Applying for a New CDL in Michigan
If you plan to drive a commercial vehicle in Michigan, you'll first need to acquire your commercial driver license (CDL).
The requirements for obtaining a CDL in Michigan mirror federal requirements (see below).
To apply for a CDL in Michigan, you'll need to first produce proof of your Social Security number to the Secretary of State. You can present your Social Security card, a W-2 income tax form, an employee paycheck stub showing your name and Social Security number, or a military identification card.
You also need to prove your Michigan residency. If you already have a Michigan-issued driver license, that proof will be adequate.
You'll need to meet the federal commercial driver qualification requirements, including the medical qualifications. You'll also need to provide a valid Medical Examiner's Certificate per the Department of Transportation (a DOT card) or a medical waiver to your examiner before you can take a CDL road test.
Everything you need to know to earn your CDL is in the Secretary of State's Commercial Driver License Manual. In it, you'll find information on written and skills tests.
What written tests you take will depend upon what level of CDL you desire, and what specific endorsements you need.
To earn additional endorsements, you'll also need to take a written test. The same is true if you'll be driving a vehicle with air brakes. The list of endorsements follows:
- H―Hazardous Material
- X―Combined H and N
- S―School Bus
- T―Double Trailers
Depending on which endorsement you're trying to attain, you may be asked questions relating to a wide variety of subjects, including:
- Vehicle inspection
- Night driving
- Vehicle control
- Winter driving
- Shifting gears
- Staying alert
- Inspecting cargo
- Cargo weight and balance
- Air brake system parts
- Driving combinations
- Inspecting tank vehicles
- Pulling double/triple trailers
When you pass your written test, you will be issued a temporary instruction permit, or TIP. You must be issued a TIP before you will be eligible to take a road test. With your TIP, you may enroll in a commercial driver training course to get behind-the-wheel driving instruction.
Once you've passed the written knowledge test, gotten your temporary instruction permit, and practiced your driving skills in a commercial vehicle, you'll move on to the driver skills tests. All skills testing in Michigan is administered by third-party organizations.
You can use the Road Skills Testing Organization Locator to help find a testing center near you.
What you'll be tested on will vary with the type of CDL license and endorsements (if any) you're seeking. You'll be expected to:
- Do an inspection of your vehicle and be able to explain why you look at individual components.
- Understand basic vehicle controls. That includes being able to move your rig without problems.
- Be able to drive your vehicle safely in traffic, around obstacles, and on hills.
You must self-certify your type of vehicle operation with the Michigan SOS. 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 SOS 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 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)
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.
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.
Conviction of any of the following crimes will disqualify you from being eligible for a hazmat endorsement:
- Assault with intent to murder
- Kidnapping or hostage-taking
- Rape or aggravated sexual abuse
- 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.