Driver’s License Classes in Rhode Island – And How to Get Each One

Driver’s License Classes in Rhode Island - And How to Get Each One

Which RI driver’s license do you need?

Is it an operator’s license?

Or maybe it’s a Class A CDL or Class M… 

Depending on what you’re planning to drive, the credential you need may vary.

If you’re not careful, you might carry the incorrect one — which will lead to penalties. 

This is why, today, we’re going to detail the driver’s license classes in Rhode Island. 

This way, you know what to get. 

On top of that, we’ll list down the steps on how to get each license class. 

So are you ready?

Let’s jump right in!

What Are the Driver’s License Classes in Rhode Island?

There are 5 driver’s license classes in Rhode Island:

  • Operator’s License
  • Class A CDL
  • Class B CDL
  • Class C CDL
  • Class M

So, which one do you need? 

Let’s find out!

Operator’s License

All drivers in Rhode Island MUST carry an operator’s license. 

This is the basic driver’s license.

So when you refer to a driver’s license, you’re referring to this type — the one that can operate non-commercial vehicles for personal use — from sedans and SUVs to pickups to any vehicle that weighs fewer than 26,001 pounds. 

Class A CDL

CDL stands for commercial driver’s license. 

So you already have an idea about these classes. 

But what separates Class A CDL, Class B CDL, and Class C CDL?

Answer: the type of commercial vehicles it can operate. 

Let’s first look at the highest commercial license – Class A CDL. 

A Class A CDL permits you to drive a combination commercial vehicle (CV) that has a Gross Combined Weight Rating of over 26,000 pounds. The towed unit or vehicle should weigh 10,000 pounds or more. 

Big rigs, tractor-trailers, and semis are some CVs that require a Class A CDL.

Now, since A is the highest CDL, you can also use it to operate Class B and Class C CVs. 

Class B CDL

Some CVs have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) exceeding 26,000 pounds but aren’t combination vehicles.

These, such as dump trucks and box trucks, require a Class B CDL. 

These are heavy, straight vehicles that may or may not tow a unit. If towing, the unit cannot weigh more than 10,000 pounds.

A Class B CDL doesn’t offer as much flexibility as a Class A CDL, but you can still use it to drive Class C CVs.

Class C CDL

The lowest commercial license is the Class C CDL. 

These are for commercial vehicles with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or less.

But hold up…

A Class C CDL is only needed if the CV fulfills any of these purposes:

  • Transports hazardous materials requiring placards
  • Carries 15 or more passengers (excluding the driver)

Other than that, vehicles under this weight category may just need an operator’s license. 

Class M 

Okay, okay. 

This is more an endorsement than an actual stand-alone license. 

But if you also want to drive a motorcycle, you need to have an M endorsement on your driver’s license (whether operator’s or commercial).

Keep note that this does not apply if you want to drive motorized bicycles, tricycles, scooters, and autocycles. You can drive these with an operator’s license only. 

How to Get an Operator’s License in Rhode Island

Since the operator’s license is the basic, everyone needs to get it. 

So it’s essential to know the steps for this. 

Here are the steps. 

Step 1. Get an Instruction Permit (required for everyone 16 and above)

  • Pass the knowledge exam and receive your CCRI certificate.
  • Go to the Cranston DMV office (if you didn’t yet take your knowledge exam) or any DMV office and bring:
    • Your parent or legal guardian (required if you are below 18 years old).
    • Your CCRI certificate (required if you are below 18 years old).
    • A completed Application for License, Identification Card, and Permit (Form LI-1).
    • Proof of identity and birth date, SSN, and 2 proofs of RI residency. 

Click here to see which documents are acceptable at the DMV.

  • Present all the necessary documents and pass the following test(s):
  1. Vision screening
  2. Knowledge exam (if you didn’t already take it)
  • Pay the appropriate permit fee:
  1. Below 18 – $12.50
  2. Above 18 – $7.50
  • Get your instruction permit. 

