Virginia CDL Overview

Obtaining a CDL in Virgina

A commercial driver's license (CDL) allows you to operate a commercial vehicle in Virginia and possibly other states, depending on your qualifications. To obtain a CDL or commercial learner's permit (CLP) in Virginia, you must meet all requirements for a Virginia driver's license. You must apply for your CDL or CLP in person at a DMV customer service center. For additional information about CDL licensing, please refer to CDL classifications, endorsements and restrictions. More information can be found at the

CDL Classes

  • Class A - Allows you to operate any combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of more than 26,000 pounds, and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is more than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B - Includes single or combination vehicles where the GVWR of the single vehicle is more than 26,000 pounds. The vehicle being pulled must not be more than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class C - Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that either is designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver, or is used in the transportation of materials found to be hazardous.

CDL Endorsements

  • T - Permits you to drive a vehicle towing a double or triple trailer.
  • P - Permits you to drive a passenger-carrying vehicle. You must take the road test in the class vehicle you wish to operate.
  • N - Permits you to drive a tank vehicle.
  • H - Permits you to drive a vehicle that transports hazardous materials. This endorsement cannot be transferred from another state or foreign country. You must successfully complete the hazardous materials knowledge exam and background check.
  • X - Permits you to drive a tank vehicle AND a vehicle that transports hazardous materials
  • S - Permits you to drive a school bus.*

* Individuals required to register with the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry (Virginia Code Chapter 9 of Title 9.1) (Registry) will be issued licenses valid for five years. However, they are not eligible for a Virginia commercial driver's license/commercial learner's permit with an "S" endorsement during any period in which registration with the Registry is required. Additionally, if they hold a Virginia commercial driver's license/commercial learner's permit with a "P" endorsement, they are prohibited from operating a commercial vehicle to transport children to or from school or daycare sponsored activities.

CDL Restrictions

  • B, Y or C - You must wear corrective lenses when operating a commercial motor vehicle.
  • E - You may not operate a commercial motor vehicle with a manual transmission.
  • J - You may only operate a school/activity bus. You may not operate any other type of commercial motor vehicle.
  • K - You may not operate a commercial motor vehicle outside of Virginia.
  • L - You may not operate a vehicle with Full Air or Air over Hydraulic brakes. If you plan to operate a vehicle with either of these types of air brakes, you must take the air brakes knowledge test. You must also take the road test in a vehicle equipped with Full Air or Air over Hydraulic brakes.
  • M - Operation of a passenger bus restricted to a Class B or Class C passenger vehicle.
  • N - Operation of a passenger bus restricted to a Class C passenger vehicle.
  • O - You may not operate a commercial motor vehicle with a tractor-trailer (any combination of vehicles with a gross weight of 26,001 lbs or more if the vehicle(s) being towed have gross weight of more than 10,000 lbs)
  • Q - Prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle to transport children to or from activities sponsored by a school or by a child day care facility licensed, regulated, or approved by the Virginia Department of Social Services.
  • V - You must have your medical variance documentation when operating a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Z - You may not operate a vehicle with Full Air brakes. If you plan to take the air brakes knowledge test and take the road test in a vehicle equipped with Air over Hydraulic brakes then you cannot operate a vehicle equipped with Full Air brakes.

CLP Endorsements and Restrictions

  • N Endorsement with X Restriction- You may only operate an empty tank vehicle and may not operate a tank vehicle that previously contained hazardous materials that has not been purged of any residue.
  • P Endorsement with P Restriction - You may not operate a commercial motor vehicle carrying passengers. Exceptions include federal or state auditors and inspectors, test examiners, other trainees, and the commercial driver's license holder accompanying the commercial learner's permit holder.
  • S Endorsement with P Restriction - You may not operate a school bus vehicle carrying passengers. Exceptions include federal or state auditors and inspectors, test examiners, other trainees, and the commercial driver's license holder accompanying the commercial learner's permit holder.

Minimum Requirements For Getting A CDL In Virgina:

  • You must be at least at 18 to obtain an intrastate CDL and age 21 to obtain a standard CDL.
  • If you apply for a CDL or commercial learner's permit and DMV records show you have not held a Virginia driver's license or ID card in the past, you must present documents proving your eligibility.
  • Pass a state-approved driver education program designed specifically for commercial motor vehicles and hold a commercial learner's permit for at least 14 days. If you do not take an approved driver education program, you must hold a CLP for 30 days before taking the required road skills exam.

