Montana CDL Requirements

Coming from the Spanish word for "mountain" Montana is dominated by the Rocky Mountains, a number of ranges that make up one of the largest stretches in the world. Despite being a sparsely populated state (44th in population, 48th for density) it is the 4th largest state. It is the only US state to border on three separate Canadian provinces - Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. North Dakota and South Dakota are to the east, Wyoming is to the immediate south and Idaho to the west. It has a largely agricultural economy, focusing strongly on cereal crop growing and ranching. Montana straddles the Continental Divide. Rocky Mountain Front to the north consists of a mix of prairie and mountain, including the Lewis Range and Glacier National Park. The west is highly mountainous, sweeping away to the north and south with the ranges that make up the Rockies.

Which CDL Licenses are Available in Montana?

Federal regulations determine license categories. How each state organizes that is down to each individual state. However, all states are required to abide by Federal regulation for CDL allocation listed below:

Class A CDL

The heaviest commercial vehicles (weighing 26,001lb or more) that tow the heavy trailers (weighing 10,001lbs or more) are designated Class A.

Class B CDL

The heaviest commercial vehicles (weighing 26,001lb or more) that tow lighter trailers (weighing 10,000lbs or less) are designated Class B.

Class C CDL

Lighter commercial vehicles (weighing 26,000lb or less), passenger transport vehicles and hazmat carriers are designated Class C.

Class D License

For all applicants of A-C class, the prospective driver must possess the standard driver's license in Montana - the Class D - prior to application.

It is a requirement that your Class D license has no pending or prior convictions for a two-year period. All applicants are expected to receive prior medical authorization before applying for a CDL. The knowledge exam is mandatory and most drivers - with some exception - the must take the practical driving test. Further details on exceptions are listed below.

CDL Eligibility in Montana

All states are required to submit to Federal regulation on CDL application and allocation. There are some areas where each state is permitted to change some requirements within the laws of the state. These can center on location conditions, industry, road safety and technology. TSA screening is required of all applicants.

License and Permits

  • It is obligatory that the applicant has a Class D license in good standing, meaning no motoring convictions for the two years prior to the application
  • Medical testing and checks are obligatory for all applicants to ensure good eyesight and no potentially dangerous conditions
  • It is not obligatory to take up a course to learn to drive a CMV offered through a third-party organization, but they such training is strongly recommended
  • The applicant may only proceed once all these prior mandatory steps are complete

Age

  • Only applicants aged 18 years and over may apply for a CDL in Montana
  • Only applicants aged 21 years and over may apply for an interstate CDL in Montana (allowing driving to and through other states)
  • Applicants aged 18-20 may only drive intrastate (within Montana)
  • Only applicants aged 21 years and over may apply for the hazmat license endorsement

Proof of Residence of Montana

  • Valid ID with present address must be made available for checking with the application
  • Your Social Security Number must also be presented. All applicants will be expected to prove their right to work and live in the US

CDL Requirements for Montana Residents

  • The ID you present with your application must have your current address. Any change must be registered within 30 days of the change
  • Present your valid SSN as proof of your right to work in Montana
  • Proof of insurance is required with the CDL application
  • TSA screening is obligatory for all applicants, regardless of class

Montana CDL Requirements for Out-of-State Residents and Transfers

For other state residents moving to Montana, the following are extra requirements:

  • Should you possess a driver's license from out of state, you will be required to surrender it and transfer for a Montana license
  • If it expired no less than 2 years ago, the will be a straight swap
  • Montana requires that all applicants prove US citizenship
  • Should you have any medical condition that could affect your application, this must be declared
  • Any exemption paperwork in your possession should be presented

Non-U.S. Citizen Requirements for Montana CDL

Some non-US citizens may apply for a CDL to drive a CMV in Montana. The conditions are as follows:

  • CDL application is open only to Permanent Residents. Present your Green Card an associated paperwork to the authorities
  • Residents who entered the US under refugee should also present paperwork relevant to this
  • All Permanent Residents are required to present a passport from the country of their birth. Other relevant paperwork includes the Consular Report of Birth Abroad should you have one
  • Any relevant driver's license from your home country should be presented. Montana authorities may require its permanent surrender
  • Hazmat endorsement applications are open to US citizens only

Do I Need a CDL?

CDL application is limited to citizens and Permanent Residents only. There is a national program called "Troops to Trucks" for retiring or recently retired military personnel. If you retired not more than one year ago or presently serving and due to retire within the next 90 days, you are eligible for a waiver for the driving skills test. You will still be required to complete the written test and endorsement sections. Other retirees from some areas of public service may also apply to this scheme.

