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CDL Entry-Level Driver Training

Written by Mary Salatino

CDL Entry Level Driver Training

Whether you're considering a career change to commercial driving or looking to upgrade your existing CDL, Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) is a must. You're required to complete this mandatory program to earn your first commercial driver's license (CDL) or upgrade an existing one.

Throughout the course, you'll learn commercial driving basics, including safe operating techniques, cargo handling, on-road driving techniques and more. It prepares you to navigate the road while adhering to federal standards.

Our partners at SafeMotorist, a trusted national provider of driver safety training, offer online CDL Entry-Level Driver Training courses that prepare you to become a proficient and responsible driver.

Read on to learn about different CDL classes, the steps to earning your license and how to satisfy education requirements for entry-level drivers.

What Is Entry-Level Driver Training?

ELDT is a comprehensive program designed to provide you with the knowledge, skills and expertise necessary to safely operate commercial motor vehicles. It is a fundamental requirement for individuals seeking to obtain a CDL.

The program provides instruction in federal regulations with a strong emphasis on safety, operating procedures and vehicle systems. This education helps you adhere to regulatory standards, enhances your road safety and prepares you for a successful career in commercial driving.

Who Needs ELDT?

Anyone aspiring to operate a commercial vehicle in the United States is typically required to complete ELDT as part of their initial education.

This includes individuals seeking to:

  • Obtain a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time
  • Upgrade their existing Class B CDL to Class A
  • Pursue specific CDL endorsements for hazmat (H), passenger (P) or school bus (S) for the first time

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) introduced comprehensive ELDT regulations to enhance the skills and knowledge of commercial drivers. These regulations went into effect on February 7, 2022, and can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations under 49 CFR Part 380.

FMCSA-Approved Training

ELDT courses must be approved by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to meet education requirements for your commercial license. This compliance is crucial for successfully obtaining or upgrading your CDL. The FMCSA is a government organization that operates under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

The FMCSA establishes and enforces ELDT standards, approves education providers and ensures regulatory compliance. It is the authoritative agency responsible for maintaining the quality and consistency of training for aspiring commercial drivers across the country.

Types of CDL Classes

Certain types of vehicles require a specific class of CDL. The license you need depends on which vehicles you plan to operate.

Class A

A Class A CDL allows you to operate a wide range of vehicles, including tractor-trailers, large trucks and combination vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, including towed units weighing more than 10,000 pounds.

Class B

A Class B CDL allows you to operate a variety of vehicles, including buses, delivery trucks and other single-unit vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more. This includes towed units weighing 10,000 pounds or less.

You can upgrade from Class B to Class A if you want to expand your skills and qualify to operate Class A vehicles. You can take a CDL Class B to A course to open additional career opportunities and operate a wider range of commercial vehicles.

The CDL Class B to A Course teaches advanced vehicle operations, Class A compliance and other standards and techniques specific to operating Class A vehicles.

Class C

A Class C CDL allows you to operate commercial vehicles that don't fall into Class A or Class B categories. It typically covers vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers or ones that carry hazardous materials requiring placards. This class may include passenger buses, shuttle vans and certain types of passenger vans.

Steps to Earn Your CDL

There are three steps to earning your CDL. Although FMCSA provides an overview of federal requirements, it's important to note that CDLs are issued by individual states, and state-specific requirements may apply. Therefore, understanding both federal and state requirements is crucial.

Earning your CDL includes three steps:

  • Obtain your commercial learner's permit (CLP): This initial step allows you to start your CDL course and receive guided behind-the-wheel practice. It's important to know that most types of commercial driving require a DOT medical card and proof of a physical.
  • Complete ELDT: This comprehensive program provides you with the necessary knowledge and skills to safely operate commercial vehicles. The course must be completed with an FMCSA-approved provider to ensure you meet all federal requirements. Some states may have additional specifications, so be sure to check with your local DMV for more information.
  • Obtain your CDL: After fulfilling the CLP and education requirements, you can apply for and obtain your CDL, which allows you to operate commercial vehicles. You will earn your license once you pass the CDL skills test.

More detailed steps to earning your CDL can be found on the FMCSA's website.


Commercial driver's license endorsements are specialized qualifications that expand the scope of a CDL, allowing drivers to operate specific types of vehicles or transport certain types of cargo.

Among the various endorsements available, three of the most common and important are the HAZMAT (H) endorsement, the Passenger (P) endorsement and the School Bus (S) endorsement. Each of these endorsements signifies a different skill set and responsibility, catering to distinct sectors of the transportation industry.

HAZMAT Endorsement (H)

The HAZMAT endorsement is one of the most rigorous and regulated endorsements, as it involves the transportation of hazardous materials. Drivers with this endorsement are authorized to transport materials deemed hazardous by the DOT. These materials can range from flammable liquids and gasses to corrosive substances and radioactive materials.

Obtaining a HAZMAT endorsement requires additional testing beyond the standard CDL exams. Applicants must undergo a background check, including fingerprinting, to ensure they do not pose a security risk. Additionally, they must pass a written knowledge test covering HAZMAT transportation regulations and safety protocols.

Due to the potential risks associated with transporting hazardous materials, drivers with a HAZMAT endorsement must adhere to strict guidelines regarding vehicle inspection, labeling and emergency response procedures. They play a crucial role in ensuring the safe transport of dangerous goods across the country.

Passenger Endorsement (P)

The Passenger endorsement allows drivers to operate vehicles designed to transport passengers, such as buses and vans. This endorsement is essential for individuals who work in the public transportation sector, including city bus drivers, shuttle operators and tour bus drivers.

To obtain a Passenger endorsement, drivers must demonstrate proficiency in operating vehicles with a large number of passengers. This includes knowledge of passenger safety regulations, loading and unloading procedures and proper vehicle handling techniques.

Drivers with a Passenger endorsement are responsible for the safety and comfort of their passengers. They must be attentive to traffic conditions, maintain control of the vehicle and provide assistance to passengers as needed. Additionally, they may be required to conduct pre-trip inspections to ensure the vehicle is safe for travel.

School Bus Endorsement (S)

The School Bus endorsement is specifically for drivers who operate school buses with student passengers. School bus drivers are responsible for transporting students to and from school and other educational activities.

In addition to passing a written knowledge test, applicants for a School Bus endorsement require specialized training on topics such as student management, emergency procedures and state-specific regulations governing school bus operations. They must also pass a skills test demonstrating their ability to safely operate a school bus.

School bus drivers play a vital role in ensuring the safety and well-being of students during their daily commute. They are responsible for enforcing safety rules, maintaining order on the bus and responding appropriately to emergencies or incidents that may arise during transit.