  • Valid Department of Transportation Medical Examiner's Certificate.
  • Hold a valid Virginia driver's license or have satisfied all the requirements necessary to obtain such a license.
  • Generally, males under age 26 must register with the Selective Service. If you are required by federal law to register with the Selective Service, you must authorize DMV to send your personal information to the Selective Service unless you have already registered.
  • Applicants for a Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HAZMAT) must be fingerprinted for a background check.

Physical Requirements For Getting A Virgina CDL:

CDL drivers who certify to either a "non-excepted interstate" or "non-excepted intrastate" category of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operation must have their physical examination completed by a medical examiner who is listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA's) National Registry of Medical Examiners.

  • Vision in both eyes as well as each eye individually needs to be 20/40, with visual improvement devices, such as glasses or contacts allowed.
  • Needs to be able to distinguish colors is necessary.
  • Should be able to perceive a forced whisper at a distance of at least 5 feet.
  • Maximum allowable blood pressure is 160/100. Use of prescription medication to achieve this threshold is permitted.
  • An applicant can have diabetes which is controlled through diet or medication. Diabetes which is controlled though insulin injections is not permitted.
  • Blood sugar may not be higher than 200.
  • No use of a Schedule 1 drug, amphetamine, narcotic or any habit forming drug is permitted.
  • In case applicants are currently diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease such as congestive cardiac failure, collapse or cardiac insufficiency, then they will need to provide the Medical Examiner with a stress test as well as with a note from your physician which states that he/she is able to drive a commercial motor vehicle with no restrictions.

Fees For Getting Your CDL In Virgina:

Commercial driver's licenses in Virgina are valid for 8 years.

  • A standard Commercial Driver's License with no endorsements - $64.00
  • Endorsements - $1 each, charged yearly
  • Commercial Learner's Permit- $3
  • Commercial Driver's License Skills Test Missed Appointment - $50
  • Commercial Driver's License Replacement - $20
  • Commercial Learner's Permit Replacement - $2
  • Background check and fingerprint scan for HAZMAT - $83.00 (Applicants with a valid TWIC card expiring more than 1 year and 5 days from the date of application may be eligible for a reduced fee of $41)

Testing for your Virgina CDL:

  • CDL Knowledge test - The knowledge exams determine your familiarity with the operation of commercial vehicles, motor vehicle laws and safe driving techniques. Exam questions are taken from the information in the Virginia Commercial Driver's Manual, which is available at all DMV customer service centers. Applicants will have additional questions for each endorsement.
  • CDL Road Skills Test - After successful completion of the knowledge test, the applicant can then take the road test which consists of three parts: a Pre-Trip Inspection, Basic Vehicle Control, and Road Test. The Pre-Trip inspection includes a full walk-around of the vehicle and it requires the driver to point out vehicle components and explain what is being checked and why to the examiner. The Basic Vehicle Control test includes straight line backing, offset right or left backing and alley dock backing. The road test is conducted on streets and requires the driver to demonstrate his/her skills in normal traffic situations.

Virgina Disqualifications

If you are convicted of any of the following major violations when driving a commercial motor vehicle, you will be disqualified or prohibited from driving commercial motor vehicles. You will receive a one-year disqualification for any of these offenses. However, you will receive a three-year disqualification if you were convicted of any of the offenses listed above while transporting hazardous materials. You will receive a life-time disqualification if you receive a second conviction for one of the violations listed above, or are convicted of using a commercial motor vehicle in the manufacture or illegal distribution of drugs.

  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) or 0.04 or higher.
  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Refusing a blood and/or breath test while operating a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Failing to stop at the scene of an accident that involves your commercial motor vehicle if the accident causes injury or death.
  • Using a commercial motor vehicle to commit a felony.
  • Making a false statement on any application for a commercial driver's license.

Whether you are in your CMV or personal vehicle the following serious traffic violations will also result in disqualification. You will receive a 60-day disqualification if you are convicted of two serious violations within a three-year period or a 120-day disqualification if you are convicted of three or more serious violations within a three-year period.

  • Texting while operating a commercial motor vehicle
  • Speeding 15 mph or more above the speed limit
  • Reckless driving
  • Improper or erratic lane change
  • Following too closely
  • A moving violation related to a fatal crash
  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle without a commercial driver's license
  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle without a commercial driver's license in the driver's immediate possession
  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle without the proper CDL class and/or endorsements for the specific vehicle group being operated or for the passengers or type of cargo being transported

Railroad crossing violations will result in a 60-day disqualification for a first offense, 120-days for a second offense committed within three years, and one-year disqualification for a third offense committed within three years.

