Applying for a New CDL in New Mexico

Who Needs a CDL?

A commercial driver's license (CDL) must be obtained by anyone who wishes to operate a vehicle:

  • Designed to carry 16 passengers or more
  • Weighing 26,001 lbs. or more
  • With a trailer that brings the vehicle's combined weight to 26,001 lbs. or higher
  • With hazardous materials placards on it

Getting a commercial license from the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) isn't as simple as applying for a regular driver's license. Not only must commercial drivers undergo much more rigorous training and testing, but they are also required to be declared fit for the job, according to federal standards, by a medical doctor.

Each endorsement to your license requires its own knowledge and testing. Applicants who wish to transport hazardous materials must also submit to an extensive criminal background check (at their expense) by the Transportation Security Administration. (Hazmat applications are handled only by certain MVD field offices, as listed in this hazmat-drivers notification.)

There is an age requirements as well: You must be at least 18 years old to drive commercial vehicles within the state of New Mexico. If you plan to drive a commercial vehicle to or between destinations outside the state, you must be at least 21 years old.

The Commercial Driver's License Manual (available for download and at MVD offices) is only a starting point to your education. You might be able to pass the knowledge test by studying the manual religiously, but to pass the other licensing tests―including the road skills test―you're going to need professional training.

CDL licensing is handled by the MVD. All transactions (applying for a CDL, testing, and renewing your license) will be handled in person at MVD field offices. You may call the information hotline, (888) 683-4636, for details about application forms, licensing and testing fees, and the process to apply for a CDL.

Getting a Learner's Permit

Unless you already have a CDL from another state, in which case you can just transfer your CDL, you must visit an MVD office to get a CDL learner's permit. To get a CDL permit, you must pass the CDL written tests.

Depending on what class of vehicle you wish to drive, you will have to pass at least one written knowledge test to become a licensed commercial driver. The general knowledge test will be given to all CDL candidates.

Study the CDL Manual before taking the test. This has all the information you need. It's also worthwhile to take a few practice tests beforehand.

If your vehicle has other specifications, such as the need for hazardous materials placards or the use of air brakes, then you will have to take additional tests. Bus drivers and tanker-truck drivers also must pass specialized knowledge tests.

Skills (Driving) Tests

Once you're issued a learner's permit and after you've completed your professional driver training, you will be required to pass a skills test.

Make this appointment at an outside testing office; see the MVD website for details. The third-party testing service charges varying fees.

The first part of the test, known as the pre-trip vehicle inspection, will determine whether you know what to check your vehicle for before you set off on the highway.

The second part of the skills test is basic vehicle control, which is as straightforward as it sounds: backing, stopping, starting, turning. Finally, you must pass the on-road test, where you will demonstrate to your instructor what kind of driving and safety skills you possess out on the road.

Grade Requirements

For both the knowledge and the skills tests, you must receive a grade of 80% or higher.

Getting the Regular CDL

Take your proof of passing the skills test back to the MVD with these documents:

  • Sealed proof of passing
  • Driver's license
  • CDL Learner's Permit
  • Social Security card
  • USDOT Commercial Driver Medical Form, Federal Medical Waiver Card, or proof of employment by a government entity
  • Proof of identity (including date of birth)
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residence status in the United States
  • 2 documents proving physical residency in New Mexico, such as rental agreement, electric bill, etc.
  • Payment for your license fee(s).

CDL Forms, Applications, and Manual

Though the CDL application form itself is not available online, many auxiliary documents are:

Federal Guidelines

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.

CDL Classes for Every State

To be eligible for a CDL, you must have a clean driving record. Federal regulations require you to pass a physical exam every 3 years.

The Act established three 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 lbs. or higher, 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 equal to or less than 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.

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.

  • 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. All drivers 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 weight 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.

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 Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) 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.

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

It's federal law for all hazmat operators to undergo a background check and fingerprinting. For more information about hazmat requirements in New Mexico, visit the CDL Hazmat Endorsement page.

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