Applying for a New CDL in Florida
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To obtain a commercial driver license (CDL) in the state of Florida, you need to do the following:
- Prove your identity with two forms of ID when you apply at a Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle (HSMV) office (appointments are recommended).
- Provide proof of your residential address.
- Provide proof of your Social Security number.
- Be at least 18 years of age.
- Meet medical eligibility requirements and show a valid Medical Examination Report.
- Pass all required tests.
- Pay the applicable fees.
While that may look simple at first glance, it can be a long and somewhat complicated process, especially when it comes to the part about the tests. Knowing all the details ahead of time, however, can help you save time and put your energy into studying hard for all those upcoming exams.
It's important to start out knowing which kind of license you need. The State of Florida places commercial driver licenses into three categories:
- Class A: trucks or combinations with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) that exceeds 26,000 lbs. If present, a towed unit should weigh more than 10,000 lbs.
- Class B: trucks with a GVWR that exceeds 26,000 lbs.
- Class C: vehicles transporting hazardous materials in amounts requiring a placard, or made to transport more than 15 people (driver included), with a GVWR of 26,000 lbs. or less.
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.
State Skill Test Sites
You can set an appointment at any State Skill Testing site.
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: $75
- Initial and renewal issue (school bus drivers): $48
- To add an endorsement (initial and renewal): $7 each
- Written re-exam: $10
- Driving re-exam: $20
You must self-certify your type of vehicle operation with the Florida DMV by January 2014. 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.
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.
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 Highway Administration (FHA) 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.
We hope that this guide makes the federal CDL requirements for drivers easier for you to understand. Remember that your state also has its own guidelines that may be stricter than the federal ones. As a commercial driver, you must also be familiar with other federal regulations so you can comply with them. For more information, consult your employer, or visit the website of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Florida honors all out-of-state CDLs. However, if you have a HAZMAT endorsement you will be required to reapply for a new HAZMAT endorsement, which includes a new background check, retaking all required exams and paying all required fees.
Other Topics in This Section
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- Getting Behind the Wheel of a Big Rig: How to Land a Trucking Job
- Want to Do Even More with Your CDL? CDL Classes and Endorsements
- CDL Holders: Completing the Medical Exam Report Requirement
- How to Apply for a Hazardous Materials Endorsement
- Commercial Driver’s License Requirements: Do You Have What It Takes?
- How to Prepare for the CDL Test
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