Violating out-of-service orders will result in a 180-day disqualification for your first conviction, three years for the second and subsequent convictions, and you will be disqualified for a period of between 180 days and 10 years for conviction of violating an out-of-service order while operating a commercial vehicle.

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In order to obtain a Virginia CDL there are a list of requirements that must be met, and getting your Virginia CDL involves several steps. There are medical requirements and residency requirements, along with knowledge and skills requirements. The basic requirements for getting your cdl in Virginia include:

  • You must be at least 18 years old to hold a Virginia CDL and drive a commercial vehicle within the state of Virginia.
  • You must be at least age 21 to drive a commercial motor vehicle across Virginia state lines, carry hazardous materials, or transport any passengers.
  • You must not have more than one driver’s license, and your driving privileges must not be suspended, revoked, canceled or disqualified in Virginia or any other state.
  • You must meet the medical requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
  • You must pass a set of written exams to obtain your Virginia Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP). You can study for these exams using our High Road CDL Training Program.
  • You must prove citizenship in the state of Virginia and have permission to work in the United States, showing legitimate personal identification which may include a Social Security Card, a Birth Certificate, or a Green Card
  • You must certify that you are not subject to any of the CDL disqualifications for drivers (listed below)
  • You must be able to speak and read the English language

Below we will list more general requirements, qualifications, disqualifications, and restrictions for getting a CDL in Virginia.

Who Is Required To Hold A Virginia CDL?

You will need a CDL to operate any of the following vehicles:

  • A single vehicle with a GVWR over 26,000 lbs.
  • A combination vehicle with a GVWR over 26,000 lbs, towing a unit over 10,000 lbs GVWR.
  • A passenger vehicle designed to carry 16 or more people, including the driver.
  • Any size vehicle requiring hazardous material (Hazmat) placards, or carrying a select agent or toxin listed in 42 CFR Part 73.

What Are The Different Classes Of CDL In Virginia?

  • Class A:

    Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight of 26,001 pounds or more, with trailer(s) weighing 10,000 pounds or more.

  • Class B:

    Any single vehicle having a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing another weighing 10,000 pounds or less.

  • Class C:

    Any vehicle or combination of vehicles not meeting the definition of Class A or Class B, designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded to carry hazardous material:

  • Class D:

    Many states issue a "Class D" license, which is not part of the FMCSA standards. Some use it to classify regular, passenger car drivers licenses, while some use it to classify specific weights or types of vehicles. This varies from state-to-state.

Knowledge And Skills Test Requirements For Getting A CDL In Virginia

Each basic knowledge test covers the 20 general areas outlined in 49 CFR 383.111(a). The knowledge test shall contain at least 30 items. A separate test for drivers seeking to operate CMV's with air brakes in Virginia must cover the 7 areas outlined in 49 CFR 383.111(b).

To pass the knowledge tests (general and endorsement); applicants must correctly answer at least 80 percent of the questions.

To pass the Virginia CDL skills test, applicants must successfully perform all the required skills (listed in 49 CFR 383.113 through 49 CFR 383.123). The skills test must be taken in a vehicle representative of the type of vehicle that the applicant operates or expects to operate.

Federal standards require the state of Virginia to issue CDLs to certain commercial motor vehicle drivers only after the driver passes the knowledge and skills tests administered by the State. The vehicle you take the CDL test in must also relate to the type of vehicle the driver expects to operate.

Restrictions are placed on a Virginia CDL when a driver takes the Skills Test in a vehicle which lacks critical equipment present in particular types of CMVs. Therefore, to avoid restrictions, drivers should take the Skills Test in the same type of vehicle for which they are seeking a Virginia CDL to operate.

Drivers are required to obtain and hold a CDL in Virginia if they operate in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce and drive a vehicle that meets one or more of the classifications of a CMV are also described below.

Military Skills Test Waiver Program

The state of Virginia has the authority to substitute two years of experience safely operating trucks or buses equivalent to civilian commercial vehicles for the skills test portion of the Virginia commercial driver license (CDL) test. U.S. Military drivers must apply within one year of leaving a military position requiring operation of a commercial vehicle. The latest information (February 2017) indicates that more than 19,000 current and former military have taken advantage of the Skills Test Waiver, making them immediately eligible for employment.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 49 CFR 383.77, requires the applicant to certify to an SDLA:

  • His/her safe driving experience;
  • That he or she has not held more than one license (except a U.S. Military driver’s license) in the past two years;
  • Has not had his/her Virginia driver license suspended, revoked or cancelled; and,
  • Has not had convictions in any type of motor vehicle for the disqualifying CDL offenses listed elsewhere in the regulations.

