Commercial Driver Education in Colorado
While traveling around Colorado, you might need to pinch yourself as you make your way through the dreamlike landscapes of purple mountains, sun-kissed canyons, and fields overflowing with wildflowers and verdant pine trees. Now, what if you could be paid to do all this? Then you'd surely be dreaming, right?
You can make this dream a reality by making your living driving a commercial vehicle in Colorado. First, you'll need to apply for a CO commercial driver's license (CDL) through the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV requires you to pass a series of tests, proving your knowledge of the new safety and driving skills that are needed to operate a commercial vehicle.
In preparation for the Colorado DMV's commercial driver exams, enrolling in CDL test prep courses is currently optional. Once you have your Colorado CDL, you could be state-required to complete subsequent trainings specific to your line of work.
Read on for more information regarding optional CDL test prep and mandatory occupational training in CO.
IMPORTANT FEDERAL TRAINING REQUIREMENTS UPDATE
Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles now mandates new CDL applicants complete an entry-level driver training course through an authorized provider. You’ll need to complete this training prior to applying for your first commercial driver’s license, upgrading your existing CDL class, or applying for a HAZMAT, school bus, or passenger endorsement.
CO Commercial Driver's Ed Requirements
While preparing to take the Division of Motor Vehicles' commercial driver license exams, you are not currently state-required to enroll in CDL test prep classes. However, if you want to be a Colorado school bus driver, you must complete mandatory specialized training after obtaining your CDL in order to begin work.
Beginning on February 7, 2022, all CDL applicants must complete mandatory entry-level driver education.
Colorado School Bus Drivers
If you want to be a Colorado school bus driver, you need to have a special school bus license in order to legally transport students. As part of the initial licensing process, you'll need to complete pre-service trainings, administered by the school district (your employer).
The CO Department of Education (CDE) requires that the initial school bus driver pre-service training curriculum cover topics like:
- First aid training.
- Driving in inclement weather conditions.
- Mountain driving.
- Information specific to the type of school bus you'll be operating.
Once you've obtained a school bus license, you are state-required to:
- Complete at least 6 hours of annual in-service training.
- Pass an annual driving performance test.
- Pass an annual written test.
- Allow the review of an annual vehicle records check.
For more information about Colorado school bus driver training, contact the Department of Education's School Transportation office at (303) 866-6656.
All CO CDL Applicants
Though you aren't required to, you should still consider enrolling in preparatory commercial Driver's Ed classes, since doing so will likely improve your chances of being able to pass the Division of Motor Vehicles' CDL tests in a single go.
The DMV requires all commercial driver's license applicants to pass the following exams:
- Written general knowledge test.
- Behind-the-wheel CDL skills test.
The DMV will also require you to pass additional written and road examinations if your desired Colorado CDL has the classification and endorsement(s) to warrant it. To ensure you're adequately prepared on testing day, make sure that you know exactly which classification and endorsements apply to your specific CO commercial driver license.
If you'd like to know more, refer to the guides below:
Colorado CDL Education Options
Despite the fact that it's not mandatory, enrolling in a preparatory CO commercial Driver's Ed course can be very beneficial for the following reasons:
- A majority of Colorado employers will require that you've already completed some formal CDL training before they consider you for a job position.
- CDL test prep courses are structured in such a way to make passing the Division of Motor Vehicles' exams as quick and easy as possible.
The different types of DMV commercial driver license exams will require different types of CDL test prep courses:
- Taking an in-class CDL test prep course will ensure that you're ready for the format and difficulty of the DMV's written exam.
- Enrolling in a behind-the-wheel CDL training program will give you ample preparation for the DMV's CDL road skills test.
If you begin to look at your Colorado CDL test prep options, make sure to ask the following questions about each program you're considering:
- Will your personal finances and schedule be able to accommodate for the pricing and time commitment of a preparatory commercial Driver's Ed course?
- Do certified instructors who hold valid Colorado commercial driver's licenses teach all of the classes?
- What's covered on the curriculum? Does it include all of the material that you need to master for your particular Colorado CDL's written and road exams?
Written CDL Test Prep Curriculum
When preparing for the CO Division of Motor Vehicles' written CDL exams, you should look for an in-class course with a curriculum that at least covers the topics you'll see on the general knowledge exam, including (but not limited to):
- Steps to a proper vehicle inspection before, during, and after a trip.
- Manual vs. automatic transmissions.
- Establishing and maintaining a safe field of vision.
- Communication with surrounding vehicles.
- Calculating stopping distance.
- Controlling your speed.
- Managing the space around your vehicle.
- Railroad crossing procedure.
- Handling emergencies and accidents.
You will need to pass additional written CDL exams if your desired license has the classification and endorsement to warrant it. The other written test topics that the DMV could throw your way on testing day include:
- Combination vehicle operation.
- Vehicles equipped with air brakes.
- Proper transportation of passengers.
- Working with hazardous materials.
- Pulling a tanker filled with gaseous or liquid material.
- Double or triple trailers.
- Operating a school bus.
When you're ready to take your CDL written test(s), schedule an appointment online through the CO Division of Motor Vehicles' website.
CDL Road Skills Test Prep Curriculum
Once you've passed the Division of Motor Vehicles' written CDL test(s), you'll receive a Colorado commercial learner's permit (CLP). While in possession of a CLP you can legally practice driving your commercial vehicle of choice as long as you're with a licensed supervisor.
In Colorado, you must have your CLP for at least 14 days before going in to take your CDL road skills exam. Your CO CLP is valid for 180 days, which allows you enough time to enroll in a behind-the-wheel training program in preparation for your CDL road test (if you choose).
The behind-the-wheel CDL class that you choose should at the minimum teach you the exercises you'll need to perform for the Colorado DMV's CDL road skills test, including (but not limited to):
- Reversing exercises (e.g. parallel parking and docking in an alley).
- Making left and right turns.
- Precautions for driving through railroad crossings and intersections.
- Pulling over and then re-entering moving traffic.
- Practicing basic safety skills like:
- Staying in your own lane.
- Keeping both hands on the steering wheel.
- Using your mirrors.
Like the DMV's written CDL testing, you'll need to learn additional behind-the-wheel skills if your CO commercial driver license has the classification and endorsement(s) to warrant it. The other skills that you could be required to demonstrate include:
- Air brakes check.
- Extended pre-trip inspection for all types of buses and trailers.
- Vehicles equipped with a manual transmission.
- Loading and unloading students from a school bus.
All Colorado CDL behind-the-wheel testing is done through third party testers. The Division of Motor Vehicles provides a list of approved third party testing companies that you can contact to set up your CDL road skills test appointment.
CO CDL Self-Study Guide
If the time and financial commitment of a Colorado CDL test prep course is going to be too much of a stressor, remember that you always have the option of studying on your own.
All of the topics and skills that you'll need to master for the Division of Motor Vehicles' written and road tests are in the CO Commercial Driver License Manual. Make sure that you go over every section with information about your prospective CDL's classification and endorsement(s), because, as you've read, you will be tested on it.
Another study tool at your disposal are CDL practice tests. Taking a few of these will help you gauge which parts of the manual you might need to revisit and will also let you know what type of format and difficulty to expect on the DMV's written CDL tests. Remember that online practice tests give you the added advantage of studying on your own time and at your own pace!
With the right resources and mindset, you'll get your Colorado commercial driver's license in no time.