Helpful Information for Those Interested in Earning a Commercial Driver’s License
We’ve compiled basic background information for those interested in becoming CDL Class A and B truck drivers. Read on to learn more about the background, requirements, restrictions, and more.
Who Are Commercial Drivers?
Commercial drivers are all persons, paid or volunteer, who operate commercial motor vehicles. Volunteer drivers of church buses, private or public school buses and mechanics who test drive commercial vehicles must meet commercial driver’s license requirements.
Commercial driver’s license requirements do not apply to:
- Operators of emergency vehicles, such as firefights
- Active duty military personnel operating military vehicles
- Operators of farm vehicles when: used by farmers; used to move farm goods, supplies or machinery to or from their farm; not used as a common or contract motor carrier, and when used within 150 miles of the farm.
- Vehicles operated by persons only for personal use, such as recreational vehicles and rental moving vans.
CDL Age Requirements
You must be at least 18 years of age to hold a CDL.
Under federal law, you must be a commercial driver at least 21 years of age to drive across state lines, transport hazardous materials or transport interstate freight (e.g., mail) within the state. If you are under 21 years of age, you may be issued a CDL with a “K” restriction. This restriction indicates that your driving privileges are valid only in Virginia.
CDL Instruction / Learner's Permit
If you want to learn to drive commercial motor vehicles, you must get a commercial driver’s license instruction/learner’s permit. To obtain a CDL instruction/learner’s permit, you must pass the CDL general knowledge exam and the other knowledge exams for the vehicles that you want to drive.
The CDL instruction/learner’s permit allows you to drive a commercial vehicle of the class and type shown on the permit only when a person licensed to drive the same type of vehicle is with you.
If you have never held a CDL, you will be required to obtain and hold a commercial instruction/learner’s permit for a minimum of 30 days before taking the skills test(s) unless you complete an approved Virginia CDL driver education course. If you complete the course, the minimum holding period is 14 days.
If you currently hold a CDL and wish to upgrade to a higher class, add an endorsement that requires a skills test, or remove a restriction, you will need to obtain the appropriate commercial instruction/learner’s permit and hold a minimum of 14 days before taking the skills test. A skills test is required to obtain a passenger endorsement and a school bus endorsement. A skills test is required to remove the following restrictions: no air brakes, no full air brakes, no tractor trailer, operation of a passenger bus restricted to a Class B passenger vehicle, and operation of a passenger bus restricted to a Class C passenger vehicle.
Compliance with Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
All CDL/permit applicants must certify that they are in compliance with the federal and Virginia motor carrier safety regulations. Virginia law requires that all CDL/permit applicants who certify that they will operate a commercial motor vehicle in non-excepted interstate or intrastate commerce shall provide the Department of Motor Vehicles with an original or certified copy of a medical examiner’s certificate prepared by a qualified health professional listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. Any commercial driver who fails to comply with these requirements will not be eligible for a commercial driver’s license.
To operate commercial motor vehicles, you must have:
- 20/40 or better vision in each eye with or without corrective lenses, and
- 140 degrees of better horizontal vision.
- These visual requirements must be met without the aid of a telescopic lens. Additionally, you must be able to recognize traffic signs and devices showing standard red, green, or amber indicators. Some drivers may be granted waivers from these vision requirements.
For information concerning waivers for intrastate travel, contact DMV. For information concerning waivers for interstate travel, contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at Vision Program, 400 7th Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590.
You may take the CDL knowledge exam(s) only oncer per business day. If you fail any knowledge exam, you must pay a $2 re-examination fee if you retake the exam within 15 days. Passed test results are valid for 6 months. If you apply for your commercial instruction / learner’s permit or commercial driver’s license longer than 6 months after passing a test, you will need to successfully complete the test again before obtaining your permit or CDL.
If you fail the commercial driver’s license general knowledge exam three times, you will not be permitted to take it a fourth time until you successfully complete the knowledge component of driver instruction. You must complete the driver instruction after the third unsuccessful attempt to pass the test. Upon completion of the knowledge component and presentation of your certificate of completion, DMV will allow you to take the knowledge exam test again.
If you fail the commercial driver’s license behind-the-wheel test administered by DMV three times in the same Class of commercial motor vehicle, you will not be permitted to take the test a fourth time in the Class of commercial motor vehicle until you successfully complete the in-vehicle component of driver instruction. You must complete the driver instruction after the third unsuccessful attempt to pass the test. Upon completion of the in-vehicle component and presentation of your certificate of completion, DMV will allow you to take the behind-the-wheel test again.
If you fail to shop up for a scheduled CDL skills test without notifying the examiner in advance, DMV will charge you a $50 fee.
If the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) notifies DMV that you have been determined to be an imminent hazard and have been disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle, the information will be noted on your driving record. Also, any disqualification imposed by DMV will run concurrently with the disqualification by FMCSA.
Virginia law prohibits the court from allowing drivers of commercial motor vehicles, or persons holding a CDL and operating a non-commercial motor vehicle, to attend a driver improvement clinic in lieu of a conviction, or to reduce or defer a conviction.