What is a Commercial Driver’s License?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established specific rules and standards that truck drivers and their companies must follow to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Effective April 1, 1992, no person is permitted to operate a commercial motor vehicle unless that person has taken and passed written and driving tests which meet federal standards. Following successful completion of these tests the driver is issued a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

An example of some of the specific knowledge requirements which a driver taking the CDL test must possess include:

* Motor vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance;

* Procedures for safe vehicle operations

* The effects of fatigue, poor vision, hearing and general health upon safe commercial vehicle operation

* The types of motor vehicles and cargoes subject to federal law

* The effects of alcohol and drug use upon safe commercial vehicle operations

* Commercial motor vehicle safety control systems

In addition to knowledge requirements for the written test, drivers must also demonstrate that they possess safe driving skills for their vehicle group. This should include proper visual search methods, appropriate use of signals, speed control for weather and traffic conditions and ability to position the motor vehicle correctly when changing lanes.

Because most commercial vehicles are equipped with air brakes, the federal regulations require that drivers demonstrate that they possess the skills to conduct pre-trip inspection procedures to locate and verbally identify air brake operating controls and monitoring devices, determine the motor vehicles’ brake system condition for proper adjustments, and ability to determine that air system connections between motor vehicle and trailer have been properly made and secured.

The skills driving test must be conducted in on-street conditions or under a combination of on-street and off-street conditions. It should include the ability to start, stop, and move the vehicle forward and backward in a safe manner.

Drivers are also tested for their knowledge on night driving factors, extreme driving conditions, emergency maneuvers, and skid control and recovery and vehicle inspections.

A driver applicant must correctly answer at least 80% of the questions on each knowledge test in order to achieve a passing score. To achieve a passing score on the skills test, the driver must demonstrate that he can perform all of the skills required by the regulations. If the driver does not obey traffic laws or causes and accident during the test, he automatically fails the test.

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