Rhode Island CDL Requirements

CDL Classes in Rhode Island

      You must be at least 18 years old to operate a commercial motor vehicle within the state of Rhode Island (intrastate) and at least 21 years of age to operate a commercial motor vehicle outside the state of Rhode Island (interstate). You must also be at least 21 years old to transport materials that are deemed hazardous and to transport passengers using a commercial motor vehicle. You need a Rhode Island CDL in order to operate either commercial or non-commercial motor vehicles that fall into the following categories:

Class A
      Any combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,001 pounds or more, provided that the gross vehicle weight rating of the towed vehicle is in excess of 10,000 pounds.  

Class B
      Any single vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,001 or more pounds, as well as any vehicle towing another vehicle that does not exceed a weight of 10,000 pounds. 

Class C
      Any vehicle or combination of vehicles that does not meet the criteria of either Class A or Class B, but is designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or is used in transporting materials classified as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act. Each applicant must also have a passenger or hazardous materials endorsement in order to obtain a Class C commercial driver’s license. 

Applying for a Rhode Island Commercial Learner’s Permit

      You must already possess a Rhode Island commercial learner’s permit (CLP) before you can take the CDL Road Test. Before applying for a Rhode Island commercial learner’s permit, you must already possess a valid Rhode Island Class D (non-commercial) driver’s license. You will be issued a Rhode Island commercial driver’s license (CDL) when you pass both the written general knowledge test and the CDL Road Test. 

      In order to obtain a Rhode Island commercial learner’s permit, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old for intrastate driving (within the state of Rhode Island only).
  • Be at least 21 years of age for interstate driving (outside the state of Rhode Island).
  • Be at least 21 years of age to transport materials deemed hazardous.
  • Be at least 21 years of age to transport passengers in a CMV.
  • Have at least two years of driving experience.
  • Possess a valid Rhode Island Class D (non-commercial) driver’s license.
  • Provide your current out-of-state driver’s license or I.D. card (if you are not currently licensed in the state of Rhode Island).
  • Provide original documented proof of your identification.
  • Provide original documented proof of U.S. legal presence.
  • Provide proof of your current Rhode Island residency that shows your name and address (i.e., a utility bill, vehicle registration, insurance card).
  • Provide your Social Security card.
  • Provide your current Medical Examiner’s Certificate and completed Medical Examination Report (or medical waivers).  
  • Certify that your privilege to drive any motor vehicle is not currently suspended, revoked, canceled, or disqualified anywhere.
  • Certify that you currently hold no more than one driver’s license.
  • Self-certify that you intend to drive a CMV in either intrastate commerce or interstate commerce.
  • Pass the physical exam (must be administered by a FMCSA certified physician).
  • Pass the vision exam (you must have at least 20/40 vision in each eye with or without glasses).
  • Pass the color blindness test (you must be able to recognize green, red, and amber colors).
  • Complete and sign the Commercial Driver’s License Application and Renewal Form.
  • Pass the CDL written knowledge test.
  • Pay the $11.50 CDL application fee.
  • Pay the $10 fee for each written test.

      Any applicant who plans to drive a school bus must obtain a Rhode Island School Bus Certificate from the DMV School Bus Safety Office.

      All CDL transactions are done at the Cranston DMV Headquarters in Cranston, RI. If you have any questions about which documents to bring to the Cranston Headquarters DMV Office when you apply for your commercial learner’s permit, you can speak to a customer service representative at the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles CDL Center by calling (401) 462-5813 or (401) 462-5752 Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, EST. The fax number is (401) 462-5805. The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles is closed on all statewide holidays.

The CDL Written Tests

      All CDL written tests are administered at the Cranston DMV Headquarters. All commercial driver’s license applicants must pass the general knowledge written test in order to be eligible to receive a CDL. The CDL general knowledge test consists of 50 questions. In order to receive a passing score, each applicant is required to answer at least 80% of the questions correctly in the time allotted for that test. All written tests require a score of at least 80% to pass. Any applicant that exceeds the time limit or incorrectly answers too many questions on the general knowledge test will fail.

      Applicants may only take one type of written test per day. Any applicant that fails a written test, must wait at least five days to retake that test. All written tests that an applicant has applied for must be passed within 90 days from the date of application. All applicants should arrive at the Cranston DMV Headquarters at least one hour prior to closing when taking the written tests. 

      Once you successfully pass the CDL general knowledge written test, the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles will issue you a commercial learner’s permit so that you can practice operating a commercial motor vehicle. The commercial learner’s permit will be valid for 90 days from the date of issuance. If you are unable to pass the CDL Road Test within the 90 day expiration date, you will be allowed to renew the permit for another 90 days.

