Applying for a New CDL in Kansas

CDL Written Testing

The standard requirements for CDLs are based on federal guidelines, and each class of CDL is the same from state to state. If you intend to drive certain types of equipment, you are required to hold an additional endorsement for that equipment, including the following. They require extra testing.

  • 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)

You will also be required to pass a written knowledge test about air brakes, if the vehicle you will drive is equipped with them.

All CDL holders who also hold a hazardous material endorsement (hazmat) are required to undergo a fingerprinting and a background investigation conducted by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).

The best place to find all the information you'll need in order to pass the tests for your CDL and any endorsements is the Kansas CDL Manual. It covers everything you'll need for the written tests and the road test.

Road Testing

The driving section of the testing is a comprehensive check of your skills by a KS DOR examiner including:

  • Pre-trip inspection
  • Basic operating skills test
  • Basic driving skills test

You will be tested on your knowledge of the vehicle, your pre-trip inspection, your basic maneuvering skills and your overall driving skills. You must pass each section of testing in order to move on to the next section. If you fail your pre-trip inspection, you will not be allowed to continue with the basic skills or the on-road testing.

Pre-Trip Inspection

In the pre-trip inspection, you will be required to show the examiner what you are looking for and why you are looking for it. This inspection is very comprehensive, covering every system or component on, in, under and around the truck and trailer unit that you will use for your driving test, including:

  • Fluids, belts, and other items under the hood
  • The truck cab, including emergency equipments, dials, gauges, steering, brakes and clutch
  • Connections including hitches, air lines, hydraulics, trailer axel placement or fifth wheel coupling
  • Tires, wheels, brakes, fuel tank
  • Tie-downs, tarps, trailer sides, rigging, trailer frame, and trailer doors
  • Cab mirrors, seat, steering, clutch, brakes, emergency equipment, cab doors, communications equipment, and gauges

Basic Skills Test

In the basic skills portion of your driving test, you will be asked to perform the following basic maneuvering skills:

  • Drive forward and stop
  • Back up
  • Alley dock
  • Parallel park
  • Make a right turn
  • Backward serpentine

Stay inside the vehicle at all times while you are performing these basic skills. Do not get out of the driver's seat to check on your progress.

Driving Test

In this section, you will go out to a pre-determined route so that the examiner may check your driving skills. The areas covered in this test will be:

  • Turning
  • Intersections
  • Urban and rural straight driving
  • Urban and rural lane changing
  • Expressway driving
  • Stopping and starting
  • Driving on curves, upgrades and downgrades
  • Railroad crossings
  • Bridges and overpasses

Remember to check for a clearance height indicator sign before you pass under a bridge; the examiner may ask you for the clearance height number after you've passed under.

Where to Take your Test

Check the Kansas license exam stations. You won't need an appointment for your testing, but not every exam station is equipped to handle CDL testing, so call in advance to see if the office you want to use has a CDL examiner.


Fees vary depending on several factors, including the addition of different endorsements. A chart is available with all applicable fees.

New Federal Requirements

You must self-certify your type of vehicle operation with the Kansas Division of Vehicles. 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 Division of Vehicles with a federal medical certificate.

Federal CDL Regulations

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

The Act established 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 make exceptions for farm vehicles, snow removal vehicles, fire and emergency vehicles, and some military vehicles.

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.

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 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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