Depending on the vehicle you'll be driving once you're licensed, you may need to apply for one of the following endorsements, or special-skills qualifications, to be added to your license:
- T: for double or triple trailers
- P: for passenger vehicles carrying 16 or more passengers (including the driver)
- S: for school buses used to transport children to and from school and school-sponsored events (does not apply to common carrier buses)
- N: for tank vehicles carrying liquids in permanent tanks or portable tanks with a capacity for 1,000 or more pounds
- H: for carrying hazardous materials (HAZMAT) in amounts requiring a placard
- X: for tank vehicles (N) carrying hazardous materials (H)
All CDL applicants must take a series of knowledge tests, depending on the class of license and endorsements they need:
- General knowledge: all classes
- Combinations: Class A (if applicable)
- Air brakes: Class A, Class B (if applicable)
- Passenger transport: bus drivers (endorsement P)
- Hazardous materials: endorsements H and X
- Tanker: endorsements N and X
- Doubles/triples: endorsement T
- School bus: endorsement S
- Vision (must be at least 20/40 in each eye): all classes
- Hearing (must be able to hear a whisper): all classes
You must pass the knowledge tests before moving on to the second phase of the skills tests:
- Pre-trip: Demonstrate that you know what parts of your vehicle to inspect before making a trip.
- Basic skills: Demonstrate that you can control the vehicle when driving forward and backward, turning, etc.
- Driving: Demonstrate that you can drive your vehicle in various traffic situations, including intersections, hills, and multi-lane highways.
A Note about HAZMAT Certification
All applicants wishing to obtain a HAZMAT endorsement need to undergo a national-level background check and fingerprinting. A required fee of $91 will be charged for the background check, payable at the time of application. Get all the HAZMAT details before you apply.
The State of Florida recognizes a number of third-party CDL training programs and allows applicants to learn and pass knowledge and skills tests through those programs. Find out more in Commercial Driver Education on this site.
- Initial issue and renewal: $50
- Initial issue (school bus drivers): $20
- Renewal (school bus drivers): $15
- To add an endorsement (initial and renewal): $5 each
The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 was designed to improve highway safety. Its purpose was to ensure that drivers of commercial vehicles are qualified to drive them, and to remove unsafe drivers from the highways. The Act didn't require federal driver licensing?states still license commercial drivers?but it established minimum standards that states must meet when issuing commercial driver's licenses (CDLs). It required states to upgrade their existing programs to follow the new federal standards.
Before the Act was passed, many commercial vehicle drivers operated vehicles they were not properly trained on or qualified to drive. Even in states that had separate license classes, drivers were not necessarily tested in the types of vehicles they would be driving. States must now test commercial drivers according to federal standards, to ensure that drivers know how to operate the trucks or buses they intend to drive.
The Act also made it illegal to have more than one driver's license. You can hold a regular or commercial driver's license, but not both. You can have one license from the state you reside in, but not from any other states. In the past, bad drivers could more easily hide their driving histories by getting several licenses. Today, all the states are connected to a national database to check driver histories.
To be eligible for a CDL, you must have a clean driving record. Federal regulations require you to pass a physical exam every two years. To operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce, you must be at least 21. Many states allow those as young as 18 to drive commercial vehicles within the state. You must be able to read and speak English well enough to read road signs, prepare reports, and communicate with the public and with law enforcement.
The Act established three separate classes of commercial driver's licenses (see above). Every state issues licenses in these categories. Many states make exceptions for farm vehicles, snow removal vehicles, fire and emergency vehicles, and some military vehicles.
In the interest of public safety on the highways, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations require interstate commercial drivers to be medically fit to operate their vehicles safely and competently. You are required to have a physical exam and carry a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) medical certificate if:
- You operate a motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) or gross vehicle weight (GVW) or gross combination weight (GCW) of 4,536 kilograms (10,001 pounds) or more in interstate commerce.
- You operate a motor vehicle designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, in interstate commerce.
- You operate a motor vehicle designed or used to transport between nine and 15 passengers, for direct compensation, beyond 75 air miles from your regular work-reporting location, in interstate commerce.
- You transport hazardous materials in quantities requiring placards, in interstate commerce.
You must carry a current copy of your medical examination certificate with you when you drive. Residents of Mexico or Canada who drive in the United States can be certified by doctors in their countries, provided they meet the U.S. requirements.
There are no federal standards in place for on-the-road commercial driver training. The government only requires that you take and pass your CDL knowledge (written) and skills (driving) tests. Longer-combination-vehicle (LCV) drivers must receive training in driver wellness, driver qualifications, hours of service, and whistleblower protection.
Your state's commercial driver's manual is a good place to learn basic information, but you will need to be professionally trained to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
In order to pass your driving skills tests, you will need to learn how to inspect vehicles before driving, learn how to couple and uncouple tractors and trailers, and have plenty of practice driving. This includes driving in different conditions and on different road surfaces, turning, parking, backing up, and braking.