Here you will find the Application for Military Skills Test Waiver form

Medical Requirements For Obtaining A Virginia CDL License

All commercial drivers of vehicles in interstate commerce with a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 pounds are required to obtain and maintain a valid Medical Examiner's Certificate (ME Certificate). CDL holders in Virginia must provide their SDLA with a copy of their ME Certificate.

Self Certification

All Virginia CDL holders must declare to their State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA) that they only operate or expect to operate commercially in 1 of 4 possible categories with their CDL. This process is called self-certification. The four categories are:

  • Interstate non-excepted: You are an Interstate non-excepted driver and must meet the Federal DOT medical card requirements (e.g. – you are "not excepted").
  • Interstate excepted: You are an Interstate excepted driver and do not have to meet the Federal DOT medical card requirements.
  • Intrastate non-excepted: You are an Intrastate non-excepted driver and are required to meet the medical requirements for the state of Virginia.
  • Intrastate excepted: You are an Intrastate excepted driver and do not have to meet the medical requirements for the state of Virginia.

Hearing Requirements

A person is physically qualified to drive a CMV if that person: First perceives a forced whispered voice in the better ear at not less than five feet with or without the use of a hearing aid or if tested by use of an audiometric device, does not have an average hearing loss in the better ear greater than 40 decibels at 500Hz, 1000HZ and 2,000 Hz with or without a hearing aid when the audiometric device is calibrated to the American National Standard Z24.5-1951.

Vision Requirements

You must meet the following vision requirements:

  • A distant visual acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in each eye without corrective lenses or visual acuity separately corrected to 20/40 (Snellen) or better with corrective lenses;
  • A distant binocular acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in both eyes with or without corrective lenses;
  • A field of vision of at least 70 degrees in the horizontal Meridian in each eye;
  • The ability to recognize the colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard red, green, and amber.

Blood Pressure Requirements

  1. Your blood pressure needs to be under 140/90.
  2. Stage 1 hypertension, blood pressure between 140/90 - 159/99: 1-year medical certificate, must be renewed every 12 months.
  3. Stage 2 hypertension, blood pressure between 160/100 - 179/109: 3 month medical certification. Full disqualification if not under control after 3 months, until controlled. Will be required to renew every 12 months.
  4. Stage 3 hypertension, blood pressure at or over 180/110: Automatic disqualification, 6 month certification once blood pressure is under control, must be renewed every 6 months.
  5. Blood pressure can be controlled with or without medication.

Urinalysis Testing

Your urine sample will be tested in a lab for blood, sugar, and protein, which might indicate hidden health problems.

Physical Impairments

Drivers with physical impairments, which affect their ability to safely operate CMVs, must obtain a "variance" from the state of Virginia in order to be approved to drive commercially. The variance document must be carried with the commercial driver whenever they are operating a commercial motor vehicle. A Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) is a special type of "variance" required for drivers with impaired or missing limbs (e.g., a hand or finger, an arm, foot, or leg). Drivers with missing limbs, if eligible, must obtain an SPE certificate. The commercial driver must always carry the SPE certificate at all times.

About The Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Program

The Skill Performance Evaluation program is for CMV drivers who drive in interstate commerce. The SPE certification allows drivers with missing or impaired limbs to drive CMVs across state lines if they have been fitted with (and are wearing) the right prosthetic device, and the driver can demonstrate the ability to drive the truck safely by completing on-and off-road activities. If the driver passes the Virginia commercial vehicle driving test, he or she will receive a SPE certificate. Over the years, FMCSA has granted more than 3,000 SPE certificates to truck drivers who have shown that they can drive safely on the nation's highways.

Implied Consent to Alcohol Testing

Any person who holds a Virginia CDL is considered to have consented to such testing as is required by the state of Virginia or any State or jurisdiction in the enforcement of being under the influence of a controlled substance or using alcohol, be under the influence of alcohol, or have any measured alcohol concentration or detected presence of alcohol, while on duty, or operating, or in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle. Consent is implied by driving a commercial motor vehicle.

Prescription Drugs

Although the driver has a legal prescription, he/she may be disqualified if the medication could adversely affect the driver's ability to drive a CMV safely.

Who Is Exempt From Getting A Virginia CDL?

