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If your career aspirations involve operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), obtaining a commercial driving license (CDL) is crucial. This authentication declares that you possess the necessary skills to successfully drive a commercial vehicle, which is vital to starting your commercial driving career.

The type of CDL you require will vary based on factors such as the CMV you plan to operate. It is crucial to understand the significance and requirements of obtaining a commercial driving license, as the FMCSA has established standards for assessing the abilities and aptitude of drivers before issuing a CDL. 

If you are residing in California and are willing to start a career in commercial motor vehicle driving. In that case, this article will inform you of the requirements, costs, training, and other necessary information about obtaining a CDL.

Why Do You Require A CDL?

A Commercial Driving License (CDL) gives you legal authority to drive a commercial vehicle. You must understand that it is different from a regular driving license because a driver requires to demonstrate some specialized skill set for driving a commercial vehicle, especially heavy-duty trucks.

The drivers need to be experts and trained in driving on the highways for longer hours and vigilant about road and weather conditions while making long hauls. Therefore, they must undergo specific training and tests to secure their chance of getting a CDL. 

The primary objective of this regulation is to ensure safety and improve the responsibility and accountability of drivers. The drivers should be able to maintain a standard of skill and knowledge to ensure safety and reliability in commercial vehicle operations.

The necessary procedures and regulations applied in this process aimed at achieving a uniform and standardized set of skills acquired by all CMV drivers through better and stricter training methods.

Eventually, it will help reduce road accidents and traffic rule violations, allowing you to operate the trucks more safely and efficiently. You may drive a CMV or engage drivers to operate your commercial vehicles for transport operations. You must follow the CDL process strictly to ensure better road safety and efficiency. 

Requirements For Applying For A CDL In California

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) deals with the commercial driver’s license program. As per the regulations set by the authority, a person applying for CDL in California must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Must be 18 years or older to operate within California
  • Must be 21 years or older to drive outside California
  • Must possess a Commercial Learner Permit (CLP) for at least 14 days.

The department also checks the database of the applicant for the last ten years. As per the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, all commercial driver license (CDL) applicants need to disclose whether a permit was issued earlier in the same or a different name to operate any motor vehicle in another state or other jurisdiction within the previous ten years.

The Entry-Level Driver Regulation

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has introduced Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) regulations in the USA. As per the regulations, a candidate must pass an entrance test to qualify for a commercial driving license. 

The rule also says you must fulfill the training requirements before appearing for the exam. These regulations came into force in response to the lack of uniform and consistent safety protocols across different states of the USA regarding transport operations. The abovementioned ELDT rule is applicable in California for any of the three following cases:

  • Applying for a new license
  • Upgrading the existing license
  • Applying for hazardous material, school bus, or passenger vehicle endorsement. 

Types of CDLs

The commercial driving license issued to deserving applicants can be of three types depending on the type and weight of the commercial vehicle. Each CDL has a specific set of requirements and features attached to it. The different types of CDLS are as follows: 

Class A

This type of CDL applies to vehicles with a gross combination weight or gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of no more than 26,001 pounds (11,794 kilograms). It includes any towed units with a gross vehicle weight of not more than 10,000 pounds or 4,536 kilograms. 

Class B

This class of CDL enables you to operate any single vehicle with a gross weight of no more than 26,001 pounds (11,794 kilograms). It includes any towed units with no more than 10,000 pounds of gross vehicle weight rating.

Class C

This type of CDL applies to a single vehicle or combination of vehicles that do not fall under the specifications for class A or class B vehicles. Class C is for a custom-built vehicle carrying 16 or more passengers, including the driver. Moreover, drivers possessing a class C license get the authority to move specific toxic materials and chemicals through commercial vehicles.

How To Apply For A Commercial Driver’s License (CLD) From California?

To apply for a CDL, you must attend a truck driving school and obtain a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) to begin the process. You have to complete the online application process while considering the following points:

  • Create an online account on the DMV website or log in to your online account if you have an existing one. DMV uses authentication to prove your digital identity and requires an email address and phone number.
  • Keep your security number ready in addition to basic information such as name, address, and date of birth.
  • The application portal times out after 15 minutes for privacy and security purposes. If you cannot complete the application in one go, you may log in to your DMV account later and finish it properly.
  • Applications are valid for up to one year and are processed only when you visit a DMV field office.
  • After completing the application, you will visit the DMV field office to finish the rest of the formalities to complete the CDL application process. You have to complete the following activities in the field office.
  • Submit a 10 Year History Record Check
  • Submit a Medical Examination Report 
  • Provide proof of your social security number (SSN)
  • Verify your identity with a supporting document.
  • Present acceptable residency documents.
  • Pay the nonrefundable application fee.
  • Register fingerprints
  • Pass a vision test
  • Have your photo taken.
  • Pass the knowledge tests.

