Applying for a New CDL in New Jersey

CDL Overview

In New Jersey, before you can apply for a commercial driver's license (CDL) from the state's Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC), you must first have a regular automobile driver's license, referred to as Class D. In addition, before applying, you will want to be familiar with the classes of CDL licenses.

With a Class A license, you will be able to drive:

  • A truck and trailer that has a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 lbs. or above, if the trailer's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is more than 10,000 lbs.
  • A Class B or C vehicle, as long as you have the necessary endorsements.

With a Class B license, you will be able to drive:

  • A vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more towing a trailer with a GVWR below 10,000 lbs.
  • A Class C vehicle, as long as you have the necessary endorsements.

With a Class C license, you will be able to drive:

  • A any single vehicle or combination of vehicles designed to carry 16 passengers or more (the driver included).

How to Get a CDL

To apply for a CDL in New Jersey, you'll first apply for a permit. You should:

  • Pay a $125 testing fee and pick up a CDL driver manual, which you will use to prepare for the written knowledge tests.
  • Complete any forms you are given.

At this point, you will receive your CDL permit and a Medical Examination Report (Form RA-4) for your physical exam. According to federal law, all CDL holders must carry certification that they've passed a physical examination; this certificate must be renewed every 3 years. If you are applying for a passenger endorsement, you will also be given a fingerprint card.

The Knowledge (Written) Test

Truck drivers can take their knowledge test (also known as the written test) once they have their CDL permit. Bus drivers must also have the physical examination form completed before taking the knowledge test. We recommend taking a NJ CDL practice test to ensure you pass your real test.

In addition, those applying for a Class C passenger endorsement must have their physical examination forms and fingerprint cards completed before taking the knowledge test.

The CDL Road Test

Once you pass the knowledge and vision tests (you need at least 20/40 vision in each eye, with or without correction), the MVC will validate your permit for practice driving. When you've practiced and you're ready, and after the required practice driving period of 10 days, go to an MVC test center and make an appointment for your road test.

On the day of the test, you should bring:

  • A commercial vehicle with a current inspection sticker. You must also have the current registration document and a current insurance card for this vehicle.
  • Your valid examination permit.

During your road test, a safety specialist will ride with you, and you will drive in an off-road test area or on a public road.

If you pass the road test, the test examiner will issue you an authorization slip for licensing. You can take this slip, along with your permit, to a MVC Agency and obtain your license.

  • CDL Fee: $42, plus $2 for each endorsement. It's good for 4 years.

If you fail the road test, go to a road test facility to reschedule the test after 2 weeks. If you fail the test several times, the MVC might ask you to wait 6 months before trying again.

Federal Guidelines

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 was designed to improve highway safety. Its purpose is to ensure that drivers of commercial vehicles are qualified to drive them, and to remove unsafe drivers from the highways. It required states to upgrade their existing programs to follow the new federal standards.

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.


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 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) of over 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.

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.

The New Jersey 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 Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines. Many employers require their drivers to take PTDI-approved training.

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:

  • $38 for fingerprints.
  • $34 for the TSA background check.
  • $14.50 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 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.

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 New Jersey DMV, or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association.

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