Commercial Driver Education in New Hampshire

With all of the beautiful scenery that New Hampshire has to offer, being cooped up in an office can feel restraining. Wouldn't you like to share your days with the forests, waters, and mountains as you take your big rig down the open road?

You really can “live free" and drive by becoming a New Hampshire commercial driver. You'll first need to apply for a New Hampshire commercial driver's license (CDL) through the NH Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The DMV will give you a series of CDL tests, meant to gauge your expertise in the new driving and safety skills required to drive a commercial vehicle.

Once you've passed the necessary exams and received your commercial driver license, you COULD be required to complete subsequent trainings depending on the type of commercial vehicle you plan on driving. Keep reading for details.


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

New Hampshire CDL Ed Requirements

In preparation for the Division of Motor Vehicles' CDL tests, you are not state-required to take commercial Driver's Ed classes.

HOWEVER, if you have successfully obtained your NH commercial driver's license with a school bus endorsement, you are legally required to complete training that is specific to driving a school bus BEFORE you can begin driving students.

NH School Bus Driver Training

If you want to be a New Hampshire school bus driver, then you'll need to complete additional specialized trainings after obtaining your CDL with school bus (S) and passenger (P) endorsements. Without this school bus-specific training, you are not legally allowed to transport students.

All new school bus drivers must complete the following trainings, provided by your school district employer:

  • At least 10 hours of classroom training, covering topics like:
    • Federal and state school bus laws.
    • Administering first aid.
    • Managing students on the bus.
  • Behind-the-wheel training that teaches skills including:
    • School bus inspection before and after a trip.
    • Shifting automatic and manual transmissions.
    • Properly boarding and discharging students from the bus.
    • Emergency drill procedures.

Once you successfully complete all of the necessary introductory school bus instruction, you can legally begin to transport students in New Hampshire. After your initial training, you'll need to take an annual in-class refresher course that's at least 8 hours long to continue as an active school bus driver.

All CDL Applicants

Although you aren't required to enroll in commercial driver education when you're applying for your CDL, doing so can really help your chances of passing the DMV's required tests in a single attempt.

All New Hampshire CDL applicants are required to pass the following:

  • CDL general knowledge written test.
  • Behind-the-wheel road skills test.

You could also face additional commercial driver exams if the classification and endorsement(s) of your New Hampshire CDL warrant it. Therefore, to avoid any surprises on your testing day, it's important to know exactly which classification and endorsement(s) apply to your desired commercial driver's license.

For more information about CDL classifications and endorsements, check out these guides:

New Hampshire CDL Test Prep Options

As you'll recall, you do not have to enroll in commercial driver test prep before applying for your New Hampshire CDL. It's important to keep in mind, though, that many employers will require that you've had some form of previous CDL training, regardless of the vehicle you'll be driving.

Additionally, commercial driver license test prep courses are specifically designed to help you ace the NH Division of Motor Vehicles' CDL tests:

  • Classroom courses will prepare you for the questions and format on the CDL written exam(s).
  • Behind-the-wheel training will acquaint you with the skills you'll need to execute for the CDL road test.

Should you begin to look further into New Hampshire CDL test prep courses, ask the following questions about your options:

  • Does the pricing and duration of the course fit well with your budget and schedule?
  • Will certified instructors who hold valid NH commercial driver licenses teach the course?
  • Are all of the topics and skills you'll need to master for your specific CDL exams covered in the course curriculum?

Classroom CDL Test Prep

The curriculum of the classroom CDL test prep course that you choose should at least cover what you're going to see on the Division of Motor Vehicles' CDL general knowledge written test.

Some of the topics that you'll be expected to know about include:

  • Inspecting your vehicle before, during, and after a trip.
  • Basic vehicle control (e.g. accelerating and braking).
  • Shifting gears with manual and automatic transmissions.
  • Seeing and communicating with other drivers on the road.
  • Controlling your vehicle's speed during:
    • Sharp turns.
    • Steep hills.
    • Slippery roads.
    • Heavy traffic.
  • Managing the space around your vehicle.
  • Dealing with hazards like:
    • Unpredictable drivers.
    • Bad weather.
    • Objects in the road.
  • The importance of driving while sober and without distractions.
  • Handling emergencies and accidents.

Don't forget that you might have to pass additional written tests due to your New Hampshire CDL's classification and endorsement(s). The other written commercial driver test topics you might encounter include:

  • Transporting passengers.
  • Vehicles with air brakes.
  • Operating a combination vehicle.
  • Carrying hazardous materials.
  • Pulling tankers filled with gas or liquid.
  • Hauling double or triple trailers.
  • Safe operation of a school bus.

When you think you've prepared as much as you can, schedule a CDL written test appointment at your local Division of Motor Vehicles office.

NH Behind-the-Wheel CDL Prep

After you pass all of the DMV's required written tests, you'll be given a New Hampshire commercial driver learner permit. The permit is valid for 180 days and can be renewed 1 time.

By law, you must hold your commercial driver learner permit for at least 14 days before taking the Division of Motor Vehicles' CDL road test. So, since you have the time, why not enroll in a behind-the-wheel training program? You'll learn about all of the material you should expect for your CDL road skills exam.

For the New Hampshire DMV's CDL behind-the-wheel road skills test you will need to be able to perform a number of skills, including those you tested for on your written exam, as well as any others relevant to your CDL class, such as:

  • Docking in an alley.
  • Reversing and parallel parking.
  • Proceeding through intersections and railroad crossings with safety.
  • Entering and exiting expressways and moving traffic.
  • Practicing basic safety skills like:
    • Keeping in your lane.
    • Using turn signals.
    • Maintaining a wide field of vision.

Similar to the CDL written testing, you could also have to learn additional behind-the-wheel skills for your examination, depending on your commercial driver license's classification and endorsement(s).

The other skills you might need to become familiar with include:

  • Shifting gears with a manual transmission.
  • Safely letting students off of a school bus.
  • Specialized vehicle inspection for all buses and trailers.
  • Checking that the air brakes function properly.

Once you feel confident in your abilities to safely operate a commercial vehicle, make an appointment at the closest Division of Motor Vehicles office that offers CDL behind-the-wheel testing.

NH CDL Self-Study Guide

While preparing for your New Hampshire commercial driver license tests, you are not legally obligated to take any formal CDL test prep courses. Studying on your own terms is a completely viable option.

All of the material that you'll need to master is in the New Hampshire CDL Driver's Guide. Make sure that you study all of the sections with information about your CDL's particular classification and endorsement(s).

You might also consider taking some CDL online practice tests at home. These are helpful study tools that'll help you to gauge how well you've mastered the material, as well as familiarize you with the format of the DMV's written CDL tests. Plus, you can retake them as many times as you need to feel comfortable, and pinpoint specific areas that you need to study more before your actual exam.

With the right studying mindset, you can pass the NH Division of Motor Vehicles' commercial driver tests on your first attempt.

DMV.ORG BBB Business Review