Commercial Driver Education in New Mexico

New Mexico is a state unlike any other, boasting natural formations that look just as extraterrestrial as the myths and legends that permeate this state's history. Wouldn't you like to spend your days winding through valleys of brilliant sienna plateaus and wondrous sand dunes? If so, consider applying for a New Mexico commercial driver's license (CDL).

Upon application, the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) will give you a series of tests to ensure that you're familiar with all of the driving and safety practices needed for operating a commercial vehicle.

Once you've passed the necessary MVD tests and received your commercial driver license, you could be required to enroll in subsequent trainings, depending on the vehicle that you intend on driving.


Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the NM Motor Vehicle Division 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 Mexico CDL Training Requirements

By law, you are not required to enroll in commercial driver education courses in preparation for the Motor Vehicle Division's CDL exams.

However, if you've obtained a NM CDL with a school bus endorsement, you are state-required to complete specialized training BEFORE you are legally allowed to transport students.

NM School Bus Drivers

Prospective school bus drivers in New Mexico must obtain the following documentation in order to legally transport students:

In order to get your school bus driver certification, you'll need to complete mandatory training that is specific to the operation of a school bus AFTER receiving your New Mexico CDL.

All new school bus drivers must complete a total of 36 hours in pre-service training for initial certification with an instructor who's approved by the New Mexico School Transportation Bureau. The training consists of:

  • Classroom course—22 hours.
  • Behind-the-wheel instruction—6 hours.
  • Observation time—2 hours.
  • First aid and CPR training—6 hours.
  • Nationally recognized or state approved defensive driving training.

To maintain your school bus driver certification, you'll need to complete 8 hours of in-service training per semester during the school year. 

For more information about school bus driver training in New Mexico, call the School Transportation Bureau at (505) 827-6640.

All NM CDL Applicants

Commercial driver education is not mandatory prior to applying for a CDL in New Mexico. HOWEVER, they're still a great resource to have while preparing for the Motor Vehicle Division's commercial driver exams, and many employers will require some form of education or training prior to employment.

The MVD requires all New Mexico CDL applicants to pass the following tests:

  • General knowledge written test.
  • CDL skills behind-the-wheel test.

You could have to pass additional CDL exams if your commercial driver license has the classification and/or endorsement to warrant it. To avoid any surprises on testing day, make sure that you know exactly which classification and endorsement apply to your desired CDL.

For more information about commercial vehicle classifications and endorsements, refer to the following guides:

Selecting a NM CDL Test Prep Course

Though it's not state-required to do so, taking a New Mexico CDL test prep course will ultimately benefit you in the following ways:

  • Most employers will require that you've already had some formal CDL training before hiring you.
  • CDL test prep courses will improve your chances of being able to pass the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division's required tests in a single attempt.

These types commercial Driver's Ed courses will help you on testing day in the following ways:

  • Classroom courses will teach you the format and material of the MVD's written CDL tests.
  • A behind-the-wheel training program will familiarize you with the vehicle and skills that you'll need to be comfortable with during the MVD's road exam.

So, if you're seriously considering enrolling in commercial driver education, first ask these crucial questions about each of your options:

  • Can your budget and schedule comfortably accommodate for the pricing and course length of a CDL test prep class?
  • Will certified instructors who hold valid NM commercial driver's licenses teach all of your courses?
  • What's included in the curriculum? Does it cover all of the topics and skills that you need to learn for your specific CDL's written and road tests?

New Mexico CDL Written Test Prep

Taking a classroom commercial Driver's Ed course should give you ample preparation for the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division's written testing. The curriculum of a legitimate CDL written test prep course will at least cover the topics you can expect to see on the general knowledge written test, including (but not limited to):

  • Vehicle inspection before, during, and after a trip.
  • Proper technique for accelerating and braking.
  • Using manual and automatic transmissions.
  • Awareness and communication with the drivers around you.
  • Maintaining safe vehicle speed during:
    • Heavy traffic.
    • Steep hills.
    • Sharp turns.
    • Slippery/icy road conditions.
  • Keeping an adequate amount of space on all sides of your vehicle.
  • Dealing with hazards like:
    • Dangerous drivers.
    • Bad weather.
    • Pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • The risks of driving while distracted or impaired.
  • Procedure during emergencies and accidents.

As mentioned above, you could have to take additional written tests, depending on your NM commercial driver license's classification and endorsement(s). The other written CDL exams you could have to pass include:

  • Passenger transport.
  • Combination vehicles.
  • Hazardous material transport.
  • Double and triple trailers.
  • Tankers filled with liquid or gas.
  • School bus operation.

When you feel prepared, schedule an appointment at a New Mexico MVD office location for CDL testing.

NM CDL Road Test Prep

Once you pass all of the Motor Vehicle Division's required written tests, you'll receive a commercial learner's permit (CLP).

By law you must hold your New Mexico CLP for at least 14 days before taking your CDL road skills test. Since you'll have the time, consider taking a behind-the-wheel training course, which will familiarize you with everything you'll need to perform for the MVD's CDL road test.

The skills that you'll be expected to execute for the general CDL road skills exam include (but aren't limited to):

  • Basic reversing maneuvers (parallel parking and alley docking).
  • Procedure at intersections and railroad crossings.
  • Entering and exiting the flow of moving traffic.
  • Basic safety practices like:
    • Setting up an adequate field of vision.
    • Using turn signals.
    • Keeping to your lane.

Like the New Mexico MVD's written testing, you might also need to learn additional skills that are specific to your CDL's classification and endorsement(s). These additional skills could include:

  • Performing an air brakes check.
  • Specialized pre-trip inspection for all trailers and buses.
  • Loading and unloading students from a school bus.
  • Shifting gears with a manual transmission.

When you're confident in your abilities to safely operate your commercial vehicle of choice, make an appointment to take your CDL road skills test at a third party testing site, approved by the NM Motor Vehicles Division.

NM CDL Self-Study Guide

If you think that taking a CDL test prep course is going to put too much strain on your budget or schedule, you can always choose to study on your own. However, if you're a New Mexico school bus driver, you do not have this option when completing your certification training.

Everything that you need to know for the Motor Vehicle Division's commercial driver license tests is in the New Mexico Commercial Driver License Manual. You'll be responsible for knowing all of the information pertaining to your CDL's classification and endorsement(s). Therefore, it's important that you go over every section concerning your particular commercial driver license.

As an additional study tool, you can take CDL practice tests, which will familiarize you with the format of the MVD's written tests. They'll also give you a good idea of how well you know the material and which parts of the commercial driver manual you need to go over again. Additionally, online CDL practice tests allow you to test and re-test yourself where you need more attention, right from your phone or computer. You can even quiz yourself while waiting at the MVD office to take your exam!

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