Gianni Evangelisti Authored By: Gianni Evangelisti

Kentucky - KY CDL Overview

A Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is a driver's license required by Kentucky to operate any type of vehicle which

  • is designed to move 16 or more passengers, including the driver. This includes (but is not restricted to) tow trucks, tractor trailers, and buses.
  • transports quantities of hazardous supplies that require warning placards under Department of Transportation regulations
  • has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 lb or more for commercial use

The CDL is ruled by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986. The CDL rules are designed to insure highway security by requiring that truck drivers and drivers of tractor trailers and buses meet minimum standards.  The Act additionally allows the removal of drivers which are deemed unsafe or unqualified. States such as Kentucky are given the authority to issue Commercial Driver’s Licenses, however the minimal federal government requirements have to be met.

Prepare for your KY CDL exams with our free Kentucky CDL practice tests

Kentucky CDL License Groups - KY CDL Classes

Commercial Driver’s Licenses are issued by Kentucky based on the CDL License classes specified below.
Group A (Combination Vehicle) CDL License

Any vehicle or combination of vehicles that has a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.  If you have a Group A CDL license, you are allowed to drive any vehicle or combination of vehicles of any size.

Group B (Heavy Straight Vehicle) CDL License

Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle less than 10,000 pounds GVWR. With a Group B CDL license, you might be allowed to drive any single vehicle regardless of weight. As well as, you're allowed to tow a trailer if the trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is less than 10,000 pounds. If the trailer you might be towing has a GVWR of greater than 10,000 pounds, and the combined vehicle weight rating is more than 26,000 pounds, you will need a Class A CDL.

Group C (Small Vehicle) CDL License 

A Class C CDL license is meant to cover any single vehicle, or mixture of vehicles, that doesn’t meet the Group A or Group B definitions, but that either is designed to transport sixteen or more passengers (together with the driver), or is intended to move Hazardous Materials (HazMat).

With a Group C CDL license, you may drive any vehicle designed to move 16 or more passengers, together with the driver, if the GVWR is less than 26,001 pounds and you have a passenger endorsement. In addition, a Class C CDL also allows you to operate any vehicle used to move hazardous materials if the GVWR is less than 26,001 pounds and you have the correct endorsement.

Kentucky CDL Exam Overview

Tests for the KY CDL License include both skills tests and knowledge examinations.

The CDL Knowledge Examinations encompass a general exam, one or more endorsement examinations, and an air brakes exam.  The examinations that you'll take rely upon the license classification that you're acquiring (Class A, B, or C) and the kind of vehicle that you will be driving (e.g., Tanker, Double/Triple, Passenger Bus).

Please consult with our free Kentucky CDL practice exams that can help you prepare for your KY CDL tests.

General Examination Overview

Drivers of every CDL class have to pass a General Knowledge examination which contains questions about driving safety, vehicle inspection, street indicators, traffic laws and other information that you must determine to drive a commercial vehicle in Kentucky.

Endorsement Exam Overview

Along with the general knowledge test, you need to also take and pass varied endorsement examinations depending on the kind of vehicle that you'll be operating.  The endorsement exams are described below.

  • Tankers endorsement - to drive a commercial tank vehicle (over 26,000 pounds) designed to move any liquid or gaseous materials within a tank that is permanently or temporarily attached to the vehicle or chassis. Portable tanks having a rated capacity under 1,000 gallons are not required to have this endorsement.
  • Double and triple trailer endorsement - to pull double and triple trailers.
  • Passenger endorsement - to drive any vehicle, except a school bus, designed to carry 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • School bus endorsement - required to drive school buses designed to carry 16 or more individuals, including the driver that's transport students to or from school and authorized school activities. Additionally, a driver must receive a passenger endorsement before obtaining a school bus endorsement.
  • Hazardous materials endorsement - to drive any vehicle carrying hazardous materials.  Hazmat supplies are recognized by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services and require a Hazmat placard.

Air Brakes Exam

In the event you plan on driving any commercial vehicle that has air brakes, it's necessary to take and pass the air brakes test to remove the air brakes restriction from your CDL.  The air brakes exam is totally different than the endorsement examinations because the air brakes exam works as a restriction instead of an endorsement.  If you don't pass the air brakes test, your CDL will bear a mark of restriction which means that you are not licensed to drive a commercial vehicle with air brakes.

Kentucky CDL License Requirements and KY CDL General Qualifications

In keeping with federal rules, a CDL operator is qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle in Kentucky if they:

  • Are at the very least 21 years old.
  • Can read and speak English enough to speak with the general public, to grasp highway traffic signals and indicators, to reply to official inquiries, and to make reports and records.
  • Are physically certified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Have a currently valid commercial motor vehicle operator’s license issued by just one state.
  • Have delivered their employer a listing of violations or the certificate as required
  • Are not disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle
  • Have successfully passed a driver’s road examination and associated knowledge examinations and have been issued a commercial driver’s license by the state of Kentucky

More detailed Kentucky CDL Requirements can be found within the KY handbook link found in the part below.

Kentucky CDL Handbook and Resources

Kentucky CDL Handbook - provides KY CDL requirements and application data

Kentucky CDL Agency - KY Division of Motor Licensing

Driver Licensing
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
200 Mero Street
Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone: (502) 564-1257

This information applies to the entire state of Kentucky as well as the cities of: Lexington, Fayette, Louisville, Owensboro, Bowling Green.


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