Rhode Island CDL Requirements

Obtaining a CDL in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, commercial driver licenses are required for drivers who operate vehicles that are designed or used to transport passengers or property. To apply for a Commercial Driver’s license in Rhode Island, applicants will need to submit an application to the RI DMV, with regulations set in place by both the DMV and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You must be at least 18 years old for an intrastate license and 21 for operations in interstate commerce or hazardous material endorsement. More information can be found at the Rhode Island DMV site.

CDL Classes

  • Class A – Allows you to operate any combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of more than 26,000 pounds, and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is more than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B – Includes single or combination vehicles where the GVWR of the single vehicle is more than 26,000 pounds. The vehicle being pulled must not be more than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class C – Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that either is designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver, or is used in the transportation of materials found to be hazardous.

CDL Endorsements

  • T – Double/Triple Trailers (Requires Knowledge Test)
  • P – Passenger Vehicles (Requires Knowledge and Skills Test)
  • N – Tank Vehicles (Requires Knowledge Test)
  • H – Hazardous Materials (Requires Knowledge Test)
  • X – Combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials endorsements (Requires Knowledge Test)
  • S – School Bus (Requires Knowledge and Skills Test)

CDL Restrictions

  • L – If the driver does not pass the Air Brakes Knowledge Test, does not correctly identify the air brake system components, does not properly conduct an air brake systems check, or does not take the Skills test in a vehicle with a full air brake system, the driver must have an “L” no full air brake restriction placed on their license.
  • Z – If the driver takes the test in a vehicle with an air over hydraulic brake system, then they will have a “Z” no full air brake restriction placed on their license. In either case the driver is not authorized to operate a CMV equipped with full air brakes.
  • E – If the driver takes the Skills Test in a vehicle that has an automatic transmission, then an “E” no manual transmission restriction is placed on their license.
  • O – If the driver takes the Skills Test in a Class A vehicle that has a pintle hook or other non-fifth wheel connection, they will have an “O” restriction placed on their license restricting them from driving any Class A vehicle with a fifth wheel connection.
  • M – If a driver possesses a Class A CDL, but obtains his or her passenger or school bus endorsement in a Class B vehicle the State must place an “M” restriction indicating that the driver can only operate Class B and C passenger vehicle or school buses.
  • N – If a driver possesses a Class B CDL, but obtains his or her passenger or school bus endorsement in a Class C vehicle; the State must place an “N” restriction indicating that the driver can only operate Class C passenger vehicle or school buses.
  • V – If the State is notified by the FMCSA that a medical variance has been issued to the driver, the State must indicate the existence of such a medical variance on the CDLIS driving record and the CDL document using a restriction code “V” to indicate that there is information about the medical variance on the CDLIS record.

Minimum Requirements For Getting A CDL In Rhode Island:

  • Proof of Status as a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
  • Medical exam must be performed by “Certified” medical examiner
  • You must be at least 21 years old. However, you can receive a license valid for intrastate (within state) travel at age 18.
  • You must hold a valid operator’s license for at least two years, with no suspensions or revocations.
  • You must bring a Social Security card and your Rhode Island driver’s license.

Physical Requirements For Getting A Rhode Island CDL:

  • Need to have 20/40 correctable vision in each eye as well as both combined. Vision correction devices such as glasses or contacts are allowed.
  • Needs to be able to distinguish colors is necessary.
  • Should be able to perceive a forced whisper at a distance of at least 5 feet.
  • Maximum allowable blood pressure is 160/100. Use of prescription medication to achieve this threshold is permitted.
  • An applicant can have diabetes which is controlled through diet or medication. Diabetes which is controlled though insulin injections is not permitted.
  • Blood sugar may not be higher than 200
  • Use of schedule 1 drugs is forbidden
  • If you are currently diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease such as congestive cardiac failure, collapse or cardiac insufficiency, then you will be required to provide the Medical Examiner with a stress test as well as with a note from your physician which states that you are capable of driving a commercial motor vehicle without restrictions restrictions.

Fees For Getting Your CDL In Rhode Island:

  • Application – $11.50
  • Chauffeur License – $26.50
  • Duplicate License – $26.50
  • License Renewal 70 and older (2 years) – $33.50
  • License Renewal (5 years) – $81.50
  • Permit New/Renewal – $41.50
  • Permit Update/Duplicate – $21.50
  • Test (each) – $10
  • Transfer License (out of state) – $53.50
  • Update License – $6.50

Testing for your Rhode Island CDL:

  • CDL Knowledge test – The general knowledge test consists of 50 questions, of which applicants must answer at least 40 correct to get a passing score.
  • CDL Road Skills Test – After successful completion of the knowledge test, the applicant can then take the road test which consists of three parts: a Pre-Trip Inspection, Basic Vehicle Control, and Road Test. The Pre-Trip inspection includes a full walk-around of the vehicle and it requires the driver to point out vehicle components and explain what is being checked and why to the examiner. The Basic Vehicle Control test includes straight line backing, offset right or left backing and alley dock backing. The road test is conducted on streets and requires the driver to demonstrate his/her skills in normal traffic situations.

