registered as an RV in Mexico? Each state is slightly different in how they handle heavy vehicles. In general you are excepted from needing a commercial driving license if the vehicle is an RV, and is used for personal enjoyment.



Unfortunately many DOT inspectors don't know anything about this. Being over a certain weight means you will need to stop at some weigh stations (RVs are often exempt).
 
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Unbelievably no matter how big your RV is a regular private drivers license works in North America. I have a commercial drivers license since it’s required for my 12.7 metric ton U500 camper in Europe, Russia, Australia etc. But I have never been asked to show it anywhere.
To be perfectly clear: if it is an RV you do NOT need any special license in USA or Canada.
There are many huge RVs being driven by people that should not be driving a Prius.
 
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dwh

Tail-End Charlie
Our rig is 18 ton gross weight (40,000 pounds) Actual weight loaded is only 14 ton (30,000 pounds) but it clearly exceeds the 26,000 pound limit for RV’s.
There is no "26,000 pound limit for RV's".

The Winnebago "Grand Tour" Class A has a GVWR over 45,000 pounds.

For driver's licenses there are limits. In most states, the normal license that everyone has is called either "Class C" or "Class D" (depending on the state). These are usually limited to operating a vehicle under 26,001 pounds or towing a trailer under 10,001 pounds.

HOWEVER...

RVs, and certain other types of privately owned vehicles (like horse trailers), are EXEMPT from those limits.

A person with a normal Class C license can legally drive a 45,000 pound Winnebago.

Is your truck registered as an RV in Mexico? If so, you should not need any special license in the U.S.
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
If your truck has air brakes, you will technically need an air brakes endorsement on your license.

However, there are large, well-known, truck rental companies in the U.S., that regularly rent trucks that are less than 26,001 pounds, but do have air brakes, to anyone who walks in off the street with a Class C license and no air brakes endorsement.

I have no doubt that there are plenty of people driving large RVs with air brakes, who do not have an air brakes endorsement on their license.

Probably they never have issues with the police...as long as nothing goes wrong. But if there is an accident, be sure the police and the insurance companies will jump all over any technicality.
 

Ozrockrat

Expedition Leader
I would suggest getting an IDP (International Drivers Permit) as a backup just in case you need to prove to someone who doesn’t read Spanish that you have a suitable license.

But they really are not that useful. When I have been picked up for speeding in the USA and Canada they both basically ignored the IDP and wanted to see my Australian license. As long as it was valid (not expired) they were OK.
 

shortbus4x4

Expedition Leader
Nice truck. Pretty much what was already said. If it is registered as an RV you don't need a commercial drivers license, some states in the US do require an air brake endorsement on your regular license if your RV has air brakes.
 

waveslider

Outdoorsman
Felipe, Good Luck to you and your wife on your big adventure.

And of course, we all would like to hear about your truck (I won't be at Overland Expo or would meet you in person)

I'd love to hear how your trip is going so don't hesitate to post updates on the forum. (Which makes me wonder if we could talk mods into a "Big Trucks" ongoing adventures sub forum or something)
 

Grenadiers

Adventurer
I agree with all of the RV comments about your drivers license. However, after living in Arizona for six years, I would be concerned about over-zealous cops pulling you over on a stupid pretense of an ‘illegal lane change’ or, racial profiling, etc. Civil asset forfeiture is big business in Arizona and Texas. If I were you, I would go through Tijuana and north through California. Skip AZ and TX.
 

Ozrockrat

Expedition Leader
I agree with all of the RV comments about your drivers license. However, after living in Arizona for six years, I would be concerned about over-zealous cops pulling you over on a stupid pretense of an ‘illegal lane change’ or, racial profiling, etc. Civil asset forfeiture is big business in Arizona and Texas. If I were you, I would go through Tijuana and north through California. Skip AZ and TX.
I must live in a different AZ to you. No one I know has been subjected to “over-zealous cops” included literally hundreds of travelers we have hosted from all over the world in foreign registered vehicles (including Mexican).

I never had a problem when I lived in Texas either.

So I would say welcome to AZ and if you come this way you are welcome at our place for a beer, burger and a place to park the truck.
 
2X
So I would say welcome to the central coast of California (Arroyo Grande) and if you come this way you are welcome at our place for a beer, burger and a place to park the truck.
 

Joe917

Explorer
Filipe, the USA and Canadian license laws do not apply to you if you are driving a Mexican vehicle with a Mexican driver's license. You must meet the requirements of your home jurisdiction, an international driving treaty covers all foreign drivers .
 

Grenadiers

Adventurer
Well Oz, another opinion, that’s great. I’m only referencing articles in local and national news sources, and surly can believe that no one you know has had this problem.
 
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