      You may only renew the commercial learner’s permit once. You may only operate a CMV under the supervision of a front seat passenger who is at least 21 years old and carries a valid CDL of the same class or greater than the class of vehicle you are operating. You may not operate any vehicle that is transporting materials deemed hazardous. 

      Over 60% of first time CDL applicants fail the written test! Be sure to download and study the Rhode Island Commercial Driver License Manual, as it contains the information you need to pass the CDL tests, including some sample test questions.

      The Rhode Island School Bus Manual is also available to download and study. Be sure to complete, print, and bring the Commercial Driver’s License Application and Renewal Form with you to the Cranston DMV Headquarters either before or on the day that you take the written general knowledge test. 

      Our Free CDL Practice Tests will help prepare you for the actual CDL knowledge tests administered by the DMV.

Applying for a Rhode Island Commercial Driver’s License

      In order to obtain a commercial driver’s license in the state of Rhode Island, you must:

  • Possess a valid Rhode Island commercial learner’s permit.
  • Possess a current D.O.T. card (cannot be more than 2 years old).
  • Provide proof of vehicle insurance and vehicle registration (must be verified before you can take the test).
  • Self-certify that you intend to drive a CMV in either intrastate commerce or interstate commerce.
  • Certify that your privilege to drive any motor vehicle is not currently suspended, revoked, canceled, or disqualified anywhere.
  • Provide a test vehicle of the same class as the CDL you are testing for that has passed inspection.
  • Provide a passenger that is 21 years of age or older with a valid Rhode Island CDL to ride with you in your test vehicle to the test location.
  • Schedule an appointment for the CDL Road Test by calling the Community College of Rhode Island at (401) 825-1146.
  • Complete, sign, and mail the Registration Form for CDL Road Test, or fax the registration form to (401) 825-1116.
  • Pass the CDL Road Test.
  • Pay the $100 fee for the CDL Road Test (the retest fee is $50).
  • Have your photo taken for the commercial driver’s license.

The CDL Road Test

      Once you obtain your commercial learner’s permit, you will be allowed to schedule an appointment to take the CDL Road Test at the Community College of Rhode Island. The Road Test is administered by appointment only. Walk-ins are not permitted. To schedule a test appointment, call the Community College of Rhode Island at (401) 825-1146. Be sure to complete and sign the Registration Form for CDL Road Test. You can submit the registration form by doing either of the following: 

  • Fax the completed and signed registration form to (401) 825-1116.
  • Mail the completed and signed registration form to:

                                      CCRI, Center for Workforce & Community Education
                                      Attn: CDL Program
                                      400 East Avenue, Warwick, RI 02886-1807

      The Community College of Rhode Island accepts payment for the CDL Road Test in the form of checks, money orders, and credit cards (Discover, MasterCard, and Visa).

      The CDL Road Test is a three part test that consists of a Pre-trip Inspection, a Basic Vehicle Controls Test, and an On-Road Driving Test. The Community College of Rhode Island may provide certain vehicles for you to test in. Please call the college for details. You will be required to take the test in the same class and type of motor vehicle that you plan to drive once you obtain your CDL.  If you take the CDL Road Test in a commercial motor vehicle that is not equipped with air brakes, then you will have an air brakes restriction attached to your commercial driver’s license. 

  • Pre-trip Inspection: Before you can take the CDL driving tests, you will first be tested on your knowledge of the class of vehicle you plan on driving once you obtain your CDL. The Pre-trip inspection also determines if your commercial vehicle is safe enough to drive on public roads. If you fail the Pre-trip Inspection, you may not be allowed to take the Road Skills Test. 
  • Basic Controls Test: Before you can take the Road Skills Test, you will first need to prove that you have the skills to operate a commercial motor vehicle on public roads. This test consists of various off-road maneuvers such as backing up your vehicle, moving your vehicle forward, and making turns within a defined area. 
  • Road Skills Test: Once you pass the first two tests, you will be required to drive your commercial vehicle on public roads in various traffic situations. You will be required to operate the same class of commercial vehicle you plan to drive once you obtain your CDL.

      The Basic Controls Test may include the following maneuvers:

  • 90 degree alley docking
  • Straight line backing
  • Parallel parking (driver side)
  • Parallel parking (conventional)
  • Offset backing to the right
  • Offset backing to the left

      The Road Skills Test will be administered on a route predetermined by the safety specialist. The test route will most likely include the following:

  • Starting
  • Stopping
  • Braking
  • Turning
  • Observing traffic signs
  • Observing traffic signals
  • Observing other traffic
  • Using vehicle controls
  • Maintaining proper lane positions
  • Downgrades
  • Downgrade stopping
  • Upgrades
  • Upgrade stopping
  • Railroad crossings
  • Bridge clearance
  • Underpass clearance
  • General observance of traffic laws
  • General safe driving practices for trucks or buses   

     On the day of your CDL Road Test appointment you must:

  1. Arrive on time.
  2. Bring your validated commercial learner’s permit.
  3. Bring your valid D.O.T. medical card (cannot be more than 2 years old).
  4. Bring a passenger (age 21 or older) that is qualified to drive a CMV with the same class of CDL or greater than the test vehicle.
  5. Bring a test vehicle that is the same class of license that you are testing for and that has passed inspection.