Rhode Island Disqualifications

Your CDL may be disqualified or suspended for violations committed in both commercial and non-commercial vehicles. Violations include:

  • DUI/DWI offense and refusing to submit to a BAC test
  • Violating out-of-service orders
  • Hit and runs
  • Felonies involving a vehicle
  • Speeding and reckless driving
  • Driving a commercial vehicle without a CDL
  • Driving without the proper endorsements

In order to obtain a Rhode Island CDL there are a list of requirements that must be met, and getting your Rhode Island CDL involves several steps. There are medical requirements and residency requirements, along with knowledge and skills requirements. The basic requirements for getting your cdl in Rhode Island include:

  • You must be at least 18 years old to hold a Rhode Island CDL and drive a commercial vehicle within the state of Rhode Island.
  • You must be at least age 21 to drive a commercial motor vehicle across Rhode Island state lines, carry hazardous materials, or transport any passengers.
  • You must not have more than one driver’s license, and your driving privileges must not be suspended, revoked, canceled or disqualified in Rhode Island or any other state.
  • You must meet the medical requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
  • You must pass a set of written exams to obtain your Rhode Island Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). 
  • You must prove citizenship in the state of Rhode Island and have permission to work in the United States, showing legitimate personal identification which may include a Social Security Card, a Birth Certificate, or a Green Card
  • You must certify that you are not subject to any of the CDL disqualifications for drivers (listed below)
  • You must be able to speak and read the English language

Below we will list more general requirements, qualifications, disqualifications, and restrictions for getting a CDL in Rhode Island.

Who Is Required To Hold A Rhode Island CDL?

You will need a CDL to operate any of the following vehicles:

  • A single vehicle with a GVWR over 26,000 lbs.
  • A combination vehicle with a GVWR over 26,000 lbs, towing a unit over 10,000 lbs GVWR.
  • A passenger vehicle designed to carry 16 or more people, including the driver.
  • Any size vehicle requiring hazardous material (Hazmat) placards, or carrying a select agent or toxin listed in 42 CFR Part 73.

What Are The Different Classes Of CDL In Rhode Island?

  • Class A:

    Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight of 26,001 pounds or more, with trailer(s) weighing 10,000 pounds or more.

  • Class B:

    Any single vehicle having a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing another weighing 10,000 pounds or less.

  • Class C:

    Any vehicle or combination of vehicles not meeting the definition of Class A or Class B, designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded to carry hazardous material:

  • Class D:

    Many states issue a “Class D” license, which is not part of the FMCSA standards. Some use it to classify regular, passenger car drivers licenses, while some use it to classify specific weights or types of vehicles. This varies from state-to-state.

Knowledge And Skills Test Requirements For Getting A CDL In Rhode Island

Each basic knowledge test covers the 20 general areas outlined in 49 CFR 383.111(a). The knowledge test shall contain at least 30 items. A separate test for drivers seeking to operate CMV’s with air brakes in Rhode Island must cover the 7 areas outlined in 49 CFR 383.111(b).

To pass the knowledge tests (general and endorsement); applicants must correctly answer at least 80 percent of the questions.

To pass the Rhode Island CDL skills test, applicants must successfully perform all the required skills (listed in 49 CFR 383.113 through 49 CFR 383.123). The skills test must be taken in a vehicle representative of the type of vehicle that the applicant operates or expects to operate.

Federal standards require the state of Rhode Island to issue CDLs to certain commercial motor vehicle drivers only after the driver passes the knowledge and skills tests administered by the State. The vehicle you take the CDL test in must also relate to the type of vehicle the driver expects to operate.

Restrictions are placed on a Rhode Island CDL when a driver takes the Skills Test in a vehicle which lacks critical equipment present in particular types of CMVs. Therefore, to avoid restrictions, drivers should take the Skills Test in the same type of vehicle for which they are seeking a Rhode Island CDL to operate.

Drivers are required to obtain and hold a CDL in Rhode Island if they operate in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce and drive a vehicle that meets one or more of the classifications of a CMV are also described below.

