California Commercial Driver License Exams

A California commercial driver license test must be passed before a driver can earn his or her CDL and legally operate a commercial vehicle on the road. A CDL written exam requires a potential commercial driver to study California traffic laws and learn more about the operation of his or her vehicle before earning a commercial license. When studying for a CDL test, potential commercial drivers should obtain extensive knowledge about mechanical issues, vehicle inspections and parking laws. Drivers who research how to pass the CDL exam should consider helpful resources from the DMV, including the California Driver Handbook and California Commercial Driver Handbook. A CDL knowledge test can be intimidating, even for the most experienced drivers, because the specific driving laws of the state and operation of commercial vehicles must be comprehended and expressed by drivers in the written exam. To learn about the exam for CDL license types and why CDL knowledge tests are required before a commercial license is issued, review the following information.

Mandatory CDL Tests in California

A California CDL knowledge test is a mandatory exam that must be completed and successfully passed by drivers before CDL licenses are issued. To study for the written CDL exam, a driver can review the California Commercial Driver Handbook, paying close attention to traffic laws in the state and the rules for safe operation of a large commercial vehicle. The purpose of the CDL paper exam is to ensure the driver has extensive knowledge of the rules of the road and can critically think through situations that may arise when operating a commercial vehicle. For example, a knowledge exam for CDL in CA may include a question about the safest way to park a truck on the side of the road at night. Drivers who know the state’s traffic laws can provide a legal, responsible answer to the question. The commercial driver license test can be taken at a Commercial License DMV location once a potential driver schedules an appointment with the office to take the test.

When the California CDL knowledge exam is passed by a potential driver, he or she will move on to the skills test. The CDL skills test is also required to be successfully completed and passed by a driver before a commercial license is issued. The CDL test, also referred to as a drive test, is a hands-on exam of the driver’s skills while operating, parking and interacting with the commercial vehicle. A potential commercial driver must attend the driving skills CDL test with the vehicle he or she plans to drive for employment in the future. The driving skills test is an exam for CDL license types that encompass all commercial vehicles, and it examines the driver’s basic control, driving and vehicle inspection skills. The hands-on driving CDL exam must be completed for issuance of an original CDL or to renew a CDL that expired at least two years ago.

Additional Commercial Driver License Tests

The California CDL written exam and driving test are both required for drivers wishing to earn CDL license within the different classes. In addition to these CDL exams, other written tests may be required for specific CDL endorsements, or for the operation of special commercial vehicles. An additional written CDL exam must be completed for commercial drivers who wish to drive passenger buses. The passenger transport test is a CDL knowledge test in CA that must be passed successfully before a commercial driver can earn a license with the passenger endorsement. Specific CDL exams are also required for commercial drivers who are seeking hazardous materials or trailer combination endorsements for their licenses. Commercial drivers who plan to operate vehicles with air brakes are required to complete commercial license exams that includes curriculum on the operation of air brakes. Additionally, a special California CDL test is administered to a commercial driver who will drive a school bus or tanker. Before specific endorsements can be added to CDL licenses, these corresponding commercial driver license tests must be taken at commercial driving DMV facilities and successfully passed.

Why CDL Knowledge Tests in California are Important

To pass a CDL written test in California, commercial drivers need to review the California Commercial Drivers Handbook, the regular California Drivers Handbook and are also encouraged to take formal commercial vehicle operation training classes. Current employers and co-workers in the commercial driving industry can also assist potential commercial drivers who are studying for CDL tests by covering the basic vehicle safety inspection information and legalities of operating commercial vehicles. Specific exams for CDL license types in CA are also mandatory when commercial drivers plan to operate vehicles that require CDL endorsements or certificates.

The commercial driver license test covers important driving skills, vehicle inspection procedures and the operation of basic controls to ensure a driver can responsibly operate the commercial vehicle. Commercial drivers should maintain a certain masterful skillset and knowledge of traffic laws to keep themselves, passengers, other drivers and pedestrians safe on the road. Before a commercial driver can be trusted behind the wheel of a large commercial vehicle, the DMV requires him or her to complete the CDL written exams and commercial drivers tests to ensure knowledge has been acquired regarding how to properly operate the vehicle. The CDL knowledge test may need to be repeated after a violation, a license suspension or before a license renewal to ensure the driver still has adequate skills and abilities to safely operate the vehicle. To learn about what is expected of a driver on the California CDL knowledge test and driving test, consider downloading our free, informative guide.