Applying for a New CDL in New Hampshire
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Get Started with the CDL Manual
The best place to begin is with the Commercial Driver's Manual, which is available online for download.
The Commercial Driver's Manual provides what 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 Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices, also known 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, many 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 years old to drive interstate (outside NH). Because New Hampshire is a pretty small state, it is likely you will be driving the commercial vehicle interstate.
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, any disqualifying event will be shared nationally through the National Driver Register. 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 lbs. or more, provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 lbs.
- Class B: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more, or any such vehicle towing another vehicle not in excess of 10,000 lbs. 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 passengers (or more), 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. If you are not sure, call the DMV at (603) 227-4020 for clarification.
Commercial driver license fees start at $60. You may have to pay extra fees depending on the number and types of endorsements you have.
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) 227-4020 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.
You'll need your Social Security number. If you can, bring your Social Security card and it will also serve as a form 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 requirement for 20/40 with both eyes for a non-commercial driver's license. 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 have to 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 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. 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 licensed for certain types of commercial vehicles, extra testing is required. If you pass, you will receive an endorsement on your CDL.
- 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)
Requirements for Medical Certification
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 submit a medical examination if you drive a vehicle that weighs more than 4,536 kgs. (10,000 lbs.) in interstate commerce.
You must carry a current copy of your medical examination certificate with you when you drive.
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 pay separate fees for each of these:
- $38 for fingerprints.
- $34 for the TSA background check.
- $14.50 for the FBI background check.
Please note that fees for non-TSA agency states are higher.
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 5 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.