Commercial Driver Education in Michigan

With unique sand dunes, signature cherry groves, verdant forests, shores dotted by lighthouses, and vibrant city metropolises to marvel at, there is a plethora of sights and sounds for commercial drivers working in the Great Lake State.

First you'll need to apply for a Michigan commercial driver's license (CDL), which are administered by the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS), and pass the proper CDL exams to prove that you've mastered all of the driving and safety skills needed to operate a commercial vehicle.

In preparation for these CDL exams, you are not state-required to enroll in a formal commercial driver education program.

However, certain commercial drivers are legally required to complete specialized trainings AFTER you've received your appropriate commercial driver's license.

Keep reading for more on CDL education requirements in Michigan.

Michigan CDL Training Requirements

As mentioned above, you do not need to take commercial Driver's Ed in order to apply for your Michigan CDL; it's optional (and recommended) in order to fully prepare for your written and road exams.

After receiving a CDL, however, Michigan school bus drivers MUST enroll in training specific to before you're legally certified to drive a school bus.

MI School Bus Drivers

If you're planning on driving a school bus, you need to first obtain a commercial driver's license with school bus (S) and passenger (P) endorsements.

Then, before you can legally transport students, you have to get your school bus driver certification.

In order to hold this certification, you are state-required to complete the following training programs, which must be approved by the Michigan State Board of Education:

  • Entry-level school bus safety education course for initial certification.
  • Continuing education, re-certification course every 2 years, that is at least 6 hours long.

You have 90 days after enrolling in your course to finish the school bus training program. For more information about Michigan school bus driver training, contact the State Board of Education's office at (517) 373-3900.

All Michigan CDL Applicants

Commercial driver applicants are not state-required to enroll in preparatory CDL classes.

Taking a commercial driver education course can, however, help to ensure that you'll pass the Secretary of State's required CDL exams in a single attempt.

All Michigan CDL applicants are required to pass the following exams:

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

If your commercial driver license's classification and endorsement(s) require it, you could also have to pass additional written and behind-the-wheel CDL tests.

This is why you should be absolutely positive about which classification and endorsement(s) apply to your CDL. You don't want any surprises when you go to take your commercial driver exams!

You can refer to the following guides for more information about CDL classifications and endorsements:

Michigan CDL Test Prep Options

As you read earlier, the Michigan SOS does not require CDL applicants to take formal CDL test prep courses. Despite this, they are still a great way to prepare for your required commercial driver exams.

Different courses have different advantages to your Michigan CDL prep:

  • To prepare for the material and format of your CDL written test(s), consider enrolling in a classroom course.
  • To learn the skills you'll need to execute for your CDL road exam, consider taking a behind-the-wheel training course.

If you do begin to look at commercial Driver's Ed options, first ask the following questions of your options:

  • Is the course length and pricing realistic for your schedule and budget?
  • Will certified instructors who hold valid commercial driver licenses teach the classes?
  • Are all of the topics and skills you need to know for your particular CDL tests covered in the program's curriculum?

Michigan CDL Classroom Courses

While looking at CDL test prep classroom courses, make sure that the curricula will at least cover all of the material that you'll need to know for the written general knowledge test, including topics like:

  • Inspecting your vehicle before, during, and after a trip.
  • Basic vehicle control (e.g. acceleration and backing up).
  • Manual and automatic transmissions.
  • Keeping a clear view of and communicating with surrounding traffic.
  • Controlling your vehicle's speed in difficult situations like:
    • Slick road surfaces.
    • Sharp turns.
    • Steep hills.
    • Dense traffic.
  • Maintaining a safe amount of space around your vehicle.
  • Dealing with hazards like:
    • Objects in the road.
    • Dangerous drivers.
    • Harsh weather conditions.
  • The risks of driving while distracted or impaired.
  • Driving through railroad crossings.
  • Emergency and accident procedures.

Additional Michigan CDL Written Tests

As mentioned above, the Secretary of State could require you to take additional written exams to earn your MI commercial driver's license. This is all dependent on the classification of and endorsement(s) on your CDL.

The other written tests you could have to pass include:

  • Driving a combination vehicle.
  • Operation of a school bus.
  • Pulling a double or triple trailer.
  • Transporting passengers.
  • Hauling gas or liquid-filled tanks.
  • Working with hazardous materials.
  • Air brakes operation.

When you feel ready, schedule a CDL written test appointment at your local SOS office.

MI Behind-the-Wheel Classes

After you've passed all of your required CDL written tests, the Michigan SOS will give you a commercial learner's permit (CLP).

According to state law, you must hold your CLP for a minimum of 14 days before taking the MI CDL road test. During that time, consider participating in a behind-the-wheel commercial driver training program.

Behind-the-wheel CDL training programs in Michigan are designed specifically to help you pass the Secretary of State's CDL road exam with ease. Should you decide to explore your behind-the-wheel options, look to see that the programs will teach you the skills you'll need to master for the CDL skills road test, including:

  • Performing a thorough internal and external vehicle inspection.
  • Backing up in a straight line and while turning.
  • Safely turning and changing lanes.
  • Cautiously proceeding through intersections and railroad crossings.
  • Entering and exiting an expressway.
  • Attention to basic safety practices while:
    • Passing under bridges.
    • In moving traffic.
    • Driving in urban or rural environments.

Additional CDL Road Test Skills

Similar to the SOS written CDL testing, you might have to learn additional behind-the-wheel skills, depending on your desired CDL's classification and endorsement(s).

The other CDL skills you could have to execute during road testing include:

  • Checking the air brakes.
  • Specialized pre-trip inspection for all buses and trailers.
  • Loading and unloading students from a school bus.
  • Proper gear shifting for manual transmissions.

When you feel confident driving your commercial vehicle, make a CDL road test appointment at a Secretary of State office that offers CDL driving skills testing.

Study on Your Own for a MI CDL

Remember, if you plan on driving a school bus in Michigan, you are state-required to enroll in special school bus driver training courses AFTER receiving your MI commercial driver license and school bus/passenger endorsements.

However, when first applying for a commercial driver license, all applicants are not required to enroll in CDL test prep courses. So if taking a CDL test prep class is going to be too expensive or too much of a time commitment, you can always study on your own.

All of the skills and material that you'll need to know for the SOS CDL exams can be found in the Michigan Commercial Driver License Manual. There's a chart to reference when determining which parts of the manual you need to study for your specific CDL.

Another excellent way to prepare for your commercial driver exams is to take CDL practice tests. You'll be able to gauge which sections you need to study up on, as well as gain familiarity with the format and questions you can expect on your CDL exams. Additionally, practice tests are pressure-free, so you can quiz yourself on your own time and at your own pace.

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