Military Skills Test Waiver Program

The state of Rhode Island has the authority to substitute two years of experience safely operating trucks or buses equivalent to civilian commercial vehicles for the skills test portion of the Rhode Island commercial driver license (CDL) test. U.S. Military drivers must apply within one year of leaving a military position requiring operation of a commercial vehicle. The latest information (February 2017) indicates that more than 19,000 current and former military have taken advantage of the Skills Test Waiver, making them immediately eligible for employment.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 49 CFR 383.77, requires the applicant to certify to an SDLA:

  • His/her safe driving experience;
  • That he or she has not held more than one license (except a U.S. Military driver’s license) in the past two years;
  • Has not had his/her Rhode Island driver license suspended, revoked or cancelled; and,
  • Has not had convictions in any type of motor vehicle for the disqualifying CDL offenses listed elsewhere in the regulations.

Here you will find the Application for Military Skills Test Waiver form

Medical Requirements For Obtaining A Rhode Island CDL License

All commercial drivers of vehicles in interstate commerce with a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 pounds are required to obtain and maintain a valid Medical Examiner’s Certificate (ME Certificate). CDL holders in Rhode Island must provide their SDLA with a copy of their ME Certificate.

Self Certification

All Rhode Island CDL holders must declare to their State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA) that they only operate or expect to operate commercially in 1 of 4 possible categories with their CDL. This process is called self-certification. The four categories are:

  • Interstate non-excepted: You are an Interstate non-excepted driver and must meet the Federal DOT medical card requirements (e.g. – you are “not excepted”).
  • Interstate excepted: You are an Interstate excepted driver and do not have to meet the Federal DOT medical card requirements.
  • Intrastate non-excepted: You are an Intrastate non-excepted driver and are required to meet the medical requirements for the state of Rhode Island.
  • Intrastate excepted: You are an Intrastate excepted driver and do not have to meet the medical requirements for the state of Rhode Island.

Hearing Requirements

A person is physically qualified to drive a CMV if that person: First perceives a forced whispered voice in the better ear at not less than five feet with or without the use of a hearing aid or if tested by use of an audiometric device, does not have an average hearing loss in the better ear greater than 40 decibels at 500Hz, 1000HZ and 2,000 Hz with or without a hearing aid when the audiometric device is calibrated to the American National Standard Z24.5-1951.

Vision Requirements

You must meet the following vision requirements:

  • A distant visual acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in each eye without corrective lenses or visual acuity separately corrected to 20/40 (Snellen) or better with corrective lenses;
  • A distant binocular acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in both eyes with or without corrective lenses;
  • A field of vision of at least 70 degrees in the horizontal Meridian in each eye;
  • The ability to recognize the colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard red, green, and amber.

Blood Pressure Requirements

  1. Your blood pressure needs to be under 140/90.
  2. Stage 1 hypertension, blood pressure between 140/90 – 159/99: 1-year medical certificate, must be renewed every 12 months.
  3. Stage 2 hypertension, blood pressure between 160/100 – 179/109: 3 month medical certification. Full disqualification if not under control after 3 months, until controlled. Will be required to renew every 12 months.
  4. Stage 3 hypertension, blood pressure at or over 180/110: Automatic disqualification, 6 month certification once blood pressure is under control, must be renewed every 6 months.
  5. Blood pressure can be controlled with or without medication.

Urinalysis Testing

Your urine sample will be tested in a lab for blood, sugar, and protein, which might indicate hidden health problems.

Physical Impairments

Drivers with physical impairments, which affect their ability to safely operate CMVs, must obtain a “variance” from the state of Rhode Island in order to be approved to drive commercially. The variance document must be carried with the commercial driver whenever they are operating a commercial motor vehicle. A Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) is a special type of “variance” required for drivers with impaired or missing limbs (e.g., a hand or finger, an arm, foot, or leg). Drivers with missing limbs, if eligible, must obtain an SPE certificate. The commercial driver must always carry the SPE certificate at all times.

About The Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Program

The Skill Performance Evaluation program is for CMV drivers who drive in interstate commerce. The SPE certification allows drivers with missing or impaired limbs to drive CMVs across state lines if they have been fitted with (and are wearing) the right prosthetic device, and the driver can demonstrate the ability to drive the truck safely by completing on-and off-road activities. If the driver passes the Rhode Island commercial vehicle driving test, he or she will receive a SPE certificate. Over the years, FMCSA has granted more than 3,000 SPE certificates to truck drivers who have shown that they can drive safely on the nation’s highways.

Implied Consent to Alcohol Testing

Any person who holds a Rhode Island CDL is considered to have consented to such testing as is required by the state of Rhode Island or any State or jurisdiction in the enforcement of being under the influence of a controlled substance or using alcohol, be under the influence of alcohol, or have any measured alcohol concentration or detected presence of alcohol, while on duty, or operating, or in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle. Consent is implied by driving a commercial motor vehicle.

