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In Virginia you need a commercial driver license, or CDL, to operate any vehicle or combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating, or GVWR, of 26,001 lbs. or more. You also need a CDL to transport hazardous materials or more than 15 passengers. You only need to be 18 to get an intrastate CDL, but you must be 21 to get a CDL that allows you to drive across state lines or transport cargo that will travel outside the state during the trip when you handle it.
Apply for Your CDL
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles issues CDLs. You must fill out an application, which is available on the DMV's website. In addition to basic information such as name and address, state what type of vehicle you plan to drive: class A, B or C. Class A is for combination vehicles; Class B is for a single vehicle or one towing another vehicle that's less than 10,000 lbs.; and Class C is for other vehicles, including school buses and hazardous material vehicles. The application also requires you to specify whether the vehicle has air brakes and automatic transmission, and whether you're seeking endorsements.
Deal With the DMV
If you never had a Virginia-issued driver's license or ID, you must prove your identity and your residency. The DMV requires proof of who you are and that you're a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant. You also have to prove your social security number and Virginia residency. DMV's website provides a document guide outlining what's acceptable for each category.
If you don't have a Virginia driver's license, you also have to get a CDL instruction permit before you can get your CDL. If you take a state-approved commercial driving course, you only have keep the CDL instruction permit for 14 days before taking the road test; without the course, you have to hold it 30 days before testing.
Pass the Tests
You must pass several tests, including a vision exam. The knowledge exam asks questions about driving safety, vehicle laws and operating a commercial vehicle. The sections covered depend on the type of vehicle you plan to drive and the endorsements you're seeking. For example, driving with air brakes or pursuing an “H” endorsement for hazardous material and an “S” endorsement for school bus driving each require additional testing. You need to pass with at least 80 percent. The skills test is an on-the-road exam, which also covers pre-trip inspections. You must pass this test in the type of vehicle listed on your application.
Get Fit to Drive
Unless you can claim an “excepted” status, you need a federal medical examiner's certificate. Those who can claim the exception include school bus drivers, fire and rescue drivers, government employees and drivers who transport corpses, injured people, bees or migrants.
If you're “non-excepted,” you must get a physical. The medical examiner who completes your medical examination certificate must be listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s National Registry of Medical Examiners. If you have a valid medical certificate from an unlisted medical examiner and it was issued before May 10, 2014, you can use it until it expires.
- Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles: Driver's License and Identification Card Application
- Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles: Applying for a Commercial Driver's License or CDL Instruction Permit
- Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles: CDL Knowledge Exams
- Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles: Commercial Driver's License (CDL) Medical Certification Requirements - FAQs
- Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles: New Medical Examiner Requirement
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