West Virginia law requires you to earn a commercial driver's license before operating a commercial motor vehicle. To get one, you’ll need to meet the requirements, get a practice permit, and pass a skills test.
If you’re thinking about earning a profit on the road, there’s a lot to consider. Not only do you have to learn to maneuver a commercial vehicle around the Mountain State, but you also have to sort out the paperwork for a license. Have no fear—with
Jerry's guide to West Virginia's commercial driver's license requirements, you'll be on your way in no time.
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Do you need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in West Virginia?
If you drive a commercial car, truck, or bus, the answer is yes.
West Virginia Code §17E-1-7, “no person may drive a commercial motor vehicle unless the person holds a commercial driver’s license and applicable endorsements”. Driving without one or the other could result in a 60-day suspension of all your driving privileges. There are no exceptions to this rule—well, maybe a few, but we’ll get to them later.
Let's start by defining a commercial motor vehicle, or CMV: a vehicle designed to transport passengers or property. CMVs usually have either a high Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR), which measures the combined weight of the vehicle and whatever it’s towing; or a high
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating(GVWR), which measures the weight of the fully-loaded vehicle itself.
West Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles (WV DMV), which issues all driver's licenses and endorsements, divides CMVs into four classes. If you hold a CDL, you can drive every vehicle in your license class, as well as those in every class below it. For example, if you get a Class A CDL, you’ll be able to drive vehicles from classes A, B, C, and D. If you get a Class B CDL, you’ll be restricted to vehicles from classes B, C, and D, and so on.
Here are West Virginia's CDL license classes and the vehicles they allow you to drive:
Vehicles with a GCWR of 26,0001 pounds or more, towing a unit whose GVWR is 10,001 lbs or more
Vehicles with a GCWR of 26,0001 lbs or more, towing a unit whose GVWR is 10,000 lbs or less
Vehicles with a GCWR or GVWR of 26,000 lbs or less, designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or hazardous materials
Non-commercial vehicles (ones not fitting any of the descriptions above) for hire
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Class E license, better known simply as a driver’s license, is the first stop for many because it covers all regular, non-commercial passenger vehicles. It has its own requirements and restrictions and is not interchangeable with a CDL.
In addition to your CDL and license class, you may need an endorsement to drive special vehicles or for specific purposes. For example, you’ll need an endorsement to drive a tank, a school bus, or with hazardous materials onboard. Endorsements have their own requirements and fees and will appear on your license as a single letter.
Like endorsements, restrictions add a letter to your license; unlike endorsements, they remove specific driving privileges. The
list of CDL restrictionsruns from E (which prohibits driving CMVs with manual transmissions) to Z (which prohibits driving CMVs with full air brakes). They can be decided by your application or the vehicle you use to pass your final skills test (more on that later).
The few exceptions to commercial driver’s license laws are identified in
West Virginia Code §17E-1-8. The first is obvious: anyone learning to drive a CMV doesn't need a CDL as long as they have a permit and a fully-licensed instructor. It also excuses farmers, active duty military personnel, firefighters, rescuers, government employees, miners, and construction workers who operate the appropriate equipment.
Lastly, you don’t need a CDL to drive a recreational vehicle—like a motorhome, attached trailer, or rental truck—provided you transport only your personal property and don’t accept payment.
Can you use a CDL from out of state?
Yes—as long as you’re 21 years old and hold a valid CDL from another state, you may operate a CMV in West Virginia. The only exception is if you're learning to drive in the company of a fully licensed driver and you happen to cross state lines. New residents, however, should think about
transferring an out-of-state CDLwithin 30 days of moving.
Who’s eligible for a CDL in West Virginia?
Driving a commercial vehicle (especially with passengers aboard) involves a great deal of responsibility, so you may be denied a license if:
- You have a habit of using alcohol or have an addiction to narcotics.
- You hold a suspended, revoked, canceled, expired, or invalid driver’s license.
- You fail to provideproof of insurance.
- You’re disqualified from operating a CMV in any other state.
- You owe overdue child support or are the subject of a related warrant, subpoena, or court order.
- You’re judged to be “hazardous to public safety or welfare” by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.
Physical fitness requirements
The WV DMV may also ask you to prove your physical fitness by providing a Department of Transportation (DOT) medical examiner’s certificate. To get one, you’ll need to have your vision, hearing, and other abilities verified by a
doctor registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. However, a medical certificate isn’t always required—it all depends on where you plan to drive and what you plan to do.
If your job requires you to drive solely within West Virginia, you’re conducting intrastate commerce. However, if you cross state or national lines at any point, even in passing, you’re considered an interstate commerce driver. The same applies even if you stay within the state, but your passengers and cargo are part of a trip that begins or ends in another state or country. If you mix the two, you should declare yourself an interstate commerce driver.
Once you decide what kind of commerce you’ll conduct, it’s important to know if your business is excepted or non-excepted. The list of excepted driving activities includes:
- Transporting school children or school staff
- Traveling as a federal, state, or local government employee
- Transporting corpses, the sick, or the injured
- Traveling in response to a propane gas or pipeline emergency
- Transporting bees as a beekeeper
- Transporting migrant workers
- Transporting passengers for private, non-business purposes
If you're driving for any of these purposes (and only these purposes), you're excepted from physical fitness requirements. You're non-excepted if you plan to drive for any other reason, even if you occasionally engage in an excepted activity. Your CDL application must include a medical examiner’s certificate or DOT medical card.