Personnel eligible for this scheme may be refused the waiver should they have incurred any driving conviction. Typical exclusions include DUI (both alcohol and controlled substances), for speeding, and for leaving an accident scene. Should the applicant have experienced cancelation or revocation of the license, this could also lead to automatic rejection.

Other CDL waivers apply:

  • Small-volume hazmat vehicle drivers
  • An authorized peace officer is permitted to ask any person to drive a CMV in an emergency
  • Any authorized officer is permitted to ask any person to operate emergency clearing equipment under eligible conditions
  • Recreational vehicle drivers
  • Agricultural equipment drivers working the vehicle so long as they are within 150 miles of their place of work
  • Drivers of firefighting vehicles and equipment, ambulance and medical vehicles, and police vehicles do not need a CDL

Medical and Physical CDL Requirements

  • Medical testing is mandatory including eye test and a check of your medical records for medical conditions that could make driving dangerous. Please see the resource list for a record of medical examiners
  • Satisfactory completion of medical checks will generate two reports: a Medical Examination Report Form and a Medical Examiner's Certificate
  • The applicant will need both reports to support the application
  • The office will require that applicant state whether they are applying for an interstate or intrastate CDL
  • Once complete, you will receive the authorizing Federal Medical Card
  • Applicants who fail medical testing may apply for certain restrictions
  • CDL costs are usually met by the employer. If this is true in your case, go through your designated workplace contact

Background Check for CDL Applicants

TSA screening is required of all applicants be they US citizen or Permanent Resident. Applicants for hazmat privileges must submit to fingerprint checks. Hazmat applications are for US citizens only - not Permanent Residents. Revocation of your US citizenship will lead to the removal of hazmat privileges from your CDL.

CDL Testing in Montana

The Knowledge Test and Driving Skills exam can only take place once all prior steps are satisfactorily complete.

CDL Knowledge Test

The Knowledge Test is 50 mandatory multiple choice questions requiring that the applicant get a minimum number of correct answers. If you require endorsements, you must also complete separate multiple choice sections consisting of 20 questions each. They will test your knowledge of your legal obligation, driving regulation and vehicle knowledge.

CDL Road Skills Tests

Only when you have completed the multiple choice exam, including any optional endorsements, will you be permitted to take the Road Skills practical driving part of the examination.

  • The examiner must first check that the vehicle is eligible, suitable and safe to take the Road Skills Test
  • The examiner will next request that the applicant demonstrate understanding of the interior adjustable controls
  • Finally, the Road Skills Test will begin. The applicant will be required to demonstrate understanding, awareness and adaptability to normal road conditions

Montana CDL Office Locations

All Montana vehicle licensing is the responsibility of the DOJ. Here are the state's CDL office locations:

Anaconda

  • Driver Exam Station
    115 E. Pennsylvania
    Anaconda, MT 59711
    (866) 450-8034
  • County Treasurer's Office
    800 Main St
    Anaconda, MT 59711
    (406) 563-4051

Billings

  • County Treasurer's Office
    217 N. 27th St. Room 109
    Billings, MT 59101
    (406) 256-2833
  • Driver Exam Station
    615B S. 27th St.
    Billings, MT 59101
    (866) 450-8034
  • Yellowstone County Satellite Office (Registration & Titling)
    115 West 1st
    Laurel, MT 59044
    (406) 628-1232
  • Driver Exam Station
    400 E. 3rd Ave. N.
    Columbus, MT 59019
    (866) 450-8034
  • County Treasurer's Office
    107 Kemp St.
    Ryegate, MT 59074

Bozeman

  • County Treasurer's Office
    311 W Main, Rm 104
    Bozeman, MT 59715
    (406) 582-3080
  • Driver Exam Station
    2005 Gilkerson St.
    Bozeman, MT 59715
    (866) 450-8034
  • Driver Exam Station
    1313 W. Park St.
    Livingston, MT 59047
    (866) 450-8034
  • County Treasurer's Office
    414 E. Callender St.
    Livingston, MT 59047
    (406) 222-4120
  • County Treasurer's Office and Driver Exam Station
    515 Broadway St
    Townsend, MT 59644
    (406) 266-3445

