Commercial Driver Education in Indiana

Would you like to spend your days with nothing but a steering wheel in hand and the Hoosier highways ahead? How does getting paid to travel the beautiful state of Indiana on a daily basis sound?

You can make this all a reality, but first you'll need to apply for an Indiana commercial driver's license (CDL) through the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). The Indiana BMV will test you on your abilities to execute all of the new driving and safety skills required to drive a commercial vehicle.

While no CDL applicant needs to take a specialized training prior to applying for an Indiana CDL, school bus drivers must take an educational training course AFTER obtaining your CDL with a school bus endorsement.

Keep reading for details.

Indiana CDL Education Requirements

In preparation for the Indiana BMV's commercial driver license exams, you are not state required to take formal CDL prep courses.

IF, however, you have obtained an IN commercial driver's license with a school bus endorsement, you will need to complete specialized training before you're legally able to work driving a school bus.

IN School Bus Drivers

If you plan to drive a school bus in Indiana, you'll have to enroll in special trainings after obtaining your commercial driver's license with passenger (P) and school bus (S) endorsements.

Once you complete the school bus driver trainings you'll receive a Standard Certificate. Without this certificate, you are not legally permitted to transport students.

Initial Training

The initial trainings that new Indiana school bus drivers must complete upon hire for certification are:

  • Pre-service classroom instruction—20 hours.
  • Observation of a certified Indiana school bus driver—4 hours.
  • Behind-the-wheel training with a certified school bus driver—8 hours.

To get moving with your new school bus driver training, the following will need to happen:

  • Your employer will need to sign you up for the appropriate pre-service classroom course using the Indiana Department of Education's (DOE) online registration system.
  • You'll need to obtain an observation and behind-the-wheel time tracking sheet, which your instructor will fill out and submit accordingly to the Indiana DOE.

Certificate Renewal

When you've completed all of the necessary trainings, you'll receive your official Standard Certificate, which will then permit you to legally transport students.

In order to maintain your certification, you'll need to attend an annual safety meeting or workshop put on by the Indiana State School Bus Committee.

For more information regarding Indiana school bus driver training, call the Office of School Transportation at (317) 232-0890.

All CDL Applicants

Although you are not required to enroll in commercial Driver's Ed classes to prepare for your examinations, doing so will increase your chances of passing the CDL tests in a single attempt.

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles requires all commercial driver license applicants to pass the following exams:

  • Written general knowledge test.
  • Behind-the-wheel CDL skills test.

Also, depending on your commercial driver license's classification and endorsement(s) you could have to pass additional CDL exams.

So, to ensure you're absolutely prepared for all of the BMV's required CDL tests, make sure you know exactly which classification and endorsement(s) apply to your desired Indiana CDL.

For more information on CDL classifications and endorsements, refer to the following guides:

Choosing an Indiana CDL Test Prep Course

As stated above, you are not legally required to take a CDL test prep course when applying for your initial Indiana commercial driver's license. Only school bus drivers must take training after earning your school bus endorsement.

Keep in mind, though, that the following types of commercial driver education courses are specifically designed to help you pass the IN Bureau of Motor Vehicles' CDL exams:

  • Classroom courses will prepare you for the topics and format of the CDL written exam(s).
  • Behind-the-wheel training programs will familiarize you with the skills and vehicle you'll need to be comfortable with for your CDL road exam.

The Indiana BMV provides a list of commercial Driver's Ed schools, which is a good place to start if you decide to look for preparatory CDL courses to take.

As you begin to narrow your options, ask the following questions of the commercial driver education programs that you're considering:

  • Is the program's price and length a reasonable fit for your daily budget and schedule?
  • Are certified instructors who hold valid Indiana commercial driver's licenses teaching the classes?
  • Does the course curriculum teach all of the material and skills you'll need to master for your particular CDL exams?

Indiana CDL Classroom Courses

While debating your different written test prep options, look at the curricula. Indiana CDL classroom courses should at least cover the material that you'll find on the written general knowledge test, including topics like:

  • Steps to conducting a thorough vehicle inspection.
  • Performing basic driving skills (e.g. accelerating and reversing).
  • Manual and automatic gear shifting.
  • Maintaining vision of and communication with other vehicles on the road.
  • Controlling vehicle speed in difficult situations like:
    • Slippery road surfaces.
    • Sharp turns.
    • Dense traffic.
    • Steep downgrades.
  • Keeping an adequate amount of space around your vehicle.
  • Dealing with hazards like:
    • Bad weather conditions.
    • Construction zones.
    • Objects in the road.
    • Unpredictable drivers.
  • Emergency and accident procedures.

Remember, that you might have to pass multiple written CDL exams depending on your commercial driver's license's classification and endorsement(s).

The additional written test topics you could have to look for in a commercial Driver's Ed classroom course include:

  • Passenger transport.
  • Air brake usage.
  • Driving combination vehicles.
  • Pulling gas or liquid-filled tankers.
  • Hauling double or triple trailers.
  • School bus operation.

When you feel ready, schedule a written CDL test appointment at your local Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles office.

IN Behind-the-Wheel CDL Training

After you've passed all of the BMV's required written tests, you'll receive your commercial learner's permit (CLP). By law, you must hold your CLP for at least 14 days before taking your commercial driver's license road skills exam.

So, why not spend that time preparing for the commercial driver road test by enrolling in a behind-the-wheel training program.

When deciding on an Indiana CDL behind-the-wheel course, take a close look at the curriculum. The class should at least teach the material that you'll need to execute for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles' general CDL skills road test, including:

  • Parallel parking and docking.
  • Crossing through intersections and railroad crossings.
  • Entering and exiting moving traffic.
  • General safety practices like:
    • Using turn signals.
    • Maintaining a wide field of vision.
    • Keeping to your own lane.

There's a possibility that you'll have to learn additional driving skills for your CDL road test, depending on your commercial driver license's classification and endorsement(s).

The other skills you might have to demonstrate knowledge of include:

  • Specialized pre-trip vehicle inspection for all trailers and buses.
  • Checking air brakes.
  • Letting students off of a school bus.
  • Shifting gears with a manual transmission.

When you think you're fully prepared, make an appointment at an authorized CDL road skills testing site.

Study by Yourself for an IN CDL

To prepare for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles' commercial driver's license exams, you always have the option to study on your own.

All of the material you need to learn for your required exams is in the Indiana Commercial Driver License Manual. Make sure that you study every section of the manual that applies to your CDL's classification and endorsement(s).

As an additional tool, you can also take online CDL practice tests. These will help to gauge your readiness for the BMV's commercial driver exams, as well as familiarize you with the format of the CDL written tests. Additionally, you can retest yourself on the areas where you need more targeted studying.

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