Commercial Driver Education in Virginia
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Education is essential for any commercial driver, not only to learn to drive an unwieldy commercial vehicle, but for the safety of everyone on the road.
Each state licenses its own commercial drivers according to standards set by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). States license their drivers after the driver passes knowledge (written) and skills (road) tests. In Virginia, some of the requirements are even stricter than federal standards.
The FHWA requires states to issue three types of commercial driver's licenses (CDLs):
Class A: Any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) 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.
There are also extra tests you can take to operate certain types of commercial vehicles. You might be required to take anywhere from one to five knowledge tests to have the following endorsements 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)
- X - Combination of Tank Vehicle and Hazardous Materials
State exams must be at least as strict as the federal standards. For example, the general knowledge test must contain at least 30 questions and drivers must correctly answer at least 80 percent of the questions to pass the general and endorsement knowledge tests.
The road skills tests must be taken in a vehicle of the type that the driver expects to operate with his or her license.
While you're not required by law to take CDL courses, you can to help you pass all these tests. In Virginia, third-party testers and driver education courses are approved by the state. Many motor carrier companies also provide driver education to their employees.
The state must evaluate these programs at least once a year, according to federal standards. The FHWA and the state must also be allowed to conduct random tests and inspections of the schools without notice.
To prepare for your CDL exams, you should read the Virginia Commercial Driver's Manual to begin. This is not a replacement for professional education―the best place to get comprehensive knowledge and practical driving skills is through a commercial driver education course.
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