Commercial Driver Education in Ohio

Just like driving a big rig, passing the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles' (BMV) commercial driver exams is no small feat.

When you apply for an Ohio commercial driver's license (CDL), you have to prove that you're well versed in trucking terminology, safety procedures, and specialized driving practices.

Although it's not required by the state, enrolling in commercial driver education classes can make passing the CDL tests seem less difficult and overwhelming.


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

OH Commercial Driver's Ed Details

As mentioned above, the BMV does not require you to enroll in a set number of CDL education hours.

That being said, you should still think about taking in-class and behind-the-wheel courses to prepare for the required commercial driver license tests.

When applying for a CDL, all applicants are required to pass:

  • A written knowledge exam.
  • A behind-the-wheel skills exam.

In-class programs will give you the necessary preparation for the format and content of the written CDL test(s).

A behind-the-wheel program will familiarize you with actually driving a commercial vehicle, and prepare you for the road test(s).

Certain CDL programs have been approved by the Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS), and are probably your best options. The DPS provides a course search tool for you to find a CDL education course.

Classification & Endorsement Requirements

It's important to know that you may be required to take multiple written and road tests depending on the classification and endorsement(s) attached to your desired commercial driver's license.

Identifying which CDL class and endorsement you need is your first step—and our guides to CDL Classifications and Endorsements & Restrictions can help. That way, you know which tests to be prepared for and which CDL courses to enroll in.

Ohio CDL Written Test Prep

To reiterate, while the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles does not require you to take classroom CDL courses, enrolling can improve your chances of passing the written test on your first go.

While you research in-class CDL programs, make sure that they fit your schedule and budget. There are numerous courses for you to choose from that will differ in price and course length, so take your time during the selection process.

In-Class CDL Prep Curriculum

When you've found a commercial driver education program that's suitable to your lifestyle, take a careful look at the curriculum.

The CDL class should at least cover topics that you'll have to know for the written general knowledge test, including:

  • Proper vehicle inspection before and during a trip.
  • Identifying vehicle parts and their functions.
  • Safe vehicle handling.
  • Using automatic and manual transmissions.
  • Sharing the road with other non-commercial vehicles.
  • Calculating your stopping distance.
  • Driving in hazardous conditions.
  • Controlling your vehicle on curves and steep gradients.
  • Procedure at railroad crossings and other road signs.
  • What to do in emergency situations.

Additional CDL Written Tests

Remember that you'll have to take additional written tests depending on the classification and endorsement attached to your prospective Ohio CDL.

Look for programs that'll cover the extra topics that you have to know, including:

  • Proper loading, unloading and transport of passengers (for private and public buses).
  • Using and inspecting air brakes.
  • Driving a combination vehicle.
  • Transporting and loading hazardous materials.
  • Hauling a liquid-filled tanker.

Ohio CDL Road Test Prep

Like in-class commercial driver's education, you aren't state-required to enroll in behind-the-wheel CDL training. Despite this, they're still one of the best ways to prepare for the BMV's commercial driver road test.

If you begin to explore behind-the-wheel course options, first and foremost make sure that the programs you're considering have:

  • Instructors who hold valid Ohio commercial driver licenses.
  • A curriculum that covers all of the topics that are relevant to your particular CDL.
  • The same commercial vehicle to learn in that you'll be driving for your road test.

CDL Road Test Training Curriculum

When you've confirmed the legitimacy of a few behind-the-wheel programs, take a look at the course material.

The class should at least cover the skills that you'll need for the basic CDL road test, including:

  • Identify vehicle parts and their correct function.
  • Reversing in a straight line and while turning.
  • Parallel parking.
  • Docking in an alley.
  • Approaching and crossing through intersections.
  • Turning and merging lanes.
  • Adapting to a variety of settings like:
    • Crowded cities.
    • Rural areas.
    • Expressways.
    • Roads that pass over or under bridges.
  • Correct procedure at railroad crossings and other traffic signs.
  • Changing gears.

Additional Prep for CDL Road Tests

Just like the CDL written tests, you could have to take multiple road tests if your CDL classification and endorsement(s) merit it.

So, if necessary, you should also make sure that your behind-the-wheel courses cover additional topics like:

  • School bus operation and inspection.
  • Securing trailer hook ups.
  • Passenger loading/unloading and vehicle inspection for public and private buses.
  • Air brake usage and inspection.
  • Loading and securing cargo.

When driving a big rig begins to feel like second nature, you can schedule a road test appointment either at a BMV office or third party location.

Benefits of OH Commercial Driver's Ed

Preparing for the BMV's CDL exams will take a lot of work. Learning the ins and outs of commercial driving is practically like learning another language!

Although it'll mean giving up some time and money, enrolling in a commercial Driver's Ed class could really pay off.

The primary benefits of CDL courses for you to consider are:

  • Comprehensive test preparation.
    • You'll gain insight from instructors who hold valid CDLs and have been through the same BMV testing processes.
    • Course curricula will acquaint you with the format and material of the written and road tests that your desired CDL requires.
    • A classroom environment has less distractions.
  • Improved job opportunities.
    • Employers will like to see that you've been trained by professionals and have put in a solid number of hours towards learning how to drive a commercial vehicle.
    • You'll create an employment network amongst your instructors and fellow classmates.

Self-Study CDL Prep

If OH commercial driver's education courses just don't fit with your schedule, budget, or learning habits, then you should study for the CDL exams on your own. If you're disciplined and dedicated enough, you'll still be very well prepared.

Everything that you'll need to know for both the written and behind-the-wheel tests can be found in the Ohio Commercial Driver License Manual. To get an even better feel for the format and difficulty of the CDL exam(s), try taking some practice tests. This can be an excellent way to see which areas you might need to study a bit more before taking the Ohio CDL tests.

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