Browning

  • Glacier Satellite Office and Driver Exam Station
    124 2nd Ave NW
    Browning, MT 59417
    Office: (406) 338-2389. Exam Station: (866) 450-8034
  • County Treasurer's Office
    512 E Main St
    Cut Bank, MT 59427
    (406) 873-3625
  • Driver Exam Station
    522 E. Main
    Cut Bank, MT 59427
    (866) 450-8034
  • County Treasurer's Office and Driver Exam Station
    20 4th Ave SW
    Conrad, MT 59425
    Treasurer Office: (406) 271-4016. Exam: (866) 450-8034

Butte

  • County Treasurer's Office
    155 W. Granite St. Room 206
    Butte, MT 59701
    (406) 497-6301
  • Driver Exam Station
    3611 Wynne Avenue
    Butte, MT 59701
    (866) 450-8034
  • County Treasurer's Office
    201 W. Centennial
    Boulder, MT 59632
    (406) 225-4100
  • County Treasurer's Office
    409 Missouri, Suite 204
    Deer Lodge, MT 59722
    (406) 846-9797

Columbia Falls

  • County Treasurer's Office
    106 Fourth Ave. E.
    Polson, MT 59860
    (406) 883-7217
  • Driver Exam Station
    66121 Highway 37
    Eureka, MT 59917
    (866) 450-8034

Great Falls

  • Cascade County Treasurer's Office
    121 4th St N, Suite 1A
    Great Falls, MT 59401
    (406) 454-6860
  • Driver Exam Stations
    207 Smelter Ave. NE, Suite 3 Twilite Center
    Great Falls, MT 59404
    (866) 450-8034
  • County Treasurer's Office and Driver Exam Station
    1308 Franklin
    Fort Benton, MT 59442
    Treasurer's Office: (866) 450-8034. Exam Station: (406) 622-5032
  • County Treasurer's Office and Driver Exam Station
    1 Main Ave South
    Choteau, MT 59422
    Treasurer's office: (406) 466-2694. Exam Station: (866) 450-8034

Helena

  • County Treasurer's Office
    316 N. Park Ave. Room 142
    Helena, MT 59623
    (406) 447-8328
  • Driver Exam Station
    2708 Billings
    Helena, MT 59601
    (866) 450-8034

Kalispell

  • Flathead County Treasurer's Office
    935 1st Ave W, Suite T
    Kalispell, MT 59901
    (406) 758-5690
  • Driver Exam Station
    1325 Highway 2 W. Suite E
    Kalispell, MT 59901
    (866) 450-8034
  • County Treasurer's Office and Driver Exam Station
    111 Main St.
    Thompson Falls, MT 59873
    Treasurer: (406) 827-6924. Exam Station: (866) 450-8034

Missoula

  • County Treasurer's Office
    200 W. Broadway
    Missoula, MT 59802
    (406) 258-4747
  • Driver Exam Station
    2681 Palmer Suite A
    Missoula, MT 59808
    (866) 450-8034
  • Driver Exam Station
    102 Main St. Suite A
    Stevensville, MT 59870
    (866) 450-8034
  • Missoula Satellite Office
    3360 Hwy 83 N
    Seeley Lake, MT 59868
  • County Treasurer's Office and Driver Exam Station
    220 N. Sansome St.
    Philipsburg, MT 59858
    (406) 859-3831

Montana CDL Endorsements

Montana Secretary of State permits the following endorsements for CDLs issued in the state:

  • Hazardous material vehicle (H)
  • Tank vehicle (N)
  • Passenger transport (P)
  • School bus (S)
  • Double/triple (T)

Montana CDL Disqualifications

CDL holders will find that they are expected to adhere to higher driving standards than those attached to other drivers. For equivalent infractions, the driver will receive higher punishments. The list below is an automatic minimum 12-month driving suspension in the case of any first offense. Should the CDL holder be convicted of any subsequent second offence, he or she will face a life suspension. When the offense takes place in a hazmat vehicle, the driver will incur a three-year disqualification will apply. Using a CMV to transport or sell controled substances, they will be subject to a lifelong suspension. Courts in the state of Montana may also impose further sanctions.

  • An alcohol breath or blood test registers a result of 0.04% or above while driving a CMV
  • An alcohol breath or blood test registers a result of 0.08% or above while driving a vehicle other than a CMV
  • The driver, when requested by a law officer, refuses to take a breath or blood test to check for alcohol content
  • The driver is involved in an accident while in charge of a CDL and does not report it
  • The driver is involved in an accident while in charge of a CDL and does not stop
  • The driver is involved in an accident and causes a fatality through negligent or dangerous driving
  • The driver engages in non-vehicle crime and uses a CMV during its execution
  • The driver has had their CDL privileges c canceled, revoked or suspended but continues to drive a CMV

Should a blood or breath test register alcohol lower than .04%, the CDL holder will be placed on 24-hour suspension.

