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THE CALIFORNIA CDL COURSE PACKAGE COVERS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO PASS THE CALIFORNIA CDL WRITTEN AND SKILLS TESTS FOR ALL CLASSES OF CALIFORNIA CDL AND ALL AVAILABLE CALIFORNIA CDL ENDORSEMENTS.

CALIFORNIA CDL Information
Specific California CDL Information

How to apply for a California commercial driver license (CDL)

A commercial driver license is a license issued in accordance with Federal Regulations that allows an individual to operate a commercial vehicle. Federal regulations require that an applicant be 18 years or older to apply for a California commercial driver license (CDL) and be issued a commercial instruction permit.

You must be at least 21 years old to drive a commercial vehicle across state lines (interstate commerce) or hazardous materials or wastes (intrastate or interstate commerce). You may drive for hire within California if you are 18 years of age or older and do not engage in interstate commerce activities. (VC 12515) (VC 12516)

10 Year History Record Check

The Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, and applicable Federal Regulations requires all commercial driver license applicants including renewal applications to disclose whether he or she has been issued a driver license in the same or different name to operate any type of motor vehicle in another state or other jurisdiction within the previous ten years. If the answer is "Yes" to the ten year history record question, a 10 Year History Record Check form (DL 939) complete and submitted with the Commercial Driver License Application (DL 44C).

Starting May 31, 2005, new federal regulations require a person who is applying for a California commercial driver license with an original or renewal Hazardous Materials (HazMat) endorsement to undergo a security threat assessment. The USA Patriot Act requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to complete a security threat assessment (background records check) before the Department of Motor Vehicles issues a HazMat endorsement.

TSA's Process

You start the TSA background records check after you apply for your CDL at DMV, successfully complete all appropriate law tests, and submit a valid Medical Examination Report form (DL 51). Go online www.hazprints.com or call 1-877-429-7746 to make an appointment with a TSA agent. You must submit a $94 federal fee and any additional required information to the designated TSA agent. The TSA agent will advise you of the fingerprint requirement. You must also provide the TSA agent with a DMV Commercial Instruction Permit and one of the following identification documents:

A commercial vehicle is a motor vehicle or combination used for hire to transport passengers or property or which:

To apply for a commercial permit, you will need to:

Note: To allow you sufficient time for testing DMV will not be administering written or audio exams after 4:30 p.m.

Once you have passed your tests, you will be issued a permit. You can only drive with a person who has a valid California driver license in the class of license that your permit is for and is the specific age required for that class of license.

To apply for your commercial driver license you will need to:

After you pass your driving test or submit your certificate, you will be issued an interim license valid for 90 days until you receive your new photo license in the mail. Double check your address before you leave California DMV and tell the DMV representative if you have moved or if your address is incorrect. If you have not received your license after 60 days, call 1-800-777-0133 to check the status. Have your interim license with you to provide information when requested.

California CDL Written Knowledge Tests
You will need to pass the California Knowledge Tests that are required for the class of license, restriction, and endorsements you wish to possess. A general knowledge test for the Class A or Class B and C license must be successfully completed by all CDL applicants. The information needed to pass these tests is contained in the FREE California CDL Handbook. Please read and study this manual carefully.

Classes of California CDL and Required Tests

CDL Class Tests Required Possible Endorsements and Required Tests
Class A
(Combination
vehicle endorsement required)

General Knowledge Written Exam

Combination Endorsement Written Exam

Road Exam

H - Hazardous Materials Written Exam
N - Tank Vehicles Written Exam
P - Passenger Transport Written and Road Exam
T - Doubles/Triples Written Exam
X - HazMat and Tank Vehicles Written Exam
L - Air Brakes Written and Road Exam
S - School Bus Written and Road Exam
Class B

General Knowledge Written Exam

Road Exam

H - Hazardous Materials Written Exam
N - Tank Vehicles Written Exam
P - Passenger Transport Written and Road Exam
X - HazMat and Tank Vehicles Written Exam
L - Air Brakes Written and Road Exam
S - School Bus Written and Road Exam
Class C

General Knowledge Written Exam

Road Exam

Note: If upgrading to a Class C from a Class D, no road test is required UNLESS the endorsement requires one.
H - Hazardous Materials Written Exam
N - Tank Vehicles Written Exam
P - Passenger Transport Written and Road Exam
X - HazMat and Tank Vehicles Written Exam
L - Air Brakes Written and Road Exam
S - School Bus Written and Road Exam

California CDL Endorsements

Exam Time Allowed (Minutes) # of Questions on Exam # of Correct Answers Needed to Pass
General Knowledge 60 50 40
Air Brakes 25 25 20
HazMat 30 30 24
Tank 20 20 16
Passenger 20 20 16
Doubles/Triples 20 20 16
Combination Vehicles 20 20 16
School Bus 20 20 16

For the most complete and accurate official California state CDL information, go to the Official California CDL Website.

What is a CDL?
A "CDL" is a Commercial Drivers License. It meets certain minimum "standards" that are the same for every state. It differs from the California "operator's" or "chauffeur's" licenses. It is required if you drive certain kinds of commercial trucks or buses.

What is the COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY ACT OF 1986 (CMVSA/86) administered by the FMCSA?
It is a law passed by the United States Congress which requires ALL the individual states to comply with certain standards in regards to the licensing of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. California driver licensing standards comply with the law, requiring CMV drivers to obtain a California Commercial Driver's License (CDL) when driving applicable trucks and buses. A CDL license can ONLY be issued in the driver's STATE OF LEGAL RESIDENCE, and if you have a CDL, you can have NO OTHER DRIVER'S LICENSE in ANY other state.

