Commercial Driver Education in Maryland
If you want to drive a commercial vehicle in Maryland, you first have to prove that you can do so safely. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) requires you to take exams meant to validate your knowledge of driving commercial vehicles.
A great way to take the stress out of preparing for the commercial driver's license (CDL) exams is by enrolling in commercial driver education courses. Although they're not currently required, programs like this can make applying for a new CDL feel a lot less difficult. Beginning on February 7, 2022, CDL training will be required for all new applicants.
IMPORTANT FEDERAL TRAINING REQUIREMENTS UPDATE
Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration 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.
MD CDL Education Requirements
As mentioned above, the MVA does not currently require CDL applicants to complete a set number of hours in commercial driver's education, though this will be changing on February 7, 2022.
Though you aren't obligated to, taking CDL courses to prepare for the required tests can improve your chances of passing them quickly and with confidence.
The exams that all CDL applicants are required to take are:
- Written general knowledge exam.
- Behind-the-wheel CDL skills test.
You should know that you might have to take additional written and road tests, depending on the classification and endorsement(s) attached to the CDL you're applying for.
So, consider enrolling in an in-class commercial driver's course, which will help to prepare you for the written test(s). Similarly, electing to take a behind-the-wheel truck driver training class will prepare you for the road test(s).
Commercial Driver Education Details
Even though you aren't required by the state to enroll in a CDL classroom course, doing so can really help your chances at passing the written test(s) with a single attempt.
When you begin to look at different classroom courses, you'll find that they differ in time and cost. So, make sure that whatever program you go with fits into your budget and schedule.
As you begin to narrow your options, look for a curriculum that covers everything you'll need to know for the general knowledge exam, including:
- How to correctly and thoroughly inspect your vehicle.
- Commercial vehicle parts and their function.
- Safe acceleration and braking practices.
- Procedure for reversing.
- Using automatic and manual transmissions.
- Maintaining a safe field of vision.
- Sharing the road and communicating your intentions with other vehicles.
- Calculating your stopping distance.
- Safe handling of your vehicle on curves and steep hills.
- Driving in hazardous conditions like:
- Icy/slippery roads.
- Construction zones.
- Very hot weather.
- The dangers of distracted and impaired driving.
- Railroad crossings and other road signs.
- What to do in emergency situations.
Additional CDL Written Test Info
As mentioned above, you could be required to take multiple written tests depending on the classification and/or endorsement of your prospective CDL.
This is when classroom courses can really come in handy. Instead of having to guess at all of the information you'll have to know, you can be sure that you're receiving all of the necessary preparation.
Additional commercial driver license topics to look for in a CDL course curriculum include:
- Air brake function.
- Combination vehicle operation.
- Driving a liquid-filled tanker.
- Safe practices when transporting passengers (commercial and public transit buses).
- Additional precautions when driving a school bus.
- Loading/unloading and hauling hazardous materials.
Behind-the-Wheel CDL Training
Passing the Motor Vehicle Administration's written CDL test(s) means that you're halfway to getting your commercial driver's license. Don't be fooled, though—there's still a lot of work to be done!
Upon completion of the necessary written exams you will be given a learner's permit. The MVA requires you to hold onto the permit for at least 14 days.
So, although it's not required, why not enroll in a behind-the-wheel course in the mean time? After all, you'll be expected to be comfortable and knowledgeable behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle for the road test.
When looking at behind-the-wheel programs, first and foremost make sure that:
- They are taught by instructors who hold valid Maryland CDLs.
- The curriculum covers all of the road skills pertaining to the specific CDL you're applying for.
- Like the written exams, you could be tested on more material depending on the classification and endorsement(s) of the vehicle you'll be driving.
- You aren't having to stretch your budget and schedule too much.
MD Behind-the-Wheel Curriculum
As you research Maryland behind-the-wheel programs, look for courses that'll cover all of the skills you need to know for the MVA's CDL skills road test, including:
- Internal and external vehicle inspection.
- Testing the functionality of vehicle parts, pre-trip.
- Reversing in a straight line and on a curve.
- Parallel parking.
- Docking in an alley.
- Turning and changing lanes.
- Safely passing through intersections.
- Driving in different road environments like:
- City streets.
- Rural areas.
- Under and over bridges.
- Safe acceleration and braking.
- Correct procedure at traffic signs and railroad crossings.
- Using the transmission.
- Staying alert and maintaining an effective field of vision.
A program that familiarizes you with the topics above will prepare you well for the general commercial driver's license skills test, that all CDL applicants are required to take.
Additional MVA Road Tests
Just like the written exams, you might need to master additional road skills to satisfy requirements concerning the specific CDL you're applying for.
Additional topics to look for in behind-the-wheel curricula include:
- Correct operation and pre-trip safety practices for driving a school bus.
- Pre-trip inspection of all trailers you're hauling.
- Inspection of all doors and safety equipment inside of a private or public bus.
- Air brake check.
You will be tested on your ability to complete all aspects of the road test(s) specific to your commercial vehicle, with minimal prompting. Make sure that you feel comfortable and confident before making an appointment for the road exam.
Studying on Your Own
Are you the type of person who learns better on their own? Or do the price and course length of CDL classes just not seem rational?
If you answered “yes," then studying on your own is probably the most practical option for you.
Everything that you need to know in preparation for the MVA written and road exams is in the Maryland Commercial Driver License Manual. There's even a chart that tells you exactly which sections you'll need to study for the classification and endorsement(s) attached to your particular CDL.
You might also consider taking some CDL practice tests. These will help to familiarize you with the format and difficulty of the commercial driver license exams.