Applying for a New CDL in Massachusetts

Applying for a Massachusetts CDL

As always, the first thing to worry about when applying for anything through the Massachusetts RMV is making sure you meet the basic requirements and have the ID to prove it. In Massachusetts, you can apply for a CDL at 18 years old, but only for in-state travel. You need to be 21 years old to apply for out-of-state travel.

Your existing Massachusetts photo driver's license will work as an ID when applying for a CDL. If you do not have a Massachusetts driver's license when applying for a CDL, be prepared to show the following and remember that the RMV clerks are absolute sticklers for proper ID:

  • Social Security card or valid, current U.S. or non-U.S. passport (you must have a Social Security number to apply for a CDL).
  • Document proving date of birth
  • Document proving signature
  • Document proving Massachusetts residency

Once you have your ID in place, you need to go to a Massachusetts RMV office to apply for a CDL permit. You can download an application and save time by completing it in advance.

Obtaining a Massachusetts CDL

You can practice driving on a CDL permit, as long as the person sitting next to you has a CDL and endorsements good for the class of vehicle you are driving. Other than that, there aren't any restrictions as to driving at night or out of state to practice. You'll need the time to do a lot of practicing or, better yet, take some commercial driving classes. Once you're ready for the road test, call the RMV phone center to set up your road test appointment.

You'll need to have the following with you when you take your road test:

  • A completed application for your license.
  • Your valid CDL permit.
  • Your current driver's license, if you are upgrading it.
  • A valid DOT medical certificate or medical waiver.
  • A sponsor who has a current CDL, DOT certificate, and endorsements for the vehicle you are driving.
  • A properly registered and equipped vehicle with proof of insurance coverage that meets requirements for the level of CDL you are trying to obtain.

The road test will be given by an RMV inspector and consists of the following parts:

  • Vehicle inspection: You will need to take the inspector on an inspection tour of the vehicle.
  • Basic control: You will need to complete basic driving tests on a closed course.
  • Road test: You will need to complete an actual road test with the examiner in the vehicle.

If you pass, the RMV inspector will sign and stamp your permit. You can bring the permit and license fees for your classification and endorsements to an RMV office to obtain your CDL. If you fail the exam, you will need to reapply for the road test before your permit expires.

New Federal Requirements

You must self-certify your type of vehicle operation with the Massachusetts RMV. 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 RMV with a federal medical certificate.

Any driver wishing to renew, upgrade, or transfer their CDL from another state must self-certify with the Self-Certification form and medical certification (if applicable).

Federal Requirements

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.


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:

  • 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)

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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