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Restricted Endorsements

Sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war. Sometimes you have to take two steps back to take one step forward. Sometimes to get an endorsement on a driver’s license you have to have a restriction first. Huh? Yes, that’s correct. Want to learn about one of the most convoluted laws in the Illinois Vehicle Code? If so, read on to learn about restricted endorsements.

When police officers stop drivers, they usually will perform a status check of the driver’s license through the Illinois Secretary of State. That’s just common police practice and how law enforcement finds suspended/revoked drivers. It’s also not uncommon for truck officers to find a driver with a CDL (or non-CDL) which lists a restriction for religious vehicles, senior citizen transports or ride-sharing agreements.

The big question is why would a CDL holder, who has a passenger endorsement, have a restriction saying he cannot drive a religious vehicle, a senior citizen transport vehicle or engage in ride-sharing? The reality is many people obtain CDLs to drive buses or vans for their church. Or they want to volunteer for the township getting elderly folks to the store and social events. Or they want to create an official ride-sharing agreement to carpool with others in a geographic region.

The ITEA has been asked this question several times, usually from police officers who are confused and looking for answers. A few times the ITEA has been alerted to enforcement action taken because the driver was operating a vehicle from which he appeared to be restricted.

While this enforcement action is wrong, it is understandable why there is a misconception. This is because the restriction is not a restriction at all. It’s an endorsement! However, it cannot be called an endorsement, so consider it a “qualification” instead.

The term “endorsement” is exclusive to CDLs. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has regulatory authority over CDLs and they decide what endorsements may be placed on a CDL. This includes passengers, doubles/triples, tankers, hazmat, school bus, charter bus, etc. Each endorsement is assigned a letter which appears on the CDL when appropriate tests have been passed.

While each state manages their own CDL process, they must comply with the regulations set forth by the FMCSA. When the FMCSA says there is a limited number of endorsements, that’s it. Final. Done. Nothing left to argue. So what happens when the General Assembly of Illinois wants to create their own version of endorsements?

The Secretary of State is not to blame for calling these endorsements “restrictions”. Many things the good citizens of Illinois are angry about is completely out of the hands of the SOS. The General Assembly creates laws, and the SOS (and other regulatory agencies) are mandated to follow them whether or not the legislature provides funding or infrastructure for implementation.

The same is true of religious vehicles, senior citizen transport vehicles and ride-sharing agreements. For legitimate reasons, the General Assembly has enacted three laws, 625 ILCS 5/6-106.2, 106.3 and 106.4. These statutes lay out minimum qualifications drivers must have to operate vehicles in these operations.

The qualifications say the driver must be 21 years of age, have a valid and properly classified driver’s license for at least three years, prove safe operation of the vehicle in question and not have convictions for a litany of serious crimes. Most people would agree driver’s transporting kids, senior citizens and strangers from nearby workplaces should probably be vetted. While not perfect, these laws prescribe a few things to try and maintain public safety for the vulnerable.

In turn, the SOS must do what the General Assembly says and add these “endorsements” to driver’s licenses. Because they cannot call them endorsements, the SOS lists them as restrictions instead. Depending on the class of driver’s license (A,B,C,D), there are a series of “J” restrictions listed on the face of the plastic license. The purpose behind each restriction is listed on the backside of the hard card.

The “J” restrictions for these three purposes range from J02 to J08. There are “J” restrictions for other things as well, but that’s for a later discussion.

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