Now that you know the definitions, keep in mind whether you'll be doing business in excepted intrastate, excepted interstate, non-excepted intrastate, or non-excepted interstate commerce. You'll need it for your application.
Even if you can’t be medically certified, you may still be eligible to drive if you apply for a medical waiver. For non-excepted intrastate commerce (see, I told you it’d come in handy), call 304-926-3801. For non-excepted interstate commerce, contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) at 304-347-5935.
How to get a CDL in West Virginia
Earning a CDL in West Virginia is very similar to earning a passenger vehicle driver’s license. You’ll need to apply first for a commercial driver’s instruction permit (CDL instruction permit) that’ll allow you to practice on the road. Once you’re confident in your skills, you’ll need to pass a final skills test before receiving your license.
How to apply for a commercial driver’s instruction permit (CDL instruction permit)
To apply for a CDL instruction permit, you should verify that you meet all the requirements listed on the
WV DMV website. Next, grab an envelope and address it to DMV, PO Box 17010, Charleston WV 25317. Make sure to include:
- A completedApplication for Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and/or Endorsements form (DMV-CDL-1). The form includes a Certification of Qualification box where you should indicate if you’ll be traveling interstate or intrastate and conducting excepted or non-excepted commerce. Make sure to tick the box for “Instruction Permit.”
- A copy of either your birth certificate, valid US passport, or valid Permanent Resident card.
- A copy of proof of Social Security number from thelist of acceptable documents.
- If conducting non-excepted intrastate or interstate commerce: a medical examiner’s certificate (Long Form Physical) and DOT Medical card.
- If you cannot be medically certified: a medical waiver issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
- If conducting excepted intrastate or interstate commerce as a government employee: verification of employment printed on your agency’s letterhead.
There are also fees to pay, and that's where things get tricky. Your CDL expires on every birthday where your age is divisible by five (ex. 20, 25, 30, etc.). To find out how long your license will be valid (and how much you have to pay), subtract your birth year from the current year. If you were born after December 1, use the next calendar year. The result is your calculated age.
The table below shows the license fee you should pay based on the last digit of your calculated age:
Last digit of your calculated age
License fee for Class A, B, and C
License fee for Class D
One or six
Two or seven
Three or eight
Four or nine
Five or zero
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If you’re under 21 years old, you’ll need to pay a license fee of $26.25 if you’re 18; $17.50 if you’re 19; or $8.75 if you’re 20. Next, to your license fee, add:
- $7.50 for the CDL instruction permit
- $25 for the CDL knowledge test
- $10 for a REAL ID-compliant CDL (if applicable)
Add up your fees, make a check or money order payable to the Division of Motor Vehicles, and mail it in. You'll receive a test card with a list of CDL testing sites and an appointment contact number once your application has been approved. Getting your permit requires one more step: passing the knowledge test.
The knowledge test
The $25 CDL knowledge test fee you submitted with your application covers three test attempts (written or oral). If you fail three times, you’ll have to wait seven days before paying for another round. You must score at least 80% to pass. The answers are within the
West Virginia Commercial Driver’s License Manual, plus all the rules, regulations, and procedures that apply to commercial driving. For free and confidential reading assistance, call 1-866-262-5348.
Make an appointment, take the test, and a CDL instruction permit will be mailed to you if you pass. Time to practice! You must always be accompanied by a supervising driver, 21 years of age or older, who holds a valid CDL for the type of CMV you're driving. Permits are valid for 180 days and can be renewed or reissued only once every two years. You'll have to start over from scratch after that.
Practice hard, because you need to pass a skills test to earn a full CDL.
The skills test
Once you feel confident in your skills and at least 14 days have passed, you can apply for an
approved third-party examinerto administer a CDL skills test. There is a $100 fee per attempt. Put the date in your calendar, because if you miss it, you'll be charged $50 as a no-show.
Bring a CMV that matches the license class you're testing for to your skills test. The vehicle must be in good working order and have proper commercial insurance because CMVs don’t follow normal
West Virginia car insurance laws! Your license may have a restriction added to it if your test vehicle has a manual transmission, or air brakes, or is under a certain weight.
There are three parts to the skills test. The first part assesses your knowledge of how to inspect a CMV for leaks, faulty parts, and potential safety concerns. In part two, you’ll be tested on basic control skills. You’ll need to show that you can safely back up, parallel park, and dock in an alley. The last leg takes place on the road, where you’ll demonstrate how well you can turn, cross railroads, and descend hills while keeping an eye on your surroundings.
Pass the skills test and you’re one step away from a full CDL.
Make an appointment at a DMV test officeand bring your skills test results, current license, CDL instruction permit, DOT Medical Card (if applicable), and one proof of residency. At last, you’ll be issued a CDL. Congratulations!
Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT)
Beginning February 7, 2022, drivers wishing to qualify for a Class A or B CDL must undergo
Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT)before booking a skills test. The program establishes a national standard for commercial truck driver education. There are a lot of rules about
who needs ELDT, but in general, if you're getting a Class A or B license for the first time, you need it.
To get started, visit the
FMCSA’s online Training Provider Registry.
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