Commercial Driver Education in West Virginia
If you're planning to apply for a West Virginia commercial driver's license (CDL), you're going to want to make sure that you're completely prepared for the Division of Motor Vehicles' (DMV) CDL exams. The DMV's commercial driver testing is meant to verify your knowledge of the driving and safety skills that are necessary and specific to operating a commercial vehicle in WV.
In preparation for the DMV's commercial driver license tests, you are not state-required to enroll in commercial Driver's Ed. After receiving your CDL, you could be required to complete training that is specific to the commercial vehicle you'll be driving.
Read on for more information about state-required occupational training and optional CDL test prep in West Virginia.
IMPORTANT FEDERAL TRAINING REQUIREMENTS UPDATE
Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the WV 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.
West Virginia CDL Education Requirements
The WV Division of Motor Vehicles does not require you to enroll in CDL test prep courses before taking your commercial driver exams.
HOWEVER, West Virginia school bus drivers are state-required to complete specialized trainings after receiving your CDL so that you can begin to work.
WV School Bus Drivers
If you'd like to be a West Virginia school bus driver, you'll need the following documentation in order to legally transport students:
- WV commercial driver's license with passenger (P) and school bus (S) endorsements.
- School bus operator certification.
The only way to get certified as a West Virginia school bus operator is to complete mandatory training with the school district or institution that's hired you, subsequent to receiving your CDL with proper endorsements. For initial certification, you'll need to complete the following school bus driver trainings:
- Classroom instruction—40 hours.
- Behind-the-wheel training—12 hours.
- Includes 2 hours of nighttime driving.
- First aid and CPR certification.
Once you've received your school bus operator certification, you'll need to complete annual training to remain certified.
For more information about school bus driver training in West Virginia, call the Department of Education's Office of School Operations at (304) 558-6300.
All CDL Applicants in WV
As mentioned earlier, taking preparatory commercial Driver's Ed classes is optional in West Virginia. Despite this, you should still consider enrolling in some sort of CDL test prep course since it'll probably improve your chances of being able to pass the Division of Motor Vehicles' required CDL exams in a single attempt.
The tests that all WV commercial driver license applicants are required to take include:
- General knowledge test—written exam.
- CDL road skills test—behind-the-wheel/practical exam.
In addition, you will have to pass exams applicable to the classification and endorsement(s) on your desired commercial driver's license. To avoid any surprises on testing day, make sure that you know exactly which classification and endorsement(s) apply to your CDL, and be sure to study all of the relevant information.
If you'd like to learn more about CDL classifications and endorsements, we have a couple guides to help you out:
CDL Test Prep Options in WV
Some of the biggest reasons for why you should enroll in a CDL test prep course (even though it's optional) include:
- A majority of West Virginia employers will require that you've already completed some formal commercial driver training before considering you for a job.
- Legitimate commercial Driver's Ed courses are tailored specifically to ensure that you'll pass the DMV's testing without a problem.
Different types of CDL test prep courses will prepare you for the Division of Motor Vehicles' different commercial driver exams:
- A classroom course will acquaint you with the topics and format to expect on the DMV's written tests.
- Behind-the-wheel training programs will help you get comfortable with the vehicle and skills you'll need to be familiar with for the DMV's CDL road skills test.
If you're convinced that you'd like to take a CDL test prep course, take care to ask the following questions about each of your options:
- Does the pricing and course length of a CDL test prep course fit reasonably into your personal budget and schedule?
- Are all of the classes taught by certified instructors who hold valid West Virginia commercial driver's licenses?
- What's included on the curriculum? Does it cover all of the topics that are relevant to your particular CDL's written and road testing requirements?
CDL Written Exam Prep
Should you decide to take a classroom course to prepare for the Division of Motor Vehicles' written CDL exams, make sure that the curriculum at least covers the topics that you'll see on the general knowledge test, including (but not limited to):
- Controlling vehicle speed while:
- Approaching intersections.
- On a steep hill.
- Making a sharp turn.
- In heavy traffic.
- Designated speed limits in West Virginia.
- Dealing with emergencies and accidents.
- The dangers and penalties for impaired driving.
- Required precautionary steps at railroad crossings.
- Laws against texting and driving.
- Avoiding drowsy driving.
Additionally, you will have to take written endorsements tests if your desired commercial driver's license requires it. The endorsements that you could be testing for include:
- Hazardous materials.
- Tankers filled with liquid or gas.
- Passenger transportation.
- Double and triple trailers.
- School bus operation.
- Vehicles equipped with air brakes.
- Combination vehicles.
When you're ready to take your written CDL exams, simply contact your local DMV office to schedule a testing appointment.
CDL Road Skills Test Prep
The WV Division of Motor Vehicles will give you a CDL instruction permit after you've passed all of their required written tests. Your CDL permit is valid for 180 days and can be renewed once within 2 years from the issuance date. Keep in mind that you must hold a valid (i.e. not expired) CDL permit to take your road skills test.
While you have a West Virginia CDL instruction permit, you can legally practice driving a commercial vehicle with a licensed supervisor in preparation for the DMV's CDL road skills exam. If you have the means to, consider enrolling in a behind-the-wheel training program as a way to practice driving your commercial vehicle. The instructors are professionally trained and will teach you all of the skills you need to master for the DMV's CDL road skills test.
While West Virginia's tests are specific to state CDL guidelines, according to federal regulations, the CDL road skills exam may typically test you on your ability to perform exercises including (but not limited to):
- Pre-trip vehicle inspection.
- Knowledge of emergency equipment function.
- Driving in traffic.
- Making left and right turns.
- Backing up and parking (e.g. parallel parking and docking).
- Correct use of the brakes.
Like the DMV's written testing process, to earn the proper endorsements, you'll have to demonstrate additional behind-the-wheel skills if you plan on driving a transit, coach, or school bus.
When you feel prepared, you can take your CDL road skills exam through an approved West Virginia third-party examiner.
Self-Study for Your WV CDL
Keep in mind that in West Virginia, taking CDL test prep classes is not state-required,* and you always have the option of studying for the WV DMV's exams on your own time. This could be your best option if the tuition or duration of a commercial Driver's Ed course is going to be too stressful on your personal finances or schedule.
If you decide to go this route, you'll want to get a copy of the West Virginia Commercial Driver's License Manual. The manual outlines the West Virginia laws and regulations surrounding commercial driver's licenses that you should be familiar with before taking the DMV's tests.
Another great way to study is by taking some practice tests. Doing so will help you to understand what CDL content you've mastered and which parts of the manual you may need to study a bit more. Practice tests will also give you an idea of what sort of format and difficulty to expect on the DMV's written CDL exams.
If you need additional information that this guide and/or the CDL manual doesn't cover, you can call the West Virginia DMV's commercial driver's license information number at (304) 926-3801.
* NOTE: If you're planning on becoming a school bus driver, you cannot complete certification training on your own and are required to complete it with your school district or employing institution.