When do I need a California CDL instead of my regular California Drivers License?
A California CDL is required if you operate any of the following CMV's . . .
1. A vehicle with a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 26,000 lbs.
2. A vehicle towing a unit with a manufacturer's GVWR of more than 10,000 lbs. when the GCWR exceeds 26,000 lbs.
3. A vehicle used to . . .(a.) carry 15 or more passengers (excluding the driver), or (b.) carry (15) or less people (including the driver) when carrying children to or from school and home regularly for compensation.
4. A vehicle carrying hazardous materials in amounts requiring placarding.

What are the eligibility requirements to obtain a California CDL?
1. You must be 21 years old. (18 years if all commercial driving is done within California and if no hazardous materials requiring placarding are transported and if you do not drive double or triple trailer rigs).
2. You must be physically capable (in accordance with the MCSR 49 CFR 391.41 Physical Qualifications for Drivers regulations) of obtaining a valid DOT medical examiner's card (before being issued a CDL permit or taking any CDL skills test).
3. You must otherwise qualify for the license based on your driving record. Any of the following will disqualify you from obtaining a California CDL . . .
* If you possess a license from any state other than California.
* If you are currently subject to any disqualification of your commercial driving privilege from California or any other state.
* If your license is currently suspended, revoked, denied, or cancelled.
* If you have a conviction for operating a commercial motor vehicle while impaired in the 24 months immediately preceding application.
* other technical rules, and further restrictions that pertain only to California are covered in detail within the Course.

How do I obtain a California CDL?
1. Show your California driver license.
2. You must take and pass all California examinations that apply to your license class and endorsement requirements.
3. Show proof of social security number.
4. Meet California driver record eligibility requirements as determined by the State.
5. Fill out an application including certifications.
6. Provide a DOT medical certificate and pass the required CDL knowledge and vision tests (BEFORE a CDL Temporary Instruction Permit will be issued).
7. Pay the California CDL fees.
8. Schedule, take, and pass your California CDL skills test.

A separate booklet is included in the California CDL Course package which covers information such as fees, locations, contacts, procedures and other items specific to California for the written and skills examinations for ALL classes of CDL and ALL available endorsements.

What is a CDL "Skills Test" and how do I take it?
A "skills" test is the practical portion of the exam and includes . . .
1. A vehicle inspection test to measure your ability to perform a vehicle safety check.
2. A basic control skills test.
3. A driving test.
The skills test is normally given at an approved third party testing site in your area. This can vary and the latest procedures are indicated in the California CDL Course.

So let's say I get a California CDL. Can I use it Out-of-State?
Yes! It is good throughout the entire United States.

Can my California CDL be suspended or revoked?
Yes, there are MANY reasons that your California CDL can be suspended or revoked. Improper use of alcohol or drugs, traffic violations, and failure to notify top the list. The Course details ALL of the rules regarding suspension or revocation. The point to remember is that alcohol or drug use is not tolerated and your record WILL FOLLOW YOU THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES FOREVER!!!

So let's say that my California CDL is revoked. Can't I just apply for a CDL in another State?
No!!! Those days are gone.

Are there any exemptions to being required to have California CDL?
Yes, a few . . .
1. Active Duty Military . . . with military licenses operating military vehicles.
2. Firefighters . . . meeting approved training standards and operating authorized emergency vehicles.
3. Farmers . . . in certain cases.
4. Individuals ....operating motor homes or other vehicles used exclusively to transport personal possessions or family members, for non business purposes.

What do the terms Class A, Class B, and Class C mean on my California CDL?
It refers to the type of vehicle that you may operate . . .
CLASS A . . . allows you to operate vehicles which tow trailers or other vehicles with a GVWR over 10,000 pounds. A Class "A" license also allows you to operate Class B and C vehicles.
CLASS B . . . allows you to operate single vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs or more OR a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 lbs. or more, towing trailers/vehicles rated at 10,000 pounds GVWR or less. A Class "B" license also allows you to operate Class C vehicles.
CLASS C . . .allows you to operate vehicles under 26,001 lbs. GVWR, that would normally not require a CDL; except when they are designed to transport 16 or more persons including the driver; or that carry 15 or less people (including the driver) transporting children to or from school and home regularly for compensation, or carry hazardous materials in amounts requiring placarding. Applicable endorsements are required.

What are Endorsement Codes and when do I need them on my California CDL?
Endorsements are necessary for certain commercial driving requirements as follows . . .
(T) DOUBLE or TRIPLE TRAILERS.
(P) PASSENGER. For vehicles which are designed to carry 16 or more people (including the driver); or those which carry 15 or less people (including the driver) transporting children to or from school and home regularly for compensation.
(N) TANK VEHICLES. For vehicles designed to haul liquids or liquefied gases in bulk in permanently mounted tanks or portable tanks rated at 1,000 gallons or more.
(H) HAZARDOUS MATERIALS. To carry hazardous materials in amounts requiring placards.
(X) Endorsement code designating a Tank (N) vehicle that carries Hazardous Materials (H).

I'm over 18 years old, but not 21 years old yet. Can I get a California CDL license?
Yes . . . with restrictions. You are limited to INTRAstate driving of commercial vehicles (you cannot drive a commercial truck or bus out of California). You cannot drive a vehicle requiring HAZ MAT placarding, cannot drive double or triple trailer rigs and cannot drive a School Bus with children on board until you turn 21 years of age.

We could go on and on with FAQs but I hope this covers most of your GENERAL questions. Please be assured that the Course answers EVERYTHING that you need to know to obtain ANY or ALL of the available CDL licenses and endorsements in an easy to understand manner. The material is presented in three different ways to reinforce your retention. GOOD LUCK !!

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