Obtaining a CDL and the CDL Manual

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 (the “Act”) was signed into law to improve highway safety by making sure that drivers licensed to operate commercial motor vehicles were reasonably safe drivers. The Act gave regulatory power to the Federal Highway Administration, which in turn established minimum requirements that must be met to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (“CDL”).

Each state has the right to issue CDLs so long as it follows the minimum requirements set out by the Federal Highway Administration.  As part of these minimum requirements,  each driver is required to pass a written and a practical driving test demonstrating that he or she has certain basic knowledge and driving skills before being qualified to have a CDL. To help prepare drivers for the test, each state publishes a CDL Manual.

The Act also prohibits drivers from obtaining more than one CDL (previously, drivers with past bad driving behavior could simply obtain a CDL from another state).

The CDL Manual Overview

The CDL Manual is a storehouse of information and rules written by the government for basic safety, containing the fundamental rules that every careful tractor-trailer driver is expected to follow. The depth of coverage and the plain language that the Manual contains can be very helpful if you or a loved one has been in a truck accident.

Some areas of particular interest include:

Section 1: Sets forth the rules governing who is required to have a CDL, testing required to obtain a CDL, the classes of CDLs, the endorsements available for CDLs, driver disqualification, instructions to drivers on requirements to notify agencies and employers of violations, and various other safety-related issues.

Section 2: Covers driving safety and includes very specific language on:

  • Vehicle Inspection
  • Basic control of vehicle
  • Shifting gears
  • Seeing
  • Communicating
  • Space management
  • Seeing hazards
  • Distracted driving
  • Aggressive driving
  • Night driving
  • Winter driving
  • Railroad crossings
  • Mountain driving
  • Driving emergencies
  • Antilock braking systems
  • Skid control and recovery
  • Accident procedures
  • Fires
  • Alcohol, other drugs, and driving
  • Staying alert and fit to drive
  • Hazardous materials rules

A plain English discussion is included under each of these headings, which provides information that truck drivers are supposed to know.  As a truck accident attorney, I spend time reviewing the CDL to help prepare for your case.

There are other important areas of this Manual which may pertain to your case, such as sections concerning truck cargo safety, transporting passengers, air brakes, combination vehicles, pulling doubles and triples, tank vehicles, hazardous materials, school buses, pre-trip inspections, basic vehicle control skills testing, and on-road driving testing.

Use of the CDL Manual in Depositions and Trial

The CDL Manual can be used in depositions and trial by getting truck drivers and / or trucking company representatives to acknowledge what rules of the road pertain to them.  The Manual can also be used to demonstrate that drivers are required to be professional, and that they must know how to do things that most people do not need to know, such as how to properly check brake adjustment.

Other safety issues which may arise in your case include the matter of whether applicable federal and state regulations are maintained, understood, and complied with by the trucking company and its drivers. Driver qualification may be an issue, such as age, driving record, and licensing requirements. Other issues include driver driver hours of service requirements, driver drug and alcohol testing, inspection, repair, and maintenance of vehicles, accident monitoring programs, and hazardous materials and cargo tank requirements in trucking.

We Conduct Thorough Investigations of Truck Accidents for Our Clients

A thorough investigation is the only way in which all parties responsible for a truck accident can be held accountable for their share of damages.  These investigations often include far more than just investigating the accident scene.  Typically, the investigations concern truck driver and trucking company backgrounds, federal rules and regulations, and much more.

Free Private Consultation

We offer a free initial consultation so that we can learn about your case, and so that you can learn about how we will represent you.  If you retain our firm, we will represent you on a contingency basis, which means that you will not always any fees unless we win for you.

Call us today so that we may learn about your case, and so that we can explain the legal options available for seeking recovery.


16020 Swingley Ridge Rd., Suite 340
St. Louis, MO 63017

Contact Us 888.586.7041

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