Commercial Driver Education in New Jersey
If you're someone who was “born to run" down the New Jersey Turnpike, consider applying for a commercial driver's license (CDL). You'll get paid to enjoy the wide, open road driving a “chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected" big rig, in the state that Bruce Springsteen calls home.
Before you can get a CDL though, you'll need to take the required tests administered by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC).
Passing such tests will mean having to learn a whole new set of safety and driving skills that are needed for operating a commercial vehicle.
The MVC does not require commercial driver applicants to enroll in CDL education. However, taking commercial driver education classes will make passing the MVC's required exams easier to accomplish.
IMPORTANT FEDERAL TRAINING REQUIREMENTS UPDATE
Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission 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 Jersey CDL Ed Requirements
As mentioned above, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) does not require CDL applicants to enroll in commercial driver training. Taking a CDL course can, however, increase your chances of passing the MVC's required tests in a single attempt.
The CDL exams that all applicants must take are:
- Written general knowledge test.
- Behind-the-wheel CDL skills test.
Taking a classroom course will familiarize you with the format and material of the New Jersey CDL written exam.
Enrolling in behind-the-wheel training will help to make you more comfortable driving the commercial vehicle that you'll be testing in for the CDL road exam.
NJ Classification & Endorsement Requirements
Driving different types of commercial vehicles requires different skills. For example, hauling a big rig full of store merchandise is very different than transporting a bus full of kids.
So, depending on the classification and endorsements attached to the commercial driver license that you're applying for, you might need to take additional CDL exams.
If you aren't sure about which classifications and/or endorsement applies to your CDL, do your research as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could end up walking into your MVC commercial driver exams unprepared for the extra material you'll be tested on.
You can find out more about your CDL requirements with the following guides:
New Jersey Classroom CDL Education
The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission does not require you to enroll in classroom CDL courses—but they are still a valuable option to consider when you begin to prepare for the MVC's written exam(s).
When choosing an in-class CDL course, first consider the following:
- Does the class tuition fit your budget?
- Is the course length congruent with your schedule?
- Does the curriculum cover all of the topics that you'll be tested on for written exams that apply to your CDL?
In-Class CDL Course Curriculum
When you begin to look at the materials of CDL classroom courses in New Jersey, make sure that they at least cover the material that you'll find on the written general knowledge exam, including:
- Thorough and correct vehicle inspection.
- Vehicle parts and their proper function.
- Using manual and automatic transmissions.
- Performing basic driving maneuvers (accelerating, braking, reversing, etc.).
- Creating a safe field of vision.
- Using turn signals.
- Calculating total stopping distance.
- Controlling vehicle speed on curves and steep downgrades.
- Driving in hazardous road conditions like:
- Slippery roads.
- Construction zones.
- Heavy traffic.
- Mountain roads.
- Keeping a safe amount of space ahead, behind, above, and below your vehicle.
- Sharing the road with difficult drivers.
- Knowing the risks of distracted and impaired driving.
- Driving at night and in bad weather conditions, like:
- Hot weather.
- Commercial driver laws at railroad crossings.
- Antilock braking systems.
- Handling emergency situations and accidents.
Additional CDL Written Tests
Remember, you could have to take multiple written tests depending on the classification and endorsement(s) attached to your desired NJ commercial driver license.
The additional written test material that you might face includes:
- Driving double and triple trailers.
- Safe operation of a bus (e.g. school, public transit, and private buses)
- Hauling tankers.
- Transporting hazardous materials.
- Using vehicles with air brakes.
When you feel that you've prepared well enough, schedule an appointment at your local MVC office to take the CDL written exam(s).
When you pass the required written tests, you're required to wait at least 14 days before taking the New Jersey CDL road exam. During that time, consider enrolling in a behind-the-wheel course, which will make the MVC's road test feel like a breeze.
NJ Behind-the-Wheel CDL Training
As mentioned before, you are not required by the NJ MVC to take behind-the-wheel commercial education courses.
Though this is the case, keep in mind that behind-the-wheel classes are specifically designed to help you pass the CDL road exam.
If you decide to enroll in a behind-the-wheel course, first consider the following:
- Do all of the instructors hold valid commercial driver's licenses?
- Is the course length and tuition suitable for your schedule and budget?
- Does the program's curriculum cover all of the skills that you'll be responsible for during your CDL road test?
CDL Behind-the-Wheel Curriculum
When looking at New Jersey behind-the-wheel training courses, make sure that the program at least covers the skills you'll be responsible for during the general CDL skills road test, including:
- Performing skill maneuvers like:
- Reversing in a straight line.
- Backing up on a curve.
- Parallel parking.
- Docking in an alley.
- Making turns and lane changes.
- Driving through intersections and railroad crossings.
- Entering and exiting:
- Moving traffic.
- Passing under bridges.
- Clutch and gear usage.
- Maintaining an adequate field of vision.
Additional Road Test Topics
Just like the Motor Vehicle Commission's written testing, you could be expected to complete additional road test tasks depending on the classification and endorsement(s) of your prospective CDL.
- Safety inspection and letting students off of a school bus.
- Ensuring the security of trailer connections.
- Loading/unloading and pre-trip inspection of public and private buses.
When you feel confident behind the wheel of the commercial vehicle you'll be driving, schedule a road exam at an approved New Jersey CDL road-testing site.
Benefits of Formal NJ CDL Education
Enrolling in a formal commercial driver education will mean giving up some time and money on your part, but could be worth it in the long run.
If you're on the fence, consider these benefits:
- Excellent test preparation.
- Instructors who hold valid CDLs teach the courses and have first-hand experience with the NJ commercial driver testing process.
- The curriculum will cover all of the material you need to know going into your specific CDL exam(s).
- A classroom environment will yield fewer distractions.
- Better employment opportunities.
- Commercial driver employers will like, and sometimes require, that you've had a formal CDL education.
- Create a professional network amongst your classmates and instructors to secure future jobs.
Self-Study for a New Jersey CDL
After considering your options, if you've decided that a commercial driver education just isn't for you, that's okay.
Everything that you'll need to know is in the New Jersey Commercial Driver License Manual. Make sure that you study every section that pertains to the classification and endorsement(s) on your desired CDL.
Additionally, you can take full advantage of CDL practice tests, which will help to familiarize you with the format of the CDL written exam(s) and shed light onto the areas that might require more studying.