Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is a standardized test in United States for issuing driving licenses of heavy vehicles or combination of such vehicles. It consists of a general test, one or more endorsement tests and air brake test. The test varies with the category of vehicle and type(s) of endorsements applied for. The general test is a written test whereas endorsement may involve both written as well as driving tests.
Anyone who is 18 years of age or above can get commercial driver’s license in his/her residential state. For inter-state license, the candidate must be at least 21 years of age. However, the license is issued by states; licensing processes are required to follow regulations set by the federal government.
General Test Overview-
General test is a written test which examines knowledge related to traffic rules, safety, driving, parts of trucks and heavy vehicles. The topics covered in this test include traffic rules, safety, controlling of vehicle, transportation, regulations related to hazardous materials, operations such as shifting gears, making space, driving in different situations, handling emergencies etc.
Classification of vehicles-
According to the standards set by Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), commercial vehicles are classified into three categories- Class A, B and C. In Class ‘A’, those combination of vehicles whose gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is above 26,000 pounds (11,793 kg) are included. Single vehicles weighting more than 26,000 pounds belong to Class ‘B’ category. The Class C encompasses all vehicles which are not covered in above mentioned two categories, but carries 16 or more passengers including the driver or transport some hazardous materials.
General Test Format-
The general test has 50 questions. The candidate is required to answer minimum 80 percent questions correctly for passing this exam. Hence, in order to pass the test, 40 questions must be answered correctly.
Endorsement Test Overview-
In addition to the vehicle classification, type of endorsements is also marked on the license. The endorsement elucidates the commercial vehicle, driver is authorized to drive. For double or triple trailers, T type endorsement is given. It involves passing a written test. For driving passenger vehicles carrying 16 or more people including the driver, P type endorsement is issued. It involves passing a written as well as a driving test. For school buses, S type endorsement is given, which requires passing a written test and driving test, background check and possession of P type endorsement. H type endorsement authorizes to drive commercial vehicles transporting hazardous materials and involves a written test and a background check. The license for driving tank vehicles needs N type endorsement whereas driving combination of tank vehicles and commercial vehicles transporting hazardous materials requires X type endorsement. Both of these endorsements involve written tests.
Endorsement Test Format-
The written tests for double or triple trailer, passenger vehicle, tanker, combination vehicles consist of 20 questions each. The written test for commercial vehicles (CMV) transporting hazardous materials has 30 questions. For a specific endorsement, one or more of these written tests are required to pass. One has to answer at least 80 percent questions correctly in order to pass the written tests. There may also be a driving test or a background check depending upon the type of endorsement.
Air Brake Test-
The air brake test is required to drive commercial vehicles facilitated with air brakes. It consists of a written test containing 25 questions followed by a driving test. Instead of an endorsement, it is marked by a restriction. If the driver fails in the test, his license is noted with a restriction that he is not authorized to drive a CMV having air brakes.