- Location: New Hampshire
Applying for a New CDL in New Hampshire
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The best place to begin is with the Commercial Driver's Manual, which is available online for download.
The Commercial Driver's Manual is a hefty 154 pages of everything you need to know to get a CDL in New Hampshire. If you can't print it out you can pick a copy up at one of the 18 Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices, also known in our state as substations. The DMV won't mail the manual to you because it is large and heavy. Fortunately, New Hampshire is a small state and you will have a number of different DMV offices close by to choose from. It is a good idea to call ahead to be sure they have the manual on hand.
The manual is well organized and contains a lot of information about vehicle classes, driver qualifications, skills requirements, testing and the laws of the road. Each section concludes with a learning check.
The manual also highlights safety; in fact, almost one-third of the pages are dedicated to safety topics like vehicle inspection, environmental driving conditions, and how to avoid and handle accidents.
Before you apply for your CDL, make sure you know what you want to drive and if you qualify.
You must be 18 years old to drive intrastate (within NH) and 21 to drive interstate (outside NH). Because New Hampshire is a pretty small state, it is likely you will be driving the commercial vehicle inter-state.
There are other CDL qualification rules that apply, like medical certification and a clean driving record. The intent is to prove you are physically fit to meet the demands of professional driving. In New Hampshire you can appeal for a waiver of the medical requirement if you intend to drive intra-state only and you must appeal directly to the Commissioner of Safety at the Department of Safety which oversees the DMV.
Because all states are connected to one computerized system, the National Driver Register any disqualifying event will be shared nationally. To read more about the CDL safety rules visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website.
The class depends on what kind of truck, bus, van or tractor-trailer you will drive. There are three classes of CDL in New Hampshire and across the US.
- 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.
It is really important to understand and become familiar with the vehicle classes because which license you apply for must correspond to the class of vehicle you plan to drive. Think about the size and weight of the vehicle as well as the hazardous designation, air braking system, and any passenger considerations. For example, an oil delivery truck would be Class B with a hazardous and tanker endorsement. If you are not sure, call the DMV at (603) 271-2371 for clarification.
Can you do this? Of course you can. But how will you know? First, you become a Commercial Driver Learner. There is no paperwork or application process to become a Commercial Driver Learner. Anyone with a Class D license can practice driving a big rig as long as the person riding along is at least 25 years old and s hold a CDL appropriate for the vehicle being driven.
For example, if you want to learn to drive a tractor trailer you must be accompanied by a driver with a Class A CDL who is at least 25.
Complete the Application for a Commercial Driver's License or pick one up at a DMV office.
You will spend anywhere from $60-105 depending on which endorsements you apply for.
In New Hampshire, with our cold winters, many of the CDL drivers require hazardous materials endorsement to haul fuel oil for home and business furnaces. The Commercial Driver's Manual has a fantastic section, second in length only to safety, on hazardous materials. The FMCSA also has tons of information on hauling hazardous materials.
Other endorsements you may want to apply for are tanker, passenger, air brake, combination vehicle and double or triple trailers―these are all on the same application form. Not sure which endorsement(s) you need? Recheck the vehicle class listing in the manual or call (603) 271-2371 for additional help.
You won't need an appointment to take the written test. However, once you pass it the state will mail you an appointment card for the road test. They don't offer the road test at all substations. Of course, if you fail the written test you can make an appointment to retake it or just stand in line on another day.
Bring with you any driver's license issued to you by any state so it can be turned in. The government is very clear on this point―federal and state law allow only one driver's license per driver. When you apply for a CDL in New Hampshire you will be, essentially, declaring your residency in the State of New Hampshire and that will be the one driver's license you carry.
Bring three forms of official identification, including your name, address, and date of birth. The identification proves who you are, how old you are, and that you do, in fact, reside in the New Hampshire.
You'll need your Social Security number. If you can, bring your Social Security Card and it will also serve as one of the three forms of official identification.
Before you can obtain your CDL, you must undergo eye, written, and road skills exams.
Like any licensing exam, they check your eyes first. In New Hampshire, if you fail the eye test you can't take the written test and you also can't re-take the eye test on that day. You must have a note from your optometrist proving your vision has been assessed and corrected before you are allowed to retake the eye test.
Federal requirements for vision are 20/40 in each eye―this supersedes New Hampshire's 20/40 with both eyes. So, don't try to avoid the corrective lens restriction on your license by taking the test without your glasses.
After you pass the vision test, there as many as seven knowledge or written tests you may take:
- General Knowledge Test: Class A, B & C
- Passenger Test: Class C
- Combination Vehicle Test: Class A
- Air Brake Test
Of course, you'll also need to test for any endorsements you want. Remember, if you have a motorcycle endorsement on your Class D operator's license you need to be sure to check that box on the application so they don't leave it off your new CDL!