You need to bring the type of vehicle you want to drive during the skills test, and you have to demonstrate basic driving skills and control, good operating practices, and knowledge of vehicle inspection. After passing the skill test, you will receive an interim CDL valid for 60 days. 

Important Points to consider 

You should consider a few critical steps before applying for a CDL in California. These are as follows: 

  • Go through the California CDL manual. 
  • Determine the kind of commercial vehicle you will operate. 
  • Decide on the class of CDL you want to obtain. 
  • Obtain your commercial learner permit (CLP).
  • Complete a training program under an authorized provider. 

Training Requirement for Commercial Driving License

You must pass the skills test, including vehicle inspection, basic control skills, and the road test, to qualify for a CDL. If you fail any segment of the skills test, there will be no further test, and it will be counted as a failure. A maximum of three (3) attempts are allowed to pass the test. 

The new ELDT rule recommends that individuals applying for commercial driving licenses in California undergo a training program given by authorized providers to improve their chances of qualifying for the tests. 

The training includes a standard curriculum that the prospective applicant must complete with satisfactory ratings. The skill set required for an applicant to obtain a CDL is as follows:

Operational Knowledge

It includes knowledge about vehicle operation, control mechanisms, and inspection methods before and after the trip. 

Safe Operating Practices

Safe operating practices involve awareness about speed and space management, distractions, analyzing visual indications, and communication processes, especially under night operations and extreme driving conditions. 

Advanced Operational Procedures

Advanced operational procedures include special safety precautions during railway tracks or highway guard crossing. It helps you to acquire skills for perceiving potential hazards or risks and the ability to control the vehicle in case of skidding, turning, or any other emergencies. 

Automobile System And Malfunction Reporting

You must gather sufficient knowledge about regular maintenance of trucks, on-road inspections, and identification and diagnosis of technical issues. 

Non-Driving Activities

There are a lot of activities not directly related to the driving of commercial trucks but are crucial to maintaining safe, compliant, and well-performed vehicle operations. The main points under these activities are as follows: 

  • Statutory documentation and records
  • Medical provisions
  • Compliance with environmental regulations
  • Awareness of fatigue and wellness management
  • Real-time external communications
  • Service requirements and maintenance schedule
  • Effects of drugs and alcohol 
  • Procedures and actions in response to accidents
  • Planning and route selection for the trip

Special Provisions and Regulations

You may apply for a commercial driving license in California with an original or renewal Hazardous Materials (HazMat) endorsement. In that case, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will conduct a security threat assessment with necessary background records checks before issuing the Hazardous Materials endorsement in your CDL.

The State of California also makes a provision to waive the CDL driving test for qualified military service members who are or were in a military position during the last year handling the operation of a military motor vehicle equivalent to a commercial motor vehicle. Therefore, it becomes easier for military personnel to obtain a civilian commercial driving license.

Cost of Obtaining a CDL

The costs involved in obtaining different types of CDL for class A or B are as follows:

  • Original license: $76
  • Renewal: $45
  • Duplicate: $33
  • Commercial driving skill retest: $35
  • Name change: $28
  • Removing an automatic transmission restriction: $76
  • Adding a passenger endorsement: $76
  • Adding tank, double-triples, and hazmat endorsements: $45

ELD Requirements

Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) in commercial vehicles are reliable technical support to capture the data of vehicles electronically without manual intervention. The drivers can use this to track their service hours, fuel consumption, mileage, engine operation, and overall automobile efficiency. After getting the necessary training and qualifying for the test, a driver becomes a CDL holder to run a commercial vehicle and should follow some guidelines regarding Electronic Logging Devices, as mentioned below.

  • Follow the user instruction manual for any reference.
  • Requires mounting of ELD in a suitable position inside the truck to be visible to the driver.
  • Training on the operation of the device is mandatory for drivers.

Conclusion

A commercial driving license is a prerequisite to operating commercial vehicles on roadways, particularly heavy-duty trucks in California. The CDL ensures drivers have the aptitude and skills to maintain safety and compliance while driving vehicles. The latest ELDT regulations have made the CDL process faster and more convenient by using advanced technology tools and ensuring better road safety and compliance.

Matrack provides technical support and resources to help drivers develop expertise in using ELD and utilize its features to ensure safety, productivity, and efficiency in vehicle operations. This article intends to guide you through the CDL acquiring process after fulfilling the requirements and help you earn the CDL conveniently. 

Posted in CDL

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