Prescription Drugs

Although the driver has a legal prescription, he/she may be disqualified if the medication could adversely affect the driver’s ability to drive a CMV safely.

Who Is Exempt From Getting A Rhode Island CDL?

FMCSA regulations specifically exempt only military personnel with comparable safe-driving experience from getting CDL’s. States are authorized to provide exemptions for the rest of the following at their own discretion:

  • Rhode Island Military Vehicle Operators:

    The state of Rhode Island must exempt individuals who operate vehicles for military purposes from the requirements for CDL drivers. This exemption includes active military, reserves and members of the National Guard. This exception does not apply to U.S. Reserve technicians.

    Service members who are or were employed within the past year (12 months) in a military position requiring the operation of a military motor vehicle equivalent to a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) and who want to drive CMV’s in civilian life can apply for a Skills Test Waiver to get their CDL.

    See Also: Military Skills Test Waiver

  • Rhode Island Farm Equipment Operators:

    Covering actual farm-to-market operations, not commercial grain haulers. Drivers must be 21 years old, and vehicle must have farm plates. Farm workers are not required to have a CDL to operate vehicles:

    • Controlled and operated by a farmer, a member of his family, or an employee.
    • Used to transport farm products, equipment or supplies to or from a farm.
    • Used within 150 air miles of the farm.
    • Used in a nursery or agricultural operations.
    • Not used in the operations of a contract motor carrier.
  • Rhode Island Firefighting Equipment Operators:

    Those who operate CMV’s necessary to preserving life or property, or performing emergency governmental functions, have signals that can be seen and heard, and are not subject to normal traffic laws. These include fire trucks, foam or water transport trucks, police SWAT team vehicles, ambulances and any other emergency vehicles.

  • Rhode Island Recreational Vehicle Operators:

    Drivers operating recreational vehicles (RV’s) for their own non-commercial use can be exempted from CDL requirements.

  • Rhode Island Township or Government Workers Exemptions:

    Many states will have specific CDL exemptions that apply to workers in smaller towns or to state and local government employees in general. You will have to check with your specific state regulations.

Rhode Island CDL Disqualifications

The FMCSA regulations specify certain circumstances that will disqualify a driver from legally operating a CMV, temporarily or permanently.

Issues resulting in disqualification apply only to CDL or CLP holders, or those required to have a CLP or CDL in the vehicle they are operating. Tickets, DUI or DWI, and other legal issues that happened before a driver was issued a CDL or CLP, or to non-CDL or CLP holders, who were not required to have one, will affect drivers only as far as company policy, with the exception of getting the Hazmat endorsement.

See Also: TSA Disqualifying Offenses & Factors

In extreme cases, the FMCSA may disqualify drivers deemed to be an “imminent hazard”, and remove them from the road.

See Also: Disqualification of drivers determined to constitute an imminent hazard.

Some circumstances will result in a lifetime disqualification from operating CMV’s, with some being eligible for reinstatement after 10 years. A driver who uses a CMV in the commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance is disqualified for life with no possibility of reinstatement.

Disqualification For Major Offenses

  • Being under the influence of alcohol as prescribed by State law.
  • Being under the influence of a controlled substance.
  • Having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater while operating a CMV.
  • Refusing to take an alcohol test as required by a State or jurisdiction under its implied consent laws or regulations
  • Leaving the scene of an accident.
  • Using the vehicle to commit a felony, other than felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance.

CDL Driver Disqualification For Serious Traffic Violations:

  • Speeding excessively, involving any speed of 15 mph or more above the regulated or posted speed limit.
  • Driving recklessly, as defined by State or local law or regulation.
  • Making improper or erratic traffic lane changes.
  • Following the vehicle ahead too closely.
  • Violating State or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control.

CDL Driver Disqualification For Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Offenses:

  • The driver is not required to always stop, but fails to slow down and check that tracks are clear of an approaching train.
  • The driver is not required to always stop, but fails to stop before reaching the crossing, if the tracks are not clear.
  • The driver is always required to stop, but fails to stop before driving onto the crossing.
  • The driver fails to have sufficient space to drive completely through the crossing without stopping.
  • The driver fails to obey a traffic control device or the directions of an enforcement official at the crossing.
  • The driver fails to negotiate a crossing because of insufficient undercarriage clearance.

CDL Driver Disqualification For Violations Of Out-Of-Service Orders:

An out-of-service order stipulates that a CDL or CLP holder not drive a commercial vehicle for a certain period of time, or until such time as they are re-instated to service.

In addition to disqualification, drivers who violate out-of-service orders will be fined a civil penalty of at least $2,500 for the first offense, and $5,000 for any additional offenses.

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