The CDL - Understanding The Commercial Driver’s License

What is a CDL and when is a CDL required? Created by an act of congress, the commercial driver’s license, commonly known as the CDL, officially became the license required for truck drivers and certain other types of commercial vehicles. The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 was an effort to improve the safety of US highways by requiring that drivers are qualified to drive commercial vehicle. The law established a set of standards to be administered by the states when qualifying a driver for a CDL. While each state issues a CDL, the U.S. Department of Transportation sets the guidelines and requires drivers to obtain a CDL permit by first passing a written CDL exam, passing a DOT physical and drug screen and then completing a CDL skills test. The CDL skills test includes both a CDL pre-trip inspection and basic vehicle control test.

Different types of CDLs defined by different classes allow drivers to drive different types of vehicles. The vehicles are classified by weight and vehicle type. Common commercial vehicles include tractor trailers (semis; 18 wheelers), school buses, transit buses, dump trucks and any vehicle transporting quantities of hazardous materials with warning placards required by the DOT.

Do I Need A CDL?

CDL Classifications

Each state is able to issue CDLs only after a written and practical test have been administer by a State or third-party approved testing facility. A driver needs a CDL if the vehicle meets one of the following definitions of a CMV.

Tractor Trailer Class A CDL - Any combination of vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds (11,793 kg) provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds (4536 kg). A common class A vehicle is a tractor trailer also known as a semi.
Online Class A CDL Training Options
School Bus Class B CDL - Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds (11,793 kg), or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds (4536 kg) GVWR. Common vehicles include school buses, dump trucks and straight trucks.
View Available Online Class B CDL Training
Shuttle Buss Class C CDL - Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B, but is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or is placarded for hazardous materials.
Class C CDL Training Coming Soon!

CDL Endorsements

Additional testing is required to obtain any of the following endorsements on the CDL. These can only obtained after a CDL has been issued to the driver:

T Endorsement Semi trailer Double or Triple (Written Test)
P Endorsement Passenger Vehicle (Written and Driving Tests)
S Endorsement School Bus (Written and Driving Test, Background Check, Sex Offender Registry Check and P endorsement)
N Endorsement Tank Truck (Written Test)
H Endorsement Hazardous Materials "HazMat" (Written Test and Background Check through the Transportation Security Administration)
X Endorsement Combination of Tank Vehicle and Hazardous Materials (Written Test)

How To Study For A CDL Test

CDL manual is an excellent resource for information covered on the written tests. But the manual can be confusing and difficult to understand. The test for a CDL permit is multiple choice and a great way to study is with practice tests. Sample test questions provide an opportunity to become familiar with the topics covered on the tests.

eGears provides a complete online study guide for the CDL permit tests and pre trip inspection exams for both class A and class B. Check out the free CDL practice tests.

Understanding the CDL - by eGears expert Derek McClain