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Commercial Driver’s License Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL)?
2. Who must submit a self-certification form?
3. Are there any exemptions from the CDL program?
4. What are the classes of commercial driver licenses?
5. What are the required endorsements?
6. What tests do i need to take?

The Federal Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 mandated new requirements for the testing and licensing of commercial motor vehicle operators. While detailed information on these requirements may be found in the Commercial Driver’s Manual (PUB 223), these Frequently Asked Questions will provide you with a brief overview of the CDL program as a whole.

1. Who must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL)?
Anyone who drives a commercial motor vehicle. The definition of a commercial motor vehicle is:
  • a combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds;
  • a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds;
  • a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver;
  • a school bus; or
  • any vehicle that is transporting hazardous materials and is required to be placarded in accordance with State and Federal regulations.

Commercial motor vehicles do not include:
  • implements of husbandry;
  • any motor home or recreational trailer operated solely for personal use; or
  • motorized construction equipment, including, but not limited to, motorscrapers, backhoes, motorgraders, compactors, excavators, tractors, trenchers and bulldozers.

2. Who must submit a self-certification form?
Every driver who currently has a commercial driver’s license, as well as every driver applying for a commercial learner’s permit, must self-certify the type of driving in which they operate or expect to operate in i.e., Non-excepted Interstate; Non-excepted Intrastate; Excepted Interstate; or Excepted Intrastate. The self-certification process will identify commercial drivers that operate in Non-excepted transportation, therefore identifying which drivers are required to submit a copy of their valid Medical Examiner’s Certificate to PennDOT.

3. Are there any exemptions from the CDL program?
Yes, the following persons are not required to obtain a CDL in order to drive a specified commercial motor vehicle:
  • a firefighter who has a certificate of authorization from his fire chief while operating fire or emergency vehicles registered to the fire department;
  • a driver of a farm vehicle which is controlled and operated by a farmer and used exclusively to transport agricultural products, farm machinery, or farm supplies to or from a farm owned or operated by the owner of the farm vehicle. The farm vehicle may not be used in common or contract carriage and may be used only within 150 miles of the farm;
  • active duty military personnel, personnel on full-time National Guard duty, personnel on inactive National Guard duty training or part-time National Guard training and National Guard military technicians who are required to wear military uniforms while operating equipment owned or operated by the Department of Defense.

4. What are the classes of commercial driver licenses?
In accordance with the licensing requirements of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the license classifications are:
CLASS A - combination vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
CLASS B - single vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
CLASS C - single vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 pounds if the vehicle is: transporting hazardous materials requiring placarding; is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver; or, is a school bus.

5. What are the required endorsements?
The operation of certain vehicles also require the drivers to possess commercial endorsements in addition to possessing the proper class of license.
  • endorsement H authorizes the driver to operate a vehicle transporting hazardous materials requiring placarding
  • endorsement N authorizes the driver to operate tank vehicles
  • endorsement X hazardous materials and tank vehicle (H,N)
  • endorsement P authorizes the driver to operate vehicles carrying passengers
  • endorsement S authorizes the driver to operate a school bus (a School Bus endorsement card will be issued annually)
  • endorsement T authorizes the driving of double and triple trailers
  • restriction L restricts the driver to vehicles NOT equipped with air brakes
  • restriction B/M restricts the driver from a class A bus
  • restriction C/N restricts the driver from a class A or B bus
  • restriction E restricts the driver from driving manual transmission commercial vehicles
  • restriction K limits a driver to only operate in intrastate commerce
  • restriction O restricts a driver from driving a truck tractor/semi-trailer combination
  • restriction Z restricts a driver from driving a full air-brake equipped vehicle

6. What tests do i need to take?
You will need to pass the Knowledge Tests that are required for the class of license, restriction, and endorsements you wish to possess. A general knowledge test for the Class A or Class B and C license must be successfully completed by all CDL applicants. The information needed to pass these tests is contained in the CDL driver’s manual. This manual is available free of charge at any PennDOT Driver’s License Exam Center or on PennDOT’s website. Please read and study this manual carefully.
License​ ​Knowledge Test (written) ​*Skills Test
Class A​ ​70 Questions ​YES
Class B ​ ​50 Questions ​YES
​Class C ​50 Questions ​YES
​Passenger Endorsement ​20 Questions ​YES (in bus)
School Bus Endorsement​ ​25 Questions ​YES (must be in a school bus)
​(passenger endorsement required)
​Doubles/Triples Endorsement ​20 Questions ​NO
Tank Vehicle Endorsement​ ​20 Questions ​NO
Hazardous Materials Endorsement ​ ​30 Question ​NO
L/Z Air Brake Restriction Removal​ ​25 Questions ​YES (in vehicles equipped with air brakes)
C/N Restriction Removal ​ ​NO ​YES (in a class B bus)
E Restriction Removal​ ​NO ​YES
​K Restriction Removal ​NO ​NO
O Restriction Removal​ ​NO ​YES
  Certain Oral and Spanish tests are available (by appointment only).

* SKILLS TESTS:
After obtaining knowledge test authorization(s) and passing the required knowledge test(s), you will also need to take a skills test in the class and type of vehicle you intend to drive. The skills test includes a pre-trip inspection, and off-the-road maneuver, and vehicle parking exercise. Once again, a more detailed description of this test can be found in the CDL Driver’s Manual.

Skills testing cannot be taken until 15 days after the knowledge testing is passed and a permit is issued. However, you may call the number below to schedule skills testing immediately after passing a knowledge test or schedule on-line.

For more information, please feel free to visit the Commercial Driver Information section of our website.
or
PennDOT’s Customer Call Center at 1-800-932-4600. TTY callers — please dial 711 to reach us.
The Call Center hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You may also mail inquires to:
PennDOT CDL Unit
PO Box 68679
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17106-8679



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