Commercial Driver Education in Kentucky

With the sound of classic Kentucky bluegrass twanging from your car radio and the sight of Kentucky's bluegrass fields streaming by, as a commercial driver, you might just forget that you're at work.

If you'd like to make your living out on the road of the “Bluegrass State," you'll have to apply for a Kentucky commercial driver's license (CDL).

When you apply for a CDL, the Kentucky State Police will test you on your knowledge of the safety and driving skills specific to operating a commercial vehicle.

While you are not currently state-required to enroll in a formal CDL education prior to testing for your commercial driver's license in Kentucky, school bus endorsement holders MUST take specialized training courses AFTER obtaining your KY CDL. Beginning on February 7, 2022, mandatory training will extend to all CDL applicants.


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

Kentucky CDL Education Requirements

As stated above, CDL applicants are not currently required to take commercial driver education courses, though this will change on February 7, 2022. However, school bus drivers are legally obligated to complete special trainings particular to their line of work, after receiving their CDL.

KY School Bus Drivers

If you plan on becoming a school bus driver, you are REQUIRED to complete the Kentucky School Bus Driver Training Curriculum after receiving your commercial driver's license with a school bus (S) endorsement.

The aforementioned training will allow you to earn your school bus driver certification, which you need in order to legally transport students.

All Kentucky school bus drivers are required to complete initial classroom and behind-the-wheel training, taught by a certified school bus driver training instructor approved by the Kentucky Department of Education.

The school bus driver classroom training you're required to complete includes but is not limited to the following topics:

  • Laws and regulations—2 hours.
  • Vehicle maintenance and care—2 hours.
  • Incident and emergency procedure—2 hours.
  • Transporting students with special needs—1 hour.

The behind-the-wheel training that you must complete includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Executing basic skills (e.g. pre-trip inspection, steering, and shifting gears)—3 hours.
  • Controlling vehicle speed—1 hour.
  • Familiarization with the bus route—2 hours.

If you'd like to see the complete new school bus driver training curriculum, refer to the Kentucky Pupil Transportation Management Manual.

After completing your initial school bus driver training, you'll then refresh your skills each year by taking an annual recertification training update course, which is 8 hours long.

All CDL Applicants

In preparation for the CDL exams, the Division of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement does not currently require commercial driver applicants to enroll in CDL education classes, though this will change on February 7, 2022.

Taking a commercial driver education course can, however, give you the best preparation for the CVE's required commercial driver license exams.

The tests that all CDL applicants are required to pass include:

  • Written CDL general knowledge exam.
  • General CDL skills road exam.

Depending on your CDL's classification and endorsement(s), you could have to take additional CDL exams.

Therefore, it's important that you know exactly which classification and endorsements your desired CDL calls for.

For more information on commercial driver's license classifications and endorsements, refer to the following guides:

Choose Your CDL Test Prep Course

Although you aren't currently state-required to enroll in preparatory CDL tests, they're still a great way to ensure you'll be able to pass all of your required commercial driver exams in a single attempt.

Different types of Kentucky CDL test prep courses will yield different benefits when it comes to passing your required exams:

  • Taking a classroom course will prepare you for the material and format of the CDL written tests.
  • Participating in a behind-the-wheel training program will ensure that you know all of the necessary skills to pass your CDL road exam.

As you begin to look at commercial Driver's Ed classes, ask the following questions of your options:

  • Are the course length and tuition reasonable for your own schedule and budget?
  • Will the classes be taught by certified instructors who hold valid commercial driver licenses?
  • Does the program's curriculum cover all of the topics and skills you'll need to master for your specific CDL exams?

Kentucky CDL Classroom Course

When you're looking a CDL prep classroom courses, make sure that the course material will at least cover the material that you'll find on the written CDL general knowledge exam, including:

  • Proper vehicle inspection before, during, and after a trip.
  • Performing basic maneuvers (e.g. accelerating and braking).
  • Shifting gears.
  • Seeing and communicating with other drivers on the road.
  • Controlling vehicle speed in difficult conditions like:
    • Slippery roads.
    • Steep hills.
    • Sharp turns.
    • Heavy traffic.
  • Keeping a safe amount of space around your vehicle.
  • Dealing with hazards like:
    • Objects in the road.
    • Unpredictable drivers.
    • Construction zones.
    • Inclement weather.
  • The dangers of driving while impaired or distracted.
  • Safe handling of emergencies and accidents.

Additional CDL Written Test Topics

As mentioned earlier, the Division of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement could require you to take additional written exams, depending on your CDL's classification and endorsement(s).

The other CDL written tests that you might need to pass include:

  • Passenger transport.
  • Air brakes.
  • Combination vehicles.
  • Hazardous material transport.
  • Liquid or gas-filled tankers.
  • Double or triple trailers.
  • School bus operation.

When you feel ready, schedule an appointment to take your CDL written exam(s) at an approved testing location.

KY Behind-the-Wheel CDL Training

Once you pass all of your required CDL written tests, you'll be given a CDL instruction permit.

According to federal law you must hold your instruction permit for at least 14 days before taking the CDL road skills exam.

So, during that time, you might consider enrolling in a behind-the-wheel commercial vehicle training program.

When looking at your behind-the-wheel options, make sure that the program will minimally teach you the skills you'll be expected to perform for the general CDL skills road exam, including:

  • Pre-trip, internal and external vehicle inspection.
  • Reversing on a curve and in a straight line.
  • Alley docking and parallel parking.
  • Changing lanes and turning.
  • Driving through intersections and railroad crossings.
  • Entering and exiting the flow of moving traffic.

Additional CDL Road Test Skills

Just like the CVE's written CDL examinations, you might also need to learn additional material for the Division of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement's CDL road test.

The other skills you might need to master in preparation for your particular CDL road test include:

  • Air brake check.
  • Extended pre-trip inspection for all buses and trailers.
  • Proper gear shifting with a manual transmission.
  • Letting students off of a school bus.

When you feel completely comfortable behind the wheel of your commercial vehicle, call the Kentucky State Police at (800) 542-5990 to make your CDL road test appointment.

KY CDL Self-Study Guide

School bus drivers in need of certification must enroll in official school bus driver training, approved by the Kentucky Department of Education.

However, to prepare for your initial commercial driver license exams, you always have the option of studying on your own.

All of the material you'll need to learn for your CDL exams can be found in the Kentucky Commercial Driver License Manual. As an additional study aide, you can also take CDL practice tests. These will help you determine which parts of the manual require more studying and familiarize you with the format of the commercial driver written tests. Plus, you can retake them as many times as you need to feel prepared!

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