      Failure to do any of the above may result in an immediate cancellation of your CDL Road Test appointment! The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles advises applicants to schedule their Road Test appointment a few weeks in advance and to arrive early for their test appointment. If you decide to cancel your Road Test appointment, you must cancel the appointment no less than 48 hours before your scheduled test date and time. 

      Be sure to download and study the Rhode Island Commercial Driver License Manual, as it contains pertinent information that will help you pass the CDL Road Test. The Rhode Island School Bus Manual is also available to download and study.

     Click here to see a map and clickable list of the CDL Road Test location.

Commercial Driver Self-Certification

      In the state of Rhode Island, all commercial driver’s license holders must self-certify as to what type of driving they will be doing (intrastate or interstate), and whether they meet or exceed the medical and physical standards put forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to legally and safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. All CDL applicants must self-certify once they obtain their commercial driver’s license.   

       All commercial drivers who intend to operate a commercial motor vehicle for the following purposes only, do not require a commercial driver’s license and are considered “exempt” and therefore are waived from self-certification:

  • Persons operating Special Purpose Commercial vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 lbs. or less. 
  • Fire and emergency vehicles used to preserve life and property or to carry out governmental operations.
  • Vehicles operated by non-civilian operators of military equipment.
  • Recreational vehicles that are being used for personal recreational use only.
  • Any farm vehicle used to transport agricultural products, farm machinery, or farm supplies within 150 air-miles of the owner’s farm and not used in the operation of a common or contract motor carrier.

      If you intend to operate a commercial motor vehicle for any other purpose than those listed above, then you are considered “non-exempt” and are required to hold a valid CDL and must self-certify. You may also need to provide a current Medical Examiner’s Certificate.

      If you operate a commercial motor vehicle in either intrastate or interstate commerce solely for the following purposes, then you are under “excepted” status, and therefore do not need to provide a Medical Examiner’s Certificate:

  • Transporting school children and/or school staff members between home and school.
  • Operating any vehicle as an employee of either Federal, State, or Local government.
  • Operating fire and rescue vehicles for emergency purposes and other related events.
  • Transporting sick, injured, or deceased persons.
  • Primarily transporting propane heating fuel when responding to an emergency condition requiring an immediate response.
  • When custom harvesting on a farm or to haul farm machinery and supplies to and from a farm or when transporting crops between a farm and a market or storage facility.
  • When operating a farm vehicle that is not a combo vehicle (power unit and towed unit), and is used to haul agricultural products, farm supplies (cannot be materials deemed hazardous), or farm machinery to and from a farm and within 150 air miles of the farm.
  • Transporting bees as an apiarist during beekeeping season.
  • When transporting migrant workers.
  • As a private motor carrier of passengers for non-business activities.

      If you intend to operate a commercial motor vehicle for any other purpose than those listed above, then you operate in either “non-excepted” intrastate commerce, “non-excepted” interstate commerce, or both. “Non excepted” interstate drivers and “non-excepted” intrastate drivers must submit a current Medical Examiner’s Certificate along with a completed and signed copy of the Self-Certification for a Commercial Driver’s License Form. The Medical Examiner’s Certificate cannot expire within 60 days from the date of submission. All other commercial drivers who do not fall into this category must complete, sign, and submit the Self-Certification for a Commercial Driver’s License Form only. 

      If you have any questions regarding self-certification, you can speak to a customer service representative at the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles CDL Unit by calling (401) 462-5752 or (401) 462-5813 Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, EST. The fax number is (401) 462-5805. The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles is closed on all statewide holidays.

      For more information about the Medical Examiner’s Certificate, please continue reading below.

Medical Examination Report for Commercial Driver’s License

      All CDL applicants must have the Medical Examiner’s Certificate and the Medical Examination Report completed by one of the following:

  • Licensed U.S. doctor of medicine (M.D.)
  • Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O)
  • Licensed physician assistant (P.A.)
  • Advanced practice registered nurse
  • Chiropractor

      The Medical Examiner’s Certificate must be attached to the Medical Examination Report and dated within the previous two years if you are renewing your commercial driver’s license. If you are a first time CDL applicant submitting your Medical Examiner’s Certificate, then the certificate must not expire within 60 days from the date of submission.

