Commercial Driver Education in Idaho

Would you like to make your living out on the wide open Idaho roads? Does driving take you to your “happy place"?

If so, then you should consider applying for an Idaho commercial driver's license (CDL).

During the CDL application process, the Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will test you on your ability to safely drive a commercial vehicle.

In Idaho, certain CDL holders are state-required to enroll in commercial driver education in order to be employed in the state. Others may wish to do so before applying for CDL in order to greatly increase your chance of being able to pass your required exams on your first attempt. Beginning February 7, 2022, all CDL applicants will be required to complete mandatory entry-level driver training.


Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the Idaho 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.

Idaho CDL Education Requirements

As mentioned above, currently certain CDL holders are required by law to have commercial driver training. This will change on February 7, 2022, when all CDL applicants will need to complete a training course before applying.

School Bus Drivers

If you intend to work as a school bus driver in Idaho, then you are required to complete a behind-the-wheel training course AFTER receiving your CDL with a school bus (S) endorsement. Per state regulations, this training will consist of:

  • A minimum 6 hours of initial training before or upon hire.
  • An annual refresher training, also consisting of at least 10 hours:
    • At least 3 hours will be conducted BEFORE the school year begins.
    • 3 sessions of at least 30 minutes each will be conducted DURING the school year.

You can complete your required training with your potential employer, as long as the curriculum is approved by the Idaho State Department of Education (SDE).

If you do not complete the required training, then you are legally not allowed to transport students.

The Idaho State Department of Education provides a School Bus Manual for drivers and potential applicants to find more information. You can call the SDE Student Transportation subdivision at (208) 332-6851.

All Other Idaho CDL Applicants

CDL education is currently optional for all other applicants; however, it's still an optimal way to prepare for the DMV's required CDL tests.

All commercial driver applicants are required to pass the following exams:

  • Written general knowledge test.
  • Behind-the-wheel general skills test.

The classification and endorsement(s) of your desired CDL could mean that you also have to take additional commercial driver exams.

For more information about your CDL's classification and endorsements, refer to the following guides:

Selecting an Idaho CDL Ed Course

As stated above, Idaho CDL holders carrying school bus endorsements are legally obligated to enroll in an approved, new driver training program.

For any other CDL applicants, taking a formal commercial driver education course is currently optional, but still one of the best ways to prepare for the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) CDL exams.

Enrolling in a classroom course will get you comfortable with the format and difficulty of your required CDL written exams.

Taking a behind-the-wheel class will familiarize you with actually driving a commercial vehicle and teach you all of the necessary skills needed to pass the CDL road exam.

As you begin to look at different commercial driver education programs, make sure to ask the following questions of your options:

  • Does the program's tuition and course length fit in well with your personal budget and schedule?
  • Will you be taught by certified instructors who hold valid commercial driver's licenses?
  • Is the curriculum inclusive of all the topics and skills you'll need to master for the exams pertaining to your particular CDL?

Idaho CDL Classroom Course

When you're looking at classroom CDL courses, it's important to pay special attention to the offered curriculum.

You'll want to take a course that at least covers the material you'll need to know to pass the DMV's written general knowledge exam, with topics including:

  • Vehicle inspection before, during, and after a trip.
  • Basic vehicle function (e.g. accelerating and parallel parking)
  • Using manual and automatic transmissions.
  • Seeing and communicating with other drivers on the road.
  • Calculating your required stopping distance.
  • Controlling your speed in dangerous situations like:
    • Slippery roads.
    • Sharp curves.
    • Heavy traffic.
    • Steep hills.
    • Inclement weather.
  • Ensuring there is a safe amount of space around your vehicle.
  • The risks of impaired and distracted driving.
  • Driving through railroad crossings.
  • Procedure during emergencies and accidents.

Additional Idaho CDL Written Tests

As mentioned above, you might have to take additional written tests for the specific classification and endorsement(s) on your CDL.

The other topics to be aware of while studying for your CDL written exams include:

  • Hazardous material transportation.
  • Air brakes.
  • Driving a combination vehicle.
  • Hauling liquid or gas-filled tankers.
  • Pulling double or triple trailers.
  • Passenger transport.
  • Safe operation of a school bus.

When you feel comfortable with the material, make an appointment to take the CDL written test(s) at your local DMV office.

Behind-the-Wheel CDL Training

Once you've passed your CDL written test(s) the Division of Motor Vehicles will give you a commercial learner's permit (CLP).

You're legally required to wait at least 14 days between receiving your CLP and taking the CDL skills road test.

So, in the meantime, consider signing up for behind-the-wheel commercial driver training. These courses are specifically designed to help you ace the DMV's road exam.

When you're looking at behind-the-wheel programs, make sure that the curriculum minimally includes teaching you the following skills, which will be on your general skills road exam:

  • Completing a thorough pre-trip vehicle inspection.
  • Reversing in a straight line and while turning.
  • Parallel parking and docking in an alley.
  • Going through intersections and railroad crossings.
  • Turning and merging into other lanes.
  • Exiting and rejoining the flow of moving traffic.

Additional CDL Road Test Topics

Just like your CDL written testing, you might be required to master extra skills depending on the classification and endorsement(s) on your desired commercial driver license.

The other skills the Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles could test you on include:

  • Specialized pre-trip vehicle inspection for all buses and trailers.
  • Air brakes check.
  • Shifting gears with a manual transmission.
  • Safe student discharge from a school bus.

When you feel confident driving your commercial vehicle of choice, make an appointment at one of the Idaho DMV's CDL skills road test sites.

Idaho CDL Solo Study

If you're living on a budget and schedule that just won't allow for a formal commercial driver education, that's okay. Studying on your own for your CDL exams is still a viable option.

Future school bus drivers are the only exception to the rule. Remember, you must enroll in a new school bus driver education course, approved by the Idaho State Department of Education, after receiving your CDL with a school bus (S) endorsement.

Everything that you need to know for your CDL written and road exams is in the Idaho Commercial Driver's License Manual. There's even a chart included in the beginning of the manual that outlines exactly which sections you need to study for your particular commercial driver's license.

As a way to gauge your mastery of the material, consider taking some CDL practice tests. Doing so will also familiarize you with the format of the commercial driver written tests, as well as give you the opportunity to identify the areas where you need more practice before you ace your exam!

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