Applying for a New CDL in Delaware
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The Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will issue you a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) if you qualify and you meet all the requirements. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has jurisdiction over inter-state commerce so they, too, have requirements you must meet before you can drive a commercial motor vehicle outside the state of Delaware.
Qualifying for a CDL
Delaware and the FMCSA require you to be medically fit. You will have to have a completed Medical Examination Report (Form 649-F) so you carry a medical card with you when you are driving a commercial vehicle.
Suspensions, revocations, and serious driving violations will disqualify you when it comes to getting a CDL.
Visit a DMV office for the CDL application. You will need to prove your identity and your residency. Some documents you might find convenient to use are your regular Class D driver's license and a valid DE car registration. The Required Document Table lists primary and secondary documents you can use to prove who you are and where you live.
After you complete the application you will need to pass the written test. If you have studied the Commercial Driver's Manual and understand all the rules and laws, then you are prepared for the written knowledge test. There are several tests you might need to take, depending on which class and endorsements you want on your CDL.
CDL Learners Permit
In Delaware, once you've passed the written knowledge tests you can use the learning period to practice your driving and build your confidence in handling a commercial motor vehicle.
Now that you have taken the written exams and practiced with your CDL Learners Permit you are ready for the road skills test. The Commercial Driver's Manual has some really great diagrams showing how you will be tested.
New Federal Requirements
You must self-certify your type of vehicle operation with the Delaware 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.
From the very beginning of America, the federal government took control of interstate commerce. Under the federal umbrella, this means that business between the states becomes a concern of the federal government. Federal jurisdiction of interstate commerce applies to Delaware―The First State―and all of the United States.
Delaware is located just a few hours north of Washington DC, right on the major north-south route. If you are using your CDL for work, chances are you will probably need to drive across state lines. You need to understand and comply with all the federal laws―specifically, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986.
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.
CDL Classes for Every State
To be eligible for a CDL, you must have a clean driving record. 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. Every state issues licenses in these categories:
- Class A: Any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR) of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
- Class B: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds 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 or more passengers, including the driver, or is placarded for hazardous materials.
Many states, like Delaware, make exceptions for farm vehicles, recreational vehicles, fire and emergency vehicles, and some military vehicles.
Operating a commercial vehicle that you are not licensed for is a serious violation so be sure you understand what you need before you apply. Many states, like Delaware, make exceptions or waivers for farm vehicles, recreational 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 require knowledge (written) tests, and require 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)
Some of the endorsements will require you to take a road skills test at a later date. Of course, the CDL Class requirement will also include a road skills test. For now, though, you have passed the written knowledge test and it is time to practice.
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.
Delaware'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.
Many motor carriers train their employees, while other drivers take courses at private driving schools, vocational or technical schools, and community colleges. Individual states often approve or certify training courses. The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) has set minimum standards for training curriculums and certifies driver training courses that meet industry and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines. Many employers require their drivers to take PTDI-approved training.
Some states may specify minimum training guidelines. Check with your state's motor vehicles department to see if there are 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 have to pay various fees.
Conviction of any of the following crimes will disqualify you from being eligible for a hazmat endorsement:
- Assault with intent to murder
- Kidnapping or hostage-taking
- Rape or aggravated sexual abuse
- 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 .