Applying for a New CDL in Rhode Island

If you'd like to be a commercial driver in Rhode Island, you'll need to apply for a commercial driver's license (CDL) through the RI Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with regulations set in place by both the DMV and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to applying for a RI commercial driver license, which means it can be a little overwhelming. Keep reading for more information on what you'll need to know and provide for your Rhode Island CDL, hopefully making your experience a lot less stressful.


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

Who Can Apply for a Rhode Island CDL?

To be eligible to apply for a Rhode Island commercial driver's license you must:

  • Be at least:
    • 18 years old to drive intrastate—within Rhode Island only.
    • 21 years old to drive interstate—across state lines.
  • Have held a regular Class D driver's license for at least 2 years prior to application.
  • Provide acceptable documentation proving your:
    • Lawful presence in the United States.
    • Rhode Island residency.
    • Social Security number.

RI Commercial Learner's Permit

Before receiving your Rhode Island CDL, you'll first need to get your commercial learner's permit (CLP). At this point, you're encouraged to enroll in a commercial driver education course to ensure you're fully prepared for your upcoming exams.

You can only apply for your CLP at the Cranston DMV headquarters office. When you're ready, call their offices at (401) 462-4368 to schedule your CLP appointment.

When you're ready, head to the DMV and:

  • Submit a completed Commercial Driver's License Application (CDL-1).
    • This includes the driver history affidavit for the last 10 years of your driving record.
  • Provide your:
    • Social Security card.
    • Rhode Island driver's license.
    • Documentation proving your legal presence and RI residency.
    • Self-certification form and medical card/certificate (see below).
  • Pass all written exams, including those for any endorsements you may be applying for.
  • Pay the appropriate fees (see below) for your exam(s) and CLP.

If at first you don't pass your written exam(s), it's okay. You'll just need to wait 5 business days before reapplying with the Rhode Island DMV to retake the test(s).

Once you've passed the required written CDL exams, you'll receive your commercial learner's permit and be a whole lot closer to getting your official RI commercial driver's license.

Restrictions on Your CLP

Before getting behind the wheel of your big rig, let's go over some of the restrictions attached to your Rhode Island commercial learner's permit:

  • You may only drive with a licensed supervisor who holds the same type of CDL as what you're applying for.
  • You can only operate commercial vehicles that correspond to the class of commercial driver's license you're applying for.
  • Your CLP is valid for 90 days and can be renewed once.

According to FMCSA regulations, you must hold your CLP for at least 14 days before applying to take the DMV's behind-the-wheel CDL exam; however, this may be different in Rhode Island. Contact your RI testing office to confirm how many days you're required to wait until taking your CDL road exam.

Get Your RI Commercial Driver's License

Once you've practiced with your CLP, you're eligible to take the Division of Motor Vehicles' CDL road skills test.

All behind-the-wheel exams are given at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI). To make your road skills test appointment, call CCRI at (401) 462-2122.

You will need to bring your own vehicle and sponsor (licensed supervisor) to the road skills test, so plan accordingly!

At your test, make sure you have the following documentation:

  • Valid original registration and proof of insurance for the vehicle you'll be testing in.
  • Your regular Class D Rhode Island driver's license.
  • Commercial learner's permit.
  • Medical card or certificate.
  • Payment for road testing fees.

The actual CDL road skills exam will consist of the following tests in the following order:

  • Pre-trip vehicle inspection—Identify and evaluate the safe function of internal and external vehicle parts.
  • Basic vehicle control—Low-speed drills that evaluate your turning, reversing, and fine maneuvering abilities.
  • On-road exam—Operating your vehicle on public roads.

An applicants who fail one of the skills test cannot continue to the next test. Passing grades on previous tests remain valid until the CLP expires.

A great way to prepare for the DMV's road skills exam is to take a behind-the-wheel CDL training course. Rhode Island commercial driver education programs are set up specifically to help you pass the Division of Motor Vehicles' required examinations with ease.

Once you've successfully completed the CDL road skills test, you'll receive your Rhode Island commercial driver's license. Congratulations!

Fees for Rhode Island CDLs

The fees associated with applying for a Rhode Island CDL include a $1.55 technology fee, and are as follows:

  • CDL application: $12.50.
  • Written exams: $10 each.
  • Commercial learner's permit (CLP): $72.50.
    • Updated/duplicate permit: $22.50.
  • Road test: Contact the CCRI.

The acceptable forms of payment are:

  • Cash.
  • Money order.
  • Personal or bank check.
  • Credit card.

Self-Certification & Medical Requirements

When you first go in to apply for your RI commercial learner's permit, you'll need to provide the Division of Motor Vehicles with a self-certification form and, in most cases, a medical card/certificate.

CDL Self-Certification

Put simply, self-certification is the method by which you let the Rhode Island DMV know how you intend to operate your commercial vehicle.

When filling out your Self-Certification for a Commercial Driver's License (REV 2020) you will need to specify if:

  • You'll be driving intrastate (only within Rhode Island) or interstate (across multiple states).
  • You're required to hold a medical card or certificate.
    • Commercial drivers who aren't required to have a medical card/certificate (excepted drivers) are usually those who are employed by the government.

If you'd like to know more about self-certification, take a look at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's certification guidelines.

CDL Medical Requirements

If you've self-certified as a non-excepted driver, you'll need to be seen by a physician on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. They should complete the following documents, which you can then give to the DMV when you apply for your commercial learner's permit:

  • Medical Examiner's Certificate (Form MCSA-5875).
  • Medical Examination Report Form (Form MCSA-5875).
    • Both of these forms can be accessed on the RhodeIsland DMV CDL page.

Rhode Island law requires that you provide your medical documentation to the DMV and apply for a CLP within 15 days of receiving the completed reports.

RI CDL Military Testing Waivers

If you drove a commercial vehicle in the military, you may be able to waive the road skills test. To be eligible to do this you must:

  • Have a current RI driver's license.
  • Are currently employed in a military position driving commercial vehicles, OR were employed in such a position within 1 year of application.
  • Have at least 1 year of experience driving a military commercial vehicle.

Once you've determined that you're eligible to apply, fill out the Application for Military Skills Test Waiver (REV 2020). Take the completed form to the Cranston DMV headquarters, where you'll still need to pass the written exams to receive your RI commercial driver's license.

For more information on military skills test waivers, check out our guide on the topic.


REV 2020
Application for Military Skills Test Waiver
If you recently drove a commercial vehicle while enlisted in the military, use this form to request a skills test waiver when applying for a RI commercial driver's license.
Medical Examination Report
Medical exam report must be submitted when applying for a RI commercial driver's license. Must be completed by a medical professional.
REV 2020
Self-Certification for a Commercial Drivers License
Self-certify as an excepted OR non-excepted intrastate OR interstate commercial driver when applying for your RI CDL.
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