Applying for a Virginia CDL - Class A License

by Joshua on August 27, 2014

A Class A Commercial Driver’s License is vital to drive any vehicle with a total vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or higher, including towed units that weigh 10,000 pounds or more. Class A vehicles consist of mostly semi-trailer trucks (also known as tractor trailers) carrying freight or other vehicles. They are recognizable as the large trucks with cargo several car lengths long, carrying materials or other cars. People that hold a Class A license are also authorized to operate Class B and Class C vehicles given that they have the required endorsements. Class B and C vehicles encompass smaller trucks and buses as well as transport vehicles that carry hazardous materials. This article will highlight the necessary steps you must take to obtain a Class A CDL license in the state of Virginia .


Before you can apply for a Class A license in Virginia, you must already hold a valid driver’s license in the state. Though you are able to operate a commercial vehicle at 18 years of age, you are only allowed to drive within the state. To drive outside Virginia, you must be at least 21 years old. All applicants must provide proof of the following:

  • At least one original document proving identification
  • One original document proving US citizenship or legal alien status
  • One original document proving Virginia residency
  • One original document showing social security number, if you have been issued one.

If you are younger than 19 years of age, you only need to provide one of each document. The requirements are the same if you are 19 years of age or older except that you need two proofs of identity.

The applicant must have a licensed medical examiner complete a Medical Examiner’s Certificate from the Department of Transportation. Men who are under 26 years of age must register for Selective Service if they have not done so already.

Obtaining a CDL Instruction Permit

Before taking the on-road skills test, you must pass one or multiple multiple-choice general knowledge exams . The exam, taken on a computer at a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office, consists of two parts. Part one is comprised of ten questions about traffic signs, all of which must be answered correctly to move on to part two. The applicant must correctly answer at least 80% of the general knowledge questions in part two to pass the exam. All of the questions come from the Virginia Driver’s Manual . The material that will be tested for a basic Class A license can be found in sections 1 (General Knowledge) and 6 (Transporting Cargo) of the manual. Additional knowledge exams are required for:

  1. Vehicles with air brakes
  2. Class A combination vehicles
  3. Special endorsements (designated by a letter on the CDL) for certain drivers, like those who handle:
  • Hazardous materials (H)
  • A tank vehicle (N)
  • A passenger vehicle (P)
  • A school bus (S)
  • A double-triple trailer (T)

A vision screening will also be performed to determine whether your eyesight is adequate to operate a commercial vehicle. People with eyesight that do not meet the following vision requirements cannot obtain a CDL:

  • In each eye, 20/40 vision or better
  • Horizontal vision of 140 degrees or better

Upon passing the required tests and making a $3.00 payment, you will get your Class A CDL instruction permit.

If you fail to pass the knowledge exam three times, you must take and successfully complete a driver’s education course before taking the exam again.

Skills Test

After having your permit for equal to or more than 30 days but less than one year, you will be eligible to take the 90 minute on-road skills test. If you have a certificate of completion from a driver training school, you can take your skills test only 14 days after acquiring your permit. Make sure that the vehicle you intend to drive is already registered with the state of Virginia.

You must complete a driver’s training course for your vehicle if you fail to pass the skills test three times.

Getting your License

Complete the Virginia DMV application , either before or during a visit to the DMV office, to receive your license. On the application, fill out the appropriate information for a Class A CDL license, such as the applicant, vehicle, and if necessary, endorsement information. A Virginia CDL is valid for up to 8 years, expiring on your birth date. The fee for licensing is $8.00 a year, so it is $64.00 for a standard Class A CDL license without endorsements. Though you will be receiving a temporary license at the DMV, your long-term physical license will be mailed to the address on your application.

Because driving a commercial vehicle takes more skill than driving the average car, getting your CDL license is a time-consuming process. The many requirements you have to fulfill before you drive a Class A vehicle ensure that the roads can be safe for all drivers.

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