      The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles will only accept your medical forms if they have been completed by a qualified physician who has been certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. You can search for a FMCSA certified physician by using the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

      The FMSCA requires you to have at least 20/40 vision in each eye and a field of vision of at least 140 degrees (70 degrees in each eye) in order to be certified to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Under certain conditions, you may be able to be waived from these and other medical requirements.     

      Once you have completed and signed the Medical Examiner’s Certificate, the Medical Examination Report, the Self-Certification for a Commercial Driver’s License Form, and any applicable medical waivers, you can submit your documents by doing any of the following:

  • Bring your completed and signed documents in person to the Cranston DMV Headquarters                                                                       

      Please make sure your information is legible and be sure to double check and, if needed, correct any errors before submitting your documents. All CDL applicants are advised to keep copies of these documents for their own records. Failure to comply with state and federal self-certification regulations will result in a cancellation of your commercial driving privileges.

         If you have any questions regarding self-certification, you can speak to a customer service representative at the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles CDL Unit by calling (401) 462-5752 or (401) 462-5813 Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, EST. The fax number is (401) 462-5805. The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles is closed on all statewide holidays.

Hazmat Endorsement

      Any person that is applying for a Hazardous Materials CDL endorsement is required to undergo a federal background check and federal fingerprint check according to guidelines set by the Transportation Security Administration. All applicants must also provide the required documents to verify their identification and legal U.S. status. For more information, check out the Transportation Security Administration’s F.A.Q. page.

      You can apply for the security threat assessment on the TSA Hazardous Material Endorsement Enrollment Website. You must begin applying at least 30 days before the expiration of your CDL. You can start the application process on the HTAP Online Application Website. To apply by phone call (855) 347-8371. Use the TSA Enrollment Center Locator to find the nearest TSA approved fingerprint office. 

Military Drivers

      In the state of Rhode Island, if you are currently serving in the military or have been honorably discharged within the last 90 days, and you have driven military vehicles that would require a CDL to operate as a civilian with a 2 year safe driving record, then you may qualify for the waiver of the CDL Skills Test and may be exempt from taking the commercial driver skills test. You will still be required to take the written tests. Certain restrictions apply. Download, print, and complete the Application for Military Skills Test Waiver to start the process. 

      If you have any questions about the Application for Military Skills Test Waiver, you can speak to a customer service representative at the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles CDL Unit by calling (401) 462-5813 or (401) 462-5752 Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, EST. The fax number is (401) 462-5805. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is closed on all statewide holidays.

Rhode Island CDL Endorsements

      H      Placarded Hazmat      Required to transport hazardous materials under DOT regulations. 

      N      Tank Vehicles      Required to transport liquids in bulk containers of 1,000 gallons or more.

      X      Tanker/Hazardous Materials Combination   Required to transport hazardous materials in tank vehicles   

      T      Double/Triple Trailers      Indicates CDL holder is certified to operate multiple trailer haulers. 

      P     Passengers      Indicates the CDL holder is certified to operate passenger vehicles.

      S     School Bus      Indicates the CDL holder is authorized to operate a school bus. 

Methods of Payment       

      All Rhode Island DMV Offices accept the following methods of payment:

  • Cash
  • Money Orders
  • Personal Checks
  • Bank Checks
  • American Express
  • Discover
  • MasterCard
  • Visa

      All checks should be payable to Division of Motor Vehicles. All credit cards incur a minimum fee of $1.50 per transaction. All transactions of $64.00 and over have an added service fee of 2.35%.

Important Rhode Island Commercial Driver’s License Resources 

Rhode Island Commercial Driver License Manual
Rhode Island School Bus Manual
Rhode Island CDL Practice Tests
Requirements for a Passenger or School Bus Endorsement
Commercial Driver’s License Application and Renewal Form
Community College of Rhode Island CDL Road Test
Registration Form for CDL Road Test
Rhode Island Application for Military Skills Test Waiver
Application for Military Skills Test Waiver
Self-Certification for a Commercial Driver’s License Form
Medical Examination Report Form 649-F
Medical Examiner’s Certificate
National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners

 

      Check out our list of truck driving schools in Rhode Island that will provide you with the necessary skills to obtain your commercial driver’s license and start your career in the exciting field of commercial truck driving! You may also want to check out our nationwide list of truck driving schools. 

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Map of Rhode Island DMV Office Locations

 

**All CDL transactions and written tests are done at the Cranston DMV Headquarters.

Some CDL testing locations require you to set up an appointment. CDL testing hours may vary. Please call the testing location for more information.

 

Map of Rhode Island CDL Road Test Location

 

Some CDL testing locations require you to set up an appointment. CDL testing hours may vary. Please call the testing location for more information.

 

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Rhode Island CDL Requirements
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