Applying for a New CDL in Arkansas

Applying for a new Commercial Drivers License (CDL) is a major undertaking. There are federal and state requirements you need to fulfill and you will have to pass the Arkansas written exams and road skills tests.

Qualifying for a CDL

As you begin the process you first need to find out if you qualify for a CDL. Your driving record could disqualify you if you have serious offenses, like DUI.

Knowledge Tests

Study the Arkansas CDL Manual to learn about driver safety, cargo safety, equipment, traffic rules, inspection procedures, and hazardous materials.

Before taking the road skills test you'll need to pass the written knowledge test.

  • The fee for your original CDL is $42.

Bring documents with you to prove your age and identity.

If you haul hazardous materials, part of the paperwork will include a mandatory federal background and fingerprint check.

Once you pass the written tests, you are ready for the road skills test.

Road Skills Test

Your CDL manual includes a lot of detailed information on how to perform driver tasks: pre-trip inspections, changing lanes, tying down cargo, and maneuvering intersections.

The manual also explains how you will be tested and scored. Practice the test moves and criteria because if you are prepared you will be more confident when it comes time to perform for the Arkansas State Police.

It requires effort and commitment to pass all the exams. Once you have your CDL, you need to follow the more stringent licensing rules to keep your driving record clean.

New Federal Requirements

You must self-certify your type of vehicle operation with the Arkansas DMV. This means you must self-certify one of the following driving categories:

  • Non-Excepted Interstate
  • Excepted Interstate
  • Non-Excepted Intrastate
  • Excepted Intrastate

If you choose Non-Excepted Interstate, you must provide the DMV with a federal medical certificate.

Submit a completed self-certification application.

CDL Classes for Every State

The Act established three separate classes of commercial driver's licenses. Every state issues licenses in these categories:

  • Class A: Any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR) of 26,001 lbs or more, provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 lbs.
  • Class B: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 lbs GVWR.
  • Class C: 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 passengers or more, including the driver, or is placarded for hazardous materials.

Many states make exceptions for farm vehicles, snow removal vehicles, fire and emergency vehicles, and some military vehicles.


To be licensed for certain types of commercial vehicles, extra testing is required. If you pass, you will receive an endorsement on your CDL. These are the endorsements that you can apply for. Each requires knowledge (written) tests, and driving (skills) tests.

  • T―Double/Triple Trailers (knowledge test only)
  • P―Passenger (knowledge and skills tests)
  • N―Tank Vehicle (knowledge test only)
  • H―Hazardous Materials (knowledge test only)
  • S―School Buses (knowledge and skills tests)

Minimum Training 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 need to know how to inspect vehicles before driving, how to couple and uncouple tractors and trailers, and get plenty of practice driving. This includes driving in different conditions and on different road surfaces, turning, parking, backing up, and braking.

Some motor carriers will train their own employees to meet their standards. Others have their drivers take courses at technical schools, private driving schools, or vocational schools, and local community colleges. Individual states often approve or certify training courses. The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) maintains minimum standards for training and driver training courses that meet industry and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines are certified by the PTDI. There are some employers that require their drivers to take PTDI-certified training.

Some states have their own minimum training guidelines. It's a good to check with your state's motor vehicles department for specific minimum training requirements to get your CDL.

Hazmat Background Checks

Under the USA PATRIOT Act, commercial drivers transporting hazardous materials (hazmat) must pass a background records check and be fingerprinted. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for conducting the background checks for all commercial drivers with hazmat endorsements or who want to add hazmat endorsements to their licenses. The TSA developed this program to carry out the USA PATRIOT Act mandate and protect citizens from the potential threat of terrorists using hazmat cargo.

If the TSA disqualifies you because of your background, you can appeal their finding or seek a waiver. However, if you are found guilty of a disqualifying crime, you must declare any disqualifying conditions and surrender your hazmat endorsement (if you already have it) to your state's department of motor vehicles or other licensing agency.

Applying for a Hazardous Materials Background Check

After you get a CDL, apply for a background check from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) if you'll be obtaining a hazardous materials endorsement. You may do this online or by contacting a TSA agent. They will ask for:

  • Your CDL or CDL permit number.
  • Proof of legal status.
  • Proof of Identity.

Next, the TSA will ask you to go to a fingerprint office to give your fingerprints. The TSA and the FBI will conduct background investigations. You will be responsible for paying various fees.

Disqualifying Crimes

Conviction of any of the following crimes will disqualify you from being eligible for a hazmat endorsement:

  • Terrorism
  • Murder
  • Assault with intent to murder
  • Espionage
  • Sedition
  • Kidnapping or hostage-taking
  • Treason
  • Rape or aggravated sexual abuse
  • Extortion
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Bribery
  • Smuggling
  • Immigration violations
  • RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violations
  • Unlawful possession, use, sale, distribution, or manufacture of an explosive device, firearm, or other weapon
  • Distribution of, intent to distribute, possession, or importation of a controlled substance
  • Dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation, including identity fraud
  • Crimes involving a severe transportation security incident
  • Improper transportation of a hazardous material
  • Conspiracy or attempt to commit any of these crimes

Remember that your state also has its own guidelines that may be stricter than the federal ones. For more information, consult your employer, the DMV, or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association.

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