You have requested information on whether a commercial driver's license can be required based on the classification of the vehicle's license tag. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 40-5-142, a commercial driver's license can be required based upon registration and, therefore, tag classification.

The Uniform Commercial Driver's License Act provides in O.C.G.A. § 40-5-146(a) that "no person may operate a commercial motor vehicle unless the person has been issued and is in immediate possession of a commercial driver's license valid for the vehicle he or she is driving." Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 40-5-142(7)(A) defines a commercial motor vehicle as a vehicle having a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds or a lesser amount determined by federal regulation.

Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 40-5-142(17) defines gross vehicle weight rating, and provides in pertinent part: "'Gross vehicle weight rating' (GVWR) means the value specified by the manufacturer or manufacturers as the maximum loaded weight of a single or a combination (articulated) vehicle, or registered gross weight, whichever is greater . . . ." (Emphasis added).

The highlighted language indicates that the GVWR is determined by taking the greater of either the manufacturer's weight rating specification or the weight rating under which the vehicle was registered.

When registering a motor vehicle, the applicant must provide a sufficient description of the vehicle to be registered, including its shipping weight and carrying capacity. O.C.G.A. § 40-2-26(b). After compliance with the application procedures and payment of the license fee required by law, the county tag agent shall issue the appropriate plate or re-validation decal. O.C.G.A. § 40-2-33(a)(1). Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 48-10-4, a different license plate may be provided for each different class of vehicle, and the plate may be distinguished by a different letter, lettering, or other markings on the plate.

In the specific case you have asked about, an individual was operating a vehicle with a manufacturer's weight rating specification of 25,000 pounds, (under the 26,001 pound rating defining a commercial motor vehicle), yet the vehicle displayed a "PG" tag, which, according to the 1994 license fee schedule, corresponds to a vehicle with a weight rating of 30,001-36,000 pounds. Since the vehicle was registered and licensed at this higher weight rating, it is a commercial vehicle requiring a commercial driver's license to operate it within the scope of the law.

Based upon the foregoing, it is my unofficial opinion that a commercial driver's license is required for a driver to operate a motor vehicle when the gross vehicle weight rating as registered with the county tag agent exceeds the amount specified in O.C.G.A. § 40-5-142(7)(A).

Prepared by:

Assistant Attorney General