Step 2. Get a Limited Provisional License (required for those 16½ to 17 years old).

  • Hold your learner’s permit for at least 6 months and maintain a clean driving record.
  • Gain 50 hours of supervised driving experience, 10 hours must be done at night. 
  • Bring the following on test day:
    • A licensed driver to accompany you. 
    • Your valid instruction permit.
    • A signed affidavit to prove that you completed the 50 hours of supervised driving. This must be signed by your parents or legal guardian. 
    • The road test car (must be registered and insured).
    • Proof of identity, birth date, Social Security Number, and 2 proofs of Rhode Island residence.
  • Submit the documents and pay the road test fee of $27.50
  • Take and pass the road test. 
  • Pay the provisional licensing fee of $24.50.
  • Get your limited provisional license.

Step 3. Get an Operator’s License. 

  • Once you’ve turned 18 (or are still 17 and have already held your provisional license for a year with a clean driving record), go to a DMV office
  • Do the following on your visit:
    • Present a completed Form LI-1
    • Present your limited provisional license
    • Pay the licensing fee

For more information — such as restrictions and how to get your license if you’re already 18+ —- check out our complete guide here. 

How to Get a Class A, B, and C CDL in Rhode Island

It doesn’t matter what CDL class you get — the process is the same. 

Step 1. Get your CDL Permit (required for 18 and above).

  • Complete the following before starting the application process:
    • Ensure you’re eligible for a commercial license (check out our ultimate guide to getting your CDL in Rhode Island for details)
    • Decide on your CDL class and endorsement
  • Make an appointment to take the CDL knowledge exam through the online reservation system. Remember, only the Cranston office administers this (from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm).
  • Pass the CDL knowledge exam(s).
  • Pay the fees:
    • Application fee – $12.50
    • Permit fee – $72.50
    • Knowledge exam(s) fee – $10 each
  • Receive your CDL permit. 

Step 2. Get Your CDL. 

  • Have your CDL permit for 14 days or longer AND complete your ELDT program.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes before your schedule with the following:
    • Your current operator’s license and valid CDL permit
    • The CMV under your CDl class (must be inspected, registered, and insured)
    • Proof of identity, proof of legal status, and 2 proofs of Rhode Island residence. 
  • Pass the CDL road test. 
  • Get your Class A, Class B, or Class C CDL. 

For more information, check out our article on “How to Get A CDL in Rhode Island”. 

How to Get a Class M Endorsement in Rhode Island

Need to add a Class M endorsement to your license?

Here are the steps. 

Step 1. Get a motorcycle permit (required for everyone 16 and above). 

  • Attend a motorcycle safety course from the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI). You need to pass the knowledge test here. 
  • Visit a DMV office with your parent or legal guardian (if below 18) and present the following:
    • Your CCRI completion certificate
    • Your current operator’s license or CDL
    • Proof of identity and birth date, SSN, and 2 proofs of RI residency
    • A completed Application for License, Identification Card, and Permit (Form LI-1).
  • Pay the $27.50 fee and receive your motorcycle permit.

Step 2. Get a motorcycle endorsement. 

  • Hold your motorcycle permit for 30 days and maintain a clean driving record.
  • Return to a DMV office and do the following:
    • Present your current driver’s license and valid motorcycle permit
    • Submit proof of identity and birth date, SSN, and 2 proofs of RI residency
    • Submit a completed Form LI-1
    • Have your photo taken.
    • Pay the $27.50 license fee.
  • Receive your motorcycle endorsement.

If you want to get a Class M license, you can check here for the details. 

The Wrap Up

So those were the driver’s license classes in Rhode Island. 

At first glance, it may seem very complicated. 

But now that you know the specifics, it will be much easier to determine the license class YOU need. 

Once you figure that out, go ahead and follow the necessary steps for your license class. 

Best of luck!

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