Commercial Driver FAQs in Virginia

How do I know if I need a commercial driver's license (CDL)?

If you plan on driving a tractor trailer, tank vehicle, or school bus that carries 16 passengers or more, you need a CDL. There are a few exceptions to the types of vehicles that require a CDL to operate them, though. You do not need a CDL for the following types of vehicles:

  • Emergency vehicles, such as fire trucks or ambulances.
  • School buses carrying fewer than 16 passengers including the driver―but you will still need a school bus endorsement and to pass the school bus and commercial driver tests.
  • Recreational vehicles and rented moving trucks used for personal use.
  • Military vehicles if you are on active duty military.
  • Farm vehicles when used by farmers; used to move farm goods, supplies, or machinery to or from your farm; not used as a contract motor carrier; and used within 150 miles of your farm.

Do I need to pass a background check if I want a Hazmat endorsement?

Yes. According to the USA Patriot Act, if you are applying for or renewing a CDL with a Hazmat endorsement, you must be fingerprinted and have a background records check. If you are transferring your CDL from another state, you can transfer your background check and fingerprints provided the records check is verified by the state that issued it. To complete a background records check application, visit one of the Virginia DMV customer service centers that can process your application and pay $83.

What if I want to drive a vehicle with air brakes?

You must pass the air brakes knowledge test and take your road test in a vehicle with air brakes.

What endorsements may I be tested for?

The following endorsements apply to CDLs. In order to drive certain vehicles, you must pass knowledge and/or skills tests to have any or all of these endorsements on your license:

  • H: Allows you to drive a vehicle that transports hazardous materials. The Hazmat endorsement itself may not be transferred from another state or a foreign country; you must pass a Hazmat knowledge test and a background check.
  • N: Allows you to operate a tank vehicle.
  • P: Allows you to operate a passenger vehicle―you must take your road test in a Class B passenger bus to get this endorsement.
  • S: Permits you to drive a school bus. This cannot be transferred from another state or a foreign country; you must pass the school bus knowledge and road tests.
  • T: Allows you to drive a double or triple trailer.

Where can I get a list of CDL training schools?

The Virginia DMV website lists DMV-approved training schools for regular and commercial driver's licenses.

How can I prepare for the CDL knowledge exam(s)?

You should read and study the Virginia Commercial Drivers Manual because the information in it is where the test questions are taken from. You can also take a sample test on the official DMV website or an online version of the practice tests.

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