FMCSA regulations specifically exempt only military personnel with comparable safe-driving experience from getting CDL's. States are authorized to provide exemptions for the rest of the following at their own discretion:

  • Virginia Military Vehicle Operators:

    The state of Virginia must exempt individuals who operate vehicles for military purposes from the requirements for CDL drivers. This exemption includes active military, reserves and members of the National Guard. This exception does not apply to U.S. Reserve technicians.

    Service members who are or were employed within the past year (12 months) in a military position requiring the operation of a military motor vehicle equivalent to a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) and who want to drive CMV's in civilian life can apply for a Skills Test Waiver to get their CDL.

    See Also: Military Skills Test Waiver

  • Virginia Farm Equipment Operators:

    Covering actual farm-to-market operations, not commercial grain haulers. Drivers must be 21 years old, and vehicle must have farm plates. Farm workers are not required to have a CDL to operate vehicles:

    • Controlled and operated by a farmer, a member of his family, or an employee.
    • Used to transport farm products, equipment or supplies to or from a farm.
    • Used within 150 air miles of the farm.
    • Used in a nursery or agricultural operations.
    • Not used in the operations of a contract motor carrier.
  • Virginia Firefighting Equipment Operators:

    Those who operate CMV's necessary to preserving life or property, or performing emergency governmental functions, have signals that can be seen and heard, and are not subject to normal traffic laws. These include fire trucks, foam or water transport trucks, police SWAT team vehicles, ambulances and any other emergency vehicles.

  • Virginia Recreational Vehicle Operators:

    Drivers operating recreational vehicles (RV's) for their own non-commercial use can be exempted from CDL requirements.

  • Virginia Township or Government Workers Exemptions:

    Many states will have specific CDL exemptions that apply to workers in smaller towns or to state and local government employees in general. You will have to check with your specific state regulations.

Virginia CDL Disqualifications

The FMCSA regulations specify certain circumstances that will disqualify a driver from legally operating a CMV, temporarily or permanently.

Issues resulting in disqualification apply only to CDL or CLP holders, or those required to have a CLP or CDL in the vehicle they are operating. Tickets, DUI or DWI, and other legal issues that happened before a driver was issued a CDL or CLP, or to non-CDL or CLP holders, who were not required to have one, will affect drivers only as far as company policy, with the exception of getting the Hazmat endorsement.

See Also: TSA Disqualifying Offenses & Factors

In extreme cases, the FMCSA may disqualify drivers deemed to be an "imminent hazard", and remove them from the road.

See Also: Disqualification of drivers determined to constitute an imminent hazard.

Some circumstances will result in a lifetime disqualification from operating CMV's, with some being eligible for reinstatement after 10 years. A driver who uses a CMV in the commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance is disqualified for life with no possibility of reinstatement.

Disqualification For Major Offenses

  • Being under the influence of alcohol as prescribed by State law.
  • Being under the influence of a controlled substance.
  • Having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater while operating a CMV.
  • Refusing to take an alcohol test as required by a State or jurisdiction under its implied consent laws or regulations
  • Leaving the scene of an accident.
  • Using the vehicle to commit a felony, other than felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance.

CDL Driver Disqualification For Serious Traffic Violations:

  • Speeding excessively, involving any speed of 15 mph or more above the regulated or posted speed limit.
  • Driving recklessly, as defined by State or local law or regulation.
  • Making improper or erratic traffic lane changes.
  • Following the vehicle ahead too closely.
  • Violating State or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control.

CDL Driver Disqualification For Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Offenses:

  • The driver is not required to always stop, but fails to slow down and check that tracks are clear of an approaching train.
  • The driver is not required to always stop, but fails to stop before reaching the crossing, if the tracks are not clear.
  • The driver is always required to stop, but fails to stop before driving onto the crossing.
  • The driver fails to have sufficient space to drive completely through the crossing without stopping.
  • The driver fails to obey a traffic control device or the directions of an enforcement official at the crossing.
  • The driver fails to negotiate a crossing because of insufficient undercarriage clearance.

CDL Driver Disqualification For Violations Of Out-Of-Service Orders:

An out-of-service order stipulates that a CDL or CLP holder not drive a commercial vehicle for a certain period of time, or until such time as they are re-instated to service.

In addition to disqualification, drivers who violate out-of-service orders will be fined a civil penalty of at least $2,500 for the first offense, and $5,000 for any additional offenses.

Follow this link to learn more about CDL Driver Disqualifications

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