There are minor infractions that lead to smaller penalties. They are listed below. A first instance incurs no penalty of suspension but a second offence is an automatic 60-day suspension. Any third offence is a 120-day suspension:

  • Speeding where speed is greater than 15mph over the limit
  • Dangerous, reckless or otherwise erratic driving
  • Risky or erratic maneuvers including lane changing in a dangerous manner
  • Putting other users at risk by driving too close to other vehicles
  • Ignoring or disobeying other Montana driving laws
  • Being unqualified to drive a CMV but operating a vehicle that requires a CDL
  • Insufficient qualification to drive the vehicle you are presently operating. For example, Class B holders are not permitted to drive a Class A vehicle
  • Insufficient or wrong endorsements for the vehicle you presently drive
  • Failing to carry your CDL documentation while operation a CMV

Vehicles will occasionally be subject to an Out of Service Order, or OOS. This is a sanction when the vehicle fails regulations of safety that must be corrected before permission out on the road again. A CDL holder who violates an Out of Service Order will receive a 90-day penalty disqualification for a first offense. Any second OOS violation is a minimum 10-year disqualification. When the OOS is broken while driving a hazmat vehicle, the driver will receive a 3-10 year suspension.

Railroad violations incur their own set of penalties. Listed below are Montana's railroad violations, incurring a 60-day automatic suspension for a first offense. Should the driver break a second violation in three years, a 120-day suspension will apply. Should a third offense occur, a minimum 12-month ban is imposed:

  • There are junctions where drivers are not expected to always stop. However, it is mandatory to slow sufficiently to ensure the tracks are clear of oncoming trains
  • At junctions where the driver is not required to normally stop, all drivers must do so when tracks ahead are not clear
  • Even when clear ahead and on the tracks, all drivers must stop at any railroad junction where there is a stop sign
  • Drivers are required to ensure sufficient space to clear through a railroad junction without stopping
  • Drivers must obey the instructions of any present traffic technology or law officers at a junction
  • CMV drivers are required to ensure sufficient undercarriage clearance of their vehicle to get through the junction

CDL Salary, Employment, and Prospects

The Federal government body responsible for monitoring employment trends such as skills shortage and growth is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They publish a report every two years with updated information, most recently in May 2017 based on 2016 analytics. Commercial driving is expected to experience a 5% increase between 2014 and 2024. The mean average of all jobs is a projected 7% growth, meaning that commercial driving is slower.

Heavy Trucks

Heavy trucking is responsible for long distance intrastate and cross-country haulage. Due to long and unsociable hours, it is the highest paid area of commercial driving. Pay rates nationally are presently $41,340 as a salary and $19.87 for those paid hourly. The salary range for heavy trucking is $26,920 for the lowest paid 10% and $63,140 for the highest 10%. Heavy truck drivers residing and working in Montana earn more on average, with a salary average of $44,700 and hourly averages of $20.69 (median) and $21.49 (mean).

Light Trucks

Light truck driving is responsible for the majority of short distance and local haulage and transport. This area of the industry is presently experiencing a low growth phase at 4% between 2014 and 2024. The national average is presently 7%, making light truck jobs half the average. Nationally, the pay for this area is $34,790 salary and $16.73 hourly. The situation in Montana is slightly lower than the national picture, going against heavy trucking. The averages are $32,940 salary, $14.26 median and $15.84 mean.

Passenger Vehicles

Bus driving - both intercity and transit - is a stable area of employment. Applicants require a Class C license to drive a bus. The national growth picture predicts a 6% increase between 2014 and 2024 with average salary at $31,920 and average hourly pay at $14.96. Montana residents enjoy slightly higher averages. BLS reports an average $36,090 salary and average hourly pay of $16.78 median and $17.35 mean.

BLS Source: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mt.htm

Resources for Montana CDL Requirements

Learn more about Montana trucking schools.

Truck Driver Salary in Montana

Location 25th Percentile 75th Percentile Annual Salary
United States $31,270 $48,330 $38,700
Montana $32,550 $49,420 $39,430
Billings, MT $33,380 $50,370 $41,580
Great Falls, MT $26,890 $41,500 $33,560
Missoula, MT $33,800 $44,970 $40,050

Table data taken from 2015 BLS (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes533032.htm)