Commercial Driver Education in Vermont
If you've traveled through Vermont, you'll know that it isn't called the “Green Mountain State" for nothing. While winding your way through endless waves of verdant landscapes, you might begin to wonder if you can make your living by driving around Vermont and experiencing all of the natural beauties that the state has to offer.
In short, the answer is yes, should you decide to become a VT commercial driver. You'll need to first apply for a Vermont commercial driver's license (CDL) through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV will require you to pass a series of tests in order to confirm that you can safely and expertly operate a commercial vehicle.
You could also be required to complete specialized trainings that are specific to the line of commercial driver work that you'll be entering. Read on to find out more about preparatory commercial Driver's Ed and mandatory commercial driver training in VT.
IMPORTANT FEDERAL TRAINING REQUIREMENTS UPDATE
Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the VT Department 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.
Required Vermont CDL Education
If you're planning on driving a school bus in Vermont, you ARE state-required to complete specialized trainings directly related to the safe operation of a school bus as a part of your CDL application process.
For all other CDL holders, you are not state-required to enroll in formal commercial Driver's Ed in preparation for the VT Department of Motor Vehicles' commercial driver license tests—though it can be very beneficial to do so.
VT School Bus Drivers
To drive a school bus in Vermont, you need to get a commercial driver's license with a school bus (S) endorsement. As part of earning that endorsement, you'll need to complete separate training while applying for your initial CDL.
All new VT school bus drivers are state-required to complete classroom instruction, learning about topics like:
- Properly loading and unloading students.
- Performing regular maintenance and inspections on your school bus.
- Your personal responsibilities as a Vermont school bus driver.
Upon completion of the school bus driver education course, you'll receive a school bus driver training certificate—also referred to as a school bus clinic card—which you can take to the DMV when testing for your school bus (S) endorsement. Your certificate is valid for 6 months after you've passed your training.
In Vermont, the school bus endorsement may only be added to CDLs valid for 4 years. If you'd like to renew your CDL with your school bus endorsement, you'll have to complete the same classroom training and pass the DMV's school bus endorsement exams.
The Department of Motor Vehicles facilitates all initial school bus training, and provides a calendar with the available class dates. If you'd like more information about school bus driver training in VT, call the DMV's school bus training office at (802) 828-3757.
All Vermont CDL Applicants
For applicants outside of school bus drivers, a preparatory commercial driver education class is NOT state required. Though it isn't mandatory, enrolling in a CDL test prep course can actually save you some time and money in the long run, as you'll most likely be able to pass the DMV's CDL exams in a single attempt.
The commercial driver tests that all CDL applicants must pass are:
- Written CDL knowledge test.
- Behind-the-wheel skills test.
You will need to pass additional examinations if your commercial driver's license's classification and endorsement(s) require it. Make sure you're aware of the classification and endorsement(s) that apply to your desired CDL so that you're completely prepared on testing day.
For more information about commercial vehicle classifications and endorsements, check out the following guides:
Vermont CDL Test Prep Options
Maybe you're still on the fence about taking a formal CDL test prep course, since it's not state-required and would mean having to sacrifice some time and money. Before you discount commercial Driver's Ed completely, consider the following major benefits of taking a commercial driver education course:
- Most Vermont employers will require that you've already completed some formal, state-approved commercial driver training before considering you for a job.
- Legitimate CDL test prep courses are specially designed to make passing the Department of Motor Vehicles' commercial driver exams easy for you.
The following types of CDL prep options will give you ample preparation for the DMV's commercial driver's license tests:
- Classroom courses are structured to prepare you for the format and material of the written CDL exam(s).
- A behind-the-wheel training program will allow you the necessary practice with the vehicle and skills you'll need to be comfortable with for your CDL road exam.
If you begin to look into Vermont's commercial Driver's Ed programs, make sure to ask the following questions about each of your options:
- Realistically, can your budget and schedule accommodate for the price and time commitment that a CDL test prep course requires?
