Commercial Driver Education in Wisconsin

Do you wish that you could experience all of the scenery and culture that Wisconsin has to offer, with nothing to worry about except the road ahead of you?

If so, consider applying for a Wisconsin commercial driver's license (CDL) through the state's Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The WI DMV will give you a series of tests to gauge how well you've mastered all of the driving and safety skills that are needed to operate a commercial vehicle.

While preparing for the DMV's CDL exams, you are not state-required to complete commercial Driver's Ed classes; HOWEVER, some employers will require commercial drivers to enroll in trainings AFTER being hired. Keep reading for more information about optional and mandatory commercial driver education in Wisconsin.


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

Required Wisconsin CDL Education

As you read above, CDL test prep courses are optional for WI commercial driver's license applicants. However, certain school bus drivers could be required by their employer to complete occupation-specific trainings.

School bus driver education requirements differ from district to district, and are not uniform throughout the state. Contact the school district or institution that you plan on working for to find out if you'll be required to complete trainings subsequent to receiving your CDL.

Optional CDL Test Prep in WI

Even though you aren't state-required to enroll in preparatory commercial Driver's Ed courses, keep in mind that doing so can really help your chances of being able to pass the WI Division of Motor Vehicles' required CDL exams in a single attempt.

The tests that all Wisconsin commercial driver license applicants are required to pass include:

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

In addition to the exams mentioned above, you'll have to pass testing that's specific to your desired CDL's classification and endorsement(s). To ensure that you're completely prepared on testing day, make sure that you know exactly which classification and endorsement(s) apply to your WI commercial driver's license.

We can also help you out with our following guides:

Choosing a CDL Test Prep Course

If you're still on the fence about taking a Wisconsin CDL test prep course, consider the following reasons for why you probably should:

  • Prior to considering you for a job position, many WI employers will require that you've already completed some formal commercial driver training.
  • Preparatory commercial Driver's Ed courses are designed specifically to help you pass the Division of Motor Vehicles' required CDL exams.

Different types of CDL test prep courses will prepare you for the DMV's different types of commercial driver tests:

  • Taking a classroom CDL course will acquaint you with the format and material you can expect to see on the DMV's written exams.
  • Enrolling in behind-the-wheel CDL instruction will ensure that you're comfortable with the vehicle and skills that you'll need to be familiar with for the DMV's road skills test.

As you begin to narrow down your Wisconsin CDL test prep options, make sure to ask the following about each of the programs that you're considering:

  • Can your personal budget and schedule accommodate the tuition and time commitment of a CDL test prep course?
  • Are all of the classes taught by certified CDL instructors who hold valid WI commercial driver's licenses?
  • What's included on the program's curriculum? Does it cover all of the topics and skills that you need to master for your particular CDL's written and road testing?

WI Written CDL Test Prep

Should you decide to enroll in a classroom course to prepare for the Division of Motor Vehicles' written tests, make sure that the program's curriculum will at least cover the topics you'll see on the general knowledge exam, including (but not limited to):

  • Conducting vehicle inspections before, during, and after a trip.
  • Basic vehicle operation (e.g. accelerating or reversing).
  • Shifting gears with a manual or automatic transmission.
  • Seeing and communicating your intentions to other drivers on the road.
  • Calculating your required stopping distance.
  • Maintaining a safe speed while:
    • On icy/slippery roads.
    • Making sharp turns.
    • In heavy traffic.
  • Managing the space around your vehicle.
  • Proceeding through railroad crossings.
  • Dealing with emergencies and accidents.

You will need to take additional written CDL exams if your prospective WI commercial driver license has the classification and endorsement(s) to require it. The DMV's other CDL written test topics include:

  • Driving a school bus.
  • Pulling a double/triple trailer.
  • Liquid or gas-filled tankers.
  • Working with hazardous materials.
  • Operating a combination vehicle.
  • Vehicles equipped with air brakes.
  • Passenger transportation.

When you feel ready, contact your local WI Division of Motor Vehicles office to schedule a CDL written test appointment.

Wisconsin CDL Road Test Prep

After passing all of the DMV's required written tests, you'll receive a Wisconsin commercial driver learner permit (CLP). Having a CLP allows you to legally practice driving a commercial vehicle in preparation for the DMV's commercial driver road testing.

Your CLP will be valid for 180 days and can be renewed. Additionally, you are legally required to have your commercial driver learner permit for at least 14 days before going to take the Division of Motor Vehicles' road skills exam.

During this time, why not enroll in a behind-the-wheel training program? Doing so will ensure that you've learned all of the skills necessary to passing the Wisconsin DMV's CDL road skills exam.

To pass the behind-the-wheel exam that all CDL applicants must take, you should be able to execute skills including (but not limited to):

  • Reversing exercises (e.g. parallel parking and docking in an alley).
  • Performing left and right turns.
  • Merging onto and off of expressways.
  • General safety practices like:
    • Staying in your own lane.
    • Using the brakes correctly.
    • Keeping both hands on the wheel.

Just like the DMV's written CDL testing, you'll be expected to perform additional behind-the-wheel skills dependent on the classification and endorsement(s) of your desired commercial driver's license. These other exercises include:

  • Specialized pre-trip inspection for:
    • Transit, coach, and school buses.
    • Vehicles with air brakes.
    • Trailers.
  • Properly shifting gears with a manual transmission.
  • Loading and unloading students from a school bus.

In Wisconsin, you can only take your CDL road skills test through a third-party tester. The Division of Motor Vehicles provides a list of approved testers that you should refer to when you're ready to take your behind-the-wheel commercial driver exam.

WI CDL Independent Study Guide

As a WI commercial driver license applicant, you always have the option to study for the WI DMV exams on your own.

Your most helpful resource for independent study is the Wisconsin Commercial Driver's Manual. Make sure you're vigilant about reading over every section with information that's applicable to your commercial driver's license's classification and endorsement(s). There are charts provided in the beginning of the manual that'll point you in the right direction of study.

A great study strategy is to take practice tests when you think you have a general grasp of the material. Practice tests will help to gauge your progress and give you some idea of what format and difficulty to expect on the DMV's written exams. Additionally, you'll be able to learn at a speed that's right for you and study whenever you wish!

As long as you have the right resources and a focused mindset, you'll be able to get your Wisconsin commercial driver's license in no time.

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