Visit a DMV office to take the written tests. If you plan ahead, you can take it on the same day you fill out your application―that means get there early.
If you pass the written tests a road test will be scheduled for a different day. Use the time to practice your driving skills, safety and inspection techniques, and to carefully read the skills sections four through nine of the Commercial Driver's Manual.
Road Skills Exam
This is the white knuckle time―just you, the machine, and the state examiner. It is also B.Y.O.R. (bring your own rig) time; be sure to line up the same type of commercial vehicle that you applied for, including endorsements. If you've read the Commercial Driver's Manual you know what to expect. And don't forget the pre-trip inspection―your wheels won't roll without it.
If you fail the road test you can schedule a retest for another day and the state will send you a new appointment slip. You may want to attend Commercial Driver's School for extra coaching on those problem areas―like how to parallel park an 18-wheeler.
You might remember from your U.S. government or history classes that the federal government can enforce and enact laws where interstate commerce exists. The responsibility of overseeing commerce inside the state falls to the state and when commerce expands beyond the state boundaries, the federal government has its say. And that is how the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 came to be.
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 also made it illegal to have more than one driver's license. You can hold a regular or commercial driver's license, but not both. You can have one license from the state you reside in, but not from any other states. In the past, bad drivers could more easily hide their driving histories by getting several licenses. Today, all the states are connected to a national database to check driver histories.
To be eligible for a CDL, you must have a clean driving record. Federal regulations require you to pass a physical exam every two years. To operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce, you must be at least 21. Many states allow those as young as 18 to drive commercial vehicles within the state. You must be able to read and speak English well enough to read road signs, prepare reports, and communicate with the public and with law enforcement.
The Act established three separate classes of commercial driver's licenses. Every state issues licenses in the A, B, and C Classes.
Many states, like New Hampshire, make exceptions for farm vehicles, recreational vehicles, fire and emergency vehicles, and some military vehicles. The vehicle class chart in the first part of the Commercial Driver's Manual points you to key pages relating to the CDL license you are applying for.
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 five endorsements that you can apply for. Each requires between one and five knowledge (written) tests, and two require driving (skills) tests.
- 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)
In the interest of public safety on the highways, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations require interstate commercial drivers to be medically fit to operate their vehicles safely and competently. You are required to have a physical exam and carry a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) medical certificate if:
- You operate a motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) or gross vehicle weight (GVW) or gross combination weight (GCW) of 4,536 kilograms (10,001 pounds) or more in interstate commerce.
- You operate a motor vehicle designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, in interstate commerce.
- You operate a motor vehicle designed or used to transport between nine and 15 passengers, for direct compensation, beyond 75 air miles from your regular work-reporting location, in interstate commerce.
- You transport hazardous materials in quantities requiring placards, in interstate commerce.
You must carry a current copy of your medical examination certificate with you when you drive. Residents of Mexico or Canada who drive in the United States can be certified by doctors in their countries, provided they meet the U.S. 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.
Your state's commercial driver's manual is a good place to learn basic information, but you will need to be professionally trained to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
In order to pass your driving skills tests, you will need to learn how to inspect vehicles before driving, learn how to couple and uncouple tractors and trailers, and have plenty of practice driving. This includes driving in different conditions and on different road surfaces, turning, parking, backing up, and braking.
Many motor carriers train their employees, while other drivers take courses at private driving schools, vocational or technical schools, and community colleges. Individual states often approve or certify training courses. The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) has set minimum standards for training curriculums and certifies driver training courses that meet industry and Federal Highway Administration (FHA) guidelines. Many employers require their drivers to take PTDI-approved training.
Some states may specify minimum training guidelines. Check with your state's motor vehicles department to see if there are minimum training requirements to get your CDL.
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. The requirement is a result of the USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56, Section 1012) and the Safe Explosives Act (Public Law 107-296, Section 1121-1123), ARS 28-3103(A)(2), and 49 CFR 1572.
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 pay:
- $38 for fingerprints.
- $34 for the TSA background check.
- $17.25 for the FBI background check.
The TSA attempts to finish background checks within 30 days. You will be notified by mail. If you are approved, you can then go to your state's licensing authority (wherever you got your CDL) to complete your hazmat application process. If you are denied, you can appeal or seek a waiver.
- Hazmat endorsements must be renewed at least every five years.
- Your state might require renewal more often.
- Get a new background check each time you renew your hazmat endorsement.
You must arrange for the background check no less than 30 days before the expiration of your current approval, or your CDL may be canceled.
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 Association.