- Are the classes taught by certified instructors who hold valid VT commercial driver licenses?
- What's covered in the curriculum? Will you be taught all of the CDL topics and skills that you need to master for your written and behind-the-wheel exams?
The Department of Motor Vehicles provides a list of state-recommended commercial driver schools, which is a great place to start when you begin to look at your different CDL test prep options.
VT CDL Written Test Prep
When researching your different written test prep options, make sure that the classroom course you choose will at least cover the topics that you'll see on the general CDL skills written exam, including (but not limited to) subjects like:
- Inspecting your vehicle before, during, and after a trip.
- Proper acceleration and braking practices.
- Changing gears with automatic and manual transmissions.
- Establishing communication and awareness with the vehicles around you.
- Maintaining a safe speed during:
- Heavy traffic.
- Sharp turns.
- Slippery road surfaces.
- Seeing and handling hazards like:
- Objects in the road.
- Construction zones.
- Erratic drivers.
- Harsh weather conditions.
- Knowing the pitfalls of driving while distracted or impaired.
- Dealing with emergencies and accidents.
The Department of Motor Vehicles will require you to pass additional written CDL exams if your desired CDL's classification and endorsement(s) require it. The other written test topics include:
- Passenger transportation.
- Vehicles equipped with air brakes.
- Combination vehicles.
- Transporting hazardous materials.
- Pulling a gas or liquid-filled tanker.
- Double and triple trailers.
- Operating a school bus.
When you feel adequately prepared, make an appointment to take your commercial driver's license written test(s).
Behind-the-Wheel Test Prep
After passing the DMV's written testing, you'll receive a commercial learner's permit (CLP). Having a CLP in Vermont allows you to practice driving your commercial vehicle of choice with a licensed supervisor before taking the CDL road test.
By law, you are required to hold your CLP for at least 14 days before taking the Department of Motor Vehicles' road skills exam. Since you'll have the time, consider taking a behind-the-wheel training course, which will help to ensure that you know all of the skills you'll need to execute for the DMV's CDL road exam.
For the VT Department of Motor Vehicles' behind-the-wheel CDL skills test, you will need to perform the following:
- Internal and external vehicle inspection before a trip.
- Basic reversing exercises (e.g. alley docking and parallel parking).
- Safely approaching intersections and railroad crossings.
- Merging in and out of moving traffic.
- General safety skills like:
- Keeping both hands on the steering wheel.
- Using your turn signals.
- Maintaining a wide field of vision.
Like the DMV's commercial driver written testing, you will also need to learn additional skills if your desired commercial driver's license has the classification and endorsement(s) to warrant it. The other skills you could be expected to execute on testing day include:
- Inspecting air brakes.
- Changing gears with a manual transmission.
- Boarding and discharging students from a school bus.
When you feel confident in your abilities to safely operate a commercial vehicle, call the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles' CDL testing office to make a road skills examination appointment at (802) 825-2085.
Independent Study for a VT CDL
To prepare for the Vermont DMV's written and behind-the-wheel testing, you can always opt to study on your own. This might be an option if you don't have the money or time required to enroll in a formal CDL test prep course.
All of the material you need to master for the VT commercial driver's license tests is in the Vermont Commercial Driver's Manual. You'll need to study every section of the manual that pertains to your desired CDL's classification and endorsement(s), because you will be tested on it!
Practice tests are another useful study aid, as they can lend some insight as to how well you know the material, and also get you acquainted with the format and difficulty of the DMV's written CDL exams. Online practice tests are especially helpful, since you can take them at your discretion, and even refresh your memory right before you take your exam!
As long as you're devoted and disciplined in your studies and have the right resources, you'll get your Vermont commercial driver's license without issue.
NOTE: School bus drivers must complete their required school bus clinic training through the Vermont DMV's provided classes. Studying the manual and utilizing practice tests are great ways to supplement your training!