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 Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (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 (Form 649-F).
- 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 26,001 lbs If present, a towed unit should weigh more than 10,000 lbs.
- Class B: trucks with a GVWR that exceeds 26,001 lbs
- Class C: vehicles transporting hazardous materials in amounts requiring a placard, or made to transport more than 15 passengers (driver included), with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs or less.
Depending on the vehicle you'll be driving once you're licensed, you may need to apply for the following endorsements, or special-skills qualifications, to be added to your license:
- T: for double or triple trailers
- P: for passenger vehicles.
- 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.
- H: for carrying hazardous materials (HAZMAT) in amounts requiring a placard (refer tot he hazmat study guide for more information)
- 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. Please refer to the Hazmat Study guide for more information.
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. 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 set out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.