Commercial Driver Education in Massachusetts
The natural and cultural worlds that make up Massachusetts offer colorful surprises with every corner you turn. If you'd like to make a living exploring the state full-time, consider becoming a MA commercial driver.
You will need to apply for a Massachusetts commercial driver's license (CDL) as outlined by the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The RMV will give you a series of tests to ensure that you can operate a commercial vehicle with safety and expertise.
Certain CDL applicants will need to complete mandatory trainings specific to their line of work BEFORE receiving a Massachusetts commercial driver license; on February 7, 2022, this will extend to all applicants. Keep reading for more information about state-required training, as well as optional CDL test prep courses.
IMPORTANT FEDERAL TRAINING REQUIREMENTS UPDATE
Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the Massachusetts Registry 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.
Required Massachusetts CDL Education
If you want to be a school bus driver in Massachusetts, then you are required to have school bus (S) and passenger (P) endorsements on your MA CDL. You'll first apply and test for a commercial learner's permit with the required endorsements—after which you'll need to earn your School Bus Driver Certificate.
To apply for this Certificate, you'll need to complete state-mandated 60 hours of school bus certification trainings:
- Classroom training—28 hours.
- Behind-the-wheel instruction—32 hours.
You'll then need to:
- Obtain and complete an Application for Certificate to Drive a School Bus.
- Your training instructor must also sign the form.
- Have a doctor complete a physical exam on a medical form provided by your employer.
- Provide payment for the applicable fees:
- Road test: $35.
- School Bus Driver Certificate: Varies by age of applicant.
- Submit all of the above to the address provided on the application form.
At this point, your application will be reviewed and your school bus training confirmed. You'll then receive information on your school bus road test. After passing your test, you'll earn your temporary School Bus Driver Certificate.
To complete the last step in earning your School Bus Driver Certificate with your MA CDL, visit your local MA RMV office with:
- Your temporary certificate.
- Your commercial learner's permit.
- Payment for the $30 upgrade fee.
Congratulations! You've earned your Massachusetts school bus driver certificate with your CDL.
Once you've received your initial school bus certification, you will need to renew it annually by completing 8 hours of in-service training with a certified instructor in your school district. Your CDL needs to be renewed every 5 years.
For more information about school bus driver certification training in Massachusetts, contact the Registry of Motor Vehicles' office at (857) 368-8000.
Optional MA CDL Test Prep
In preparation for the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles' commercial driver exams, you are not currently required to take CDL test prep courses until February 7, 2022. However, doing so can really help your chances of being able to pass the RMV's required examinations on your first attempt.
The tests that all Massachusetts CDL applicants are required to pass include:
- General knowledge written exam.
- CDL road test.
You'll need to pass additional tests if your commercial driver's license's classification and endorsement(s) warrant it. In order to avoid any surprises on testing day, make sure that you know exactly which classification and endorsement(s) apply to your CDL.
If you'd like to know more about commercial vehicle classifications and endorsements, check out the following guides:
Choosing a CDL Test Prep Course
Although it's currently optional, you should still seriously consider taking a commercial Driver's Ed course before testing for your MA commercial driver's license for these primary reasons:
- Most Massachusetts employers will require that you've already completed some formal commercial driver training before considering you for a job.
- CDL test prep programs are specifically designed to give you the best preparation for the RMV's commercial driver written and road exams.
The following types of CDL test prep courses will ensure that you're fully equipped to pass the Registry of Motor Vehicles' CDL tests:
- An in-class program will familiarize you with the material and format of the RMV's written CDL exams.
- Taking a behind-the-wheel training course will get you familiar with the vehicle and skills that you'll need to be comfortable with for the RMV's CDL road test.
So, if you do begin to look into taking a CDL test prep course, ask the following crucial questions about each of your options:
- Is there room in your budget and schedule for the tuition and duration of a commercial Driver's Ed course?
- Are the classes taught by certified instructors who hold valid Massachusetts commercial driver licenses?
- What's included in the program's curriculum? Will it cover all of the material that you need to master for your particular CDL's written and road tests?
Written MA CDL Test Prep
When choosing an in-class written test prep commercial driver education course, make sure that the curriculum will at least cover the topics that you'll see on the Registry of Motor Vehicles' general knowledge written exam, including (but not limited to):
- Inspecting your vehicle before, during, and after a trip.
- Basic skills (e.g. steering and braking).
- Shifting gears with a manual or automatic transmission.
- Establishing a safe field of vision and communication with the traffic around you.
- Calculating total stopping distance.
- Managing the space around your vehicle.
- Driving in hazardous conditions like:
- Harsh weather.
- Heavy traffic.
- Steep hills and sharp turns.
- Proceeding through railroad crossings.
- Planning in emergency and accident situations.
Don't forget, you'll need to pass additional written exams depending on your commercial driver license's classification and endorsement(s). The other written CDL exam topics include:
- Driving a passenger vehicle.
- Vehicles equipped with air brakes.
- Combination vehicles.
- Transporting hazardous materials.
- Pulling tankers filled with gas or liquid.
- Double and triple trailers.
- School bus operation.
When you're ready to take the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles' written CDL exams, just contact and make an appointment with your local RMV office.
Massachusetts CDL Road Test Prep
Once you pass your written CDL exams, the RMV will give you a Massachusetts CDL permit. Your permit is valid for 180 days, and allows you to practice driving your commercial vehicle of choice before going in for the CDL road test.
For optimal road test prep, consider enrolling in a formal behind-the-wheel commercial driver training program. Doing so will allow you the confidence and expertise that you'll need for the Registry of Motor Vehicles' CDL road exam.
A legitimate behind-the-wheel instruction course should at least teach you the skills that you'll need to know for the RMV's general CDL skills road test, including (but not limited to):
- Thorough pre-trip vehicle inspection.
- Backing exercises (e.g. docking in an alley and parallel parking).
- Entering and exiting expressways/moving traffic.
- Driving on steep upgrades and downgrades.
- Crossing over railroad tracks.
Like the RMV's written testing, you could also have to learn additional skills to pass your road test, depending on your CDL's classification and endorsement(s). The other skills you could be expected to perform include:
- Extended pre-trip inspection for all trailers and buses.
- Using a manual transmission.
When the day comes that you feel absolutely prepared for your Massachusetts commercial driver road exam, call the RMV's Contact Center at (857) 368-8000 to make a testing appointment.
Self-Study for Your MA CDL
If the time and money commitment for taking a formal CDL test prep course seems like too much of a burden, you can always choose to study on your own.* Everything that you need to know is in the Massachusetts Commercial Driver's License Manual. As you study, make sure you go over every section with information about your desired CDL's classification and endorsement.
Practice tests can be used as an additional study tool, and will help to gauge just how well you know the material. They'll also give you an idea of what format and difficulty to expect on the Registry of Motor Vehicles' written commercial driver tests. PLUS, choosing an online CDL practice test gives you flexibility in how and where you study—even while in line at the RMV!
As long as you have the right resources and mindset, you'll be able to get your MA commercial driver's license just fine.
* NOTE: Massachusetts school bus drivers are required to complete certification training with the company or school district that has hired you.