Drivers of passenger buses, school buses, big rigs and large commercial vehicles are all required to carry a CDL or commercial driver’s license under the law. CDL licensing regulations are put in place by both federal and state governments. As of October 26, 1986, the U. S. Congress passed the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act. This piece of legislation lays out the federal guidelines for CDL licensing requirements. While federal regulations set the underlying guidelines, each state in turn can mandate additional rules within their jurisdictions. CDL licensing regulations within the state of Kentucky pretty much follow set federal guidelines with a few differences.

Step 1 – Meeting CDL Application Requirements

The process for getting a CDL license in Kentucky is fairly straightforward provided applicants meet all paperwork and training requirements. The first step in the process involves applying for a license at your local Circuit Court Clerk’s office. The application process entails completing and passing a written and/or oral knowledge test as well as a vision test. Applicants must also obtain a medical certificate from the Department of Transportation and submit it when applying for a license. Kentucky CDL license cost runs $25.

Step 2 – Obtaining a CDL Permit

Once an applicant makes it through the application process, the Circuit Court Clerk’s office issues a CDL instruction permit that’s valid for six months. A CDL instruction permit costs $11.00. Applicants are expected to pass a road skills test before their permit expires, though regulations allow permits to be renewed once within a two-year period. Road skills tests can be scheduled through the Kentucky State Police as soon as 10 days after receiving a CDL permit. Those who fail to pass their road skills test before the permit expires will have to restart the application process.

Step 3 – Determine Your Licensing Requirements

Under the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, commercial licensing is broken down into three separate classes. The classes vary according to the weight of the vehicle. Classes also vary according to vehicle purpose in terms of what a vehicle carries or hauls. The three classifications break down as follows –
• Class A – vehicles weighing 26,001 or more pounds. This includes the combined weight of two or more vehicles provided the vehicle being towed or hauled weighs more than 10,000 pounds.
• Class B – vehicles weighing 26,001 or more pounds for towed or hauled vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less.
• Class C – single or combined vehicles that fall outside Class A and Class B requirements. This class of vehicles typically transports 16 or more passengers (driver included) or hauls hazardous waste materials.
Some exceptions may apply for other types of vehicles, such as fire trucks, emergency units and farm machinery.

Because of the massive poundage of most commercial vehicles, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires all CDL drivers to be medically fit to operate these vehicles. This mandate takes the form of the medical certificate requirement when applying for a license.

Drivers must present a medical certificate when applying under the following conditions –
• Operating vehicles weighing 10,001 pounds or more for interstate commerce
• Transporting 15 or passengers in interstate commerce
• Transporting nine to 15 passengers for more than 75 miles away from their work-reporting location
• Transporting hazardous materials

Drivers are required to carry a copy of their medical certificate when operating a commercial vehicle.

Step 4 – Fulfill Training Requirements

While Kentucky doesn’t mandate a minimum training requirement standard, most CDL applicants attend a commercial driving training school all the same. Likewise, there are also no federal mandates for training requirements besides the written/oral, vision and road tests. One exception to this rule applies for LCV or longer-combination vehicles. Applicants for LCV driving must undergo training in driver qualification, whistleblower protection, driver wellness and hours of service areas.

Basic information on what’s covered in a training course can be found in Kentucky’s commercial driver’s manual. Applicants must know certain topic areas in order to pass the driving skills test. A few of the areas covered in the driving skills test include –
• Vehicle inspection
• Coupling and uncoupling tractors and trailers
• Driving on different road surfaces

Vocational schools, technical schools, community colleges and private driving schools are good places to look into for CDL training. Kentucky CDL license training cost can run anywhere from $1,800 to $7,500 depending on the type of truck and type of driving an applicant will be doing.

Step 5 – Additional Testing Requirements

Upon completion of a CDL training course, applicants can apply to take their road test. Depending on the type of commercial vehicle involved, applicants may also have to take additional tests to receive endorsement certifications on their license. There are five different areas where applicants can apply for endorsements –
• N – for tank vehicles
• T – for double/triple trailers
• H – for hazardous materials
• P – for passenger transport
• S – for school bus driving

The type of testing can vary between written or knowledge tests and skills testing depending on the type of endorsement.

How to Get a Kentucky CDL License
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