Rhode Island CDL Requirements

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US and one of the six to make up the region known as New England. Despite its size, it's the second most densely populated state. It is not an island as it has the ocean on just one side and bordering three other New England states. Rhode Island gets its name thanks to comparisons with the Greek island of Rhodes. Its climate is humid continental, consisting of lowlands to the east and forest uplands to the west consisting of the Northeast Forest Coastal Ecoregion. It has no mountains despite part of the state being in an upland zone so truck drivers in the state will find little in the way of rugged or difficult terrain. Visitors and residents refer to Rhode Island as "The Ocean State" due to the numerous bays and inlets along its coastal area.

Which CDL Licenses are Available in Rhode Island?

Learning and licensing to drive a truck in Rhode Island requires the individual to pass a CDL test (Commercial Driver's License). The three driver's license categories relevant to driving large vehicles are as follows:

Class A

Class A applies to combination vehicles weighing 26,001lbs or more. They are able to pull trailers with a weight exceeding 10,000 lbs. Trailers can include trailer buses and tractor trailers.

Class B

This CDL class applies to vehicles weighing over 26,001lbs. They are able to pull trailers but the weight must not exceed 10,000lbs.

Class C

This is for vehicles under 26,001lbs for carrying sixteen or more occupants (which includes the driver). This is also the relevant class for drivers of trucks for transporting hazardous materials

Class D

A Rhode Island resident who wishes to apply for a Class A-C license must have held a Class D for a minimum of two years. This is for non-commercial vehicle driving such as most cars, pickup trucks and jeeps. For more information, see below.

Depending on the type of truck you wish to drive or the cargo you intend to transport some additional endorsement may be required.

CDL Eligibility in Rhode Island

Rhode Island, in line with Federal regulation and the need for excellence, continually reviews its statutes. Applicants must take the driving test in a vehicle matching the class of CDL license for which they are applying.

License and Permits

  • Applicants are required to prove that they've held a Class D license for a minimum of two years
  • You will be required to pass a vision exam with medical certification
  • Applicants will need to pass a general knowledge exam and practical skills test including a pre-trip vehicle inspection and an on-road driving test


  • You must be at least 18 years old with a valid Rhode Island driver's license
  • If you wish to transport materials across state lines, you must be at least 21 years old.

Proof of Residence of Rhode Island

  • You will need a valid proof of residence and ID
  • A valid social security number will also be required

CDL Requirements for Rhode Island Residents

  • Rhode Island Class D driver's license in good standing for a minimum of two years
  • A valid Social Security card
  • Proof of insurance
  • Record Check with extra checks for those apply for a license to transport hazardous materials
  • TSA screening for intended hazmat applicants

Rhode Island CDL Requirements for Out-of-State Residents and Transfers

In line with other state governments, Rhode Island runs its own criteria for state residents and those from out of state. If you are from a state other than Rhode Island, you may be required to fulfil extra criteria and provide further paperwork. The following steps may apply:

  • A state ID card or driver's license
  • Relevant out-of-state CDL documentation such as a commercial driver's license or certified motor vehicle record
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate or passport

Non-U.S. Citizen Requirements for Rhode Island CDL

Earning a CDL in Rhode Island requires a few extra steps. As far as non-US citizens are concerned, certification is open to those legally registered as a Permanent Resident. You may be required to show some or all of the following documents before licensing is issues:

  • A valid Permanent Resident Card issued to you by USCIS or INS
  • If you cannot provide this, you will require an unexpired EAD (employment authorization document) from USCIS. An unexpired foreign passport will also be acceptable so long as it is accompanied with an approved I-94
  • Official birth records such as a birth certificate
  • Any other relevant naturalization information

Do I Need a CDL?

Some states offer a fast track system for retired military personnel through the ‘Troops to Trucks' program. Those veterans with honorable discharge should seek advice from a local agent about waiving some parts of the CDL application (for Rhode Island, that is the Road Skills Test). It would help to have all relevant documentation ready at the time of consultation.

Other groups may be subject to exemption from obtaining a CDL under exceptional circumstances:

  • Individuals certified for transporting small-volume hazardous material, and animal and human and animal waste. These are specified under CHSC§25163 listed conditions
  • In an emergency and under the direction of a peace officer, anybody directed to drive emergency vehicles
  • Drivers towing a "fifth-wheel" travel trailer exceeding 15,000lbs in weight, a GVWR or trailer coach for recreational/personal use. These vehicles require a Class A non-commercial license
  • Drivers of so-called "housecars" between 40 and 45 feet. These vehicles require a Class B license
  • Military personnel authorized to operate relevant military vehicles
  • Farm workers operating farm vehicles
  • Those engaging in ride sharing of vanpools

Medical and Physical CDL Requirements

  • Anybody applying for a CDL in Rhode Island should schedule a physical examination while seeking certification. The medical examiner should be listed in the national authorized list
  • They will fill out the following documents: Medical Examiner's Certificate and the Medical Examination Report Form
  • You need to supply these to the DMV within 15 days of receipt in support of your application in order for a successful
  • Once the medical examination is successfully completed, the applicant will be issued with a Federal Medical Card
  • Those who fail the medical exam may apply for a CDL restriction on the grounds of Medical Variance. Please see below for further details
  • In many cases, your employer is responsible for medical examination costs. Discuss with your employer; if in doubt, CDL offices in Rhode Island are able to advise

Background Check for CDL Applicants

Applicants will find that TSA screening is mandatory in most cases, especially those seeking to drive vehicles suitable for carrying hazardous and toxic materials. This will include collecting fingerprint details, verification of US citizenship (or immigration eligibility as a Permanent Resident). The background check will take 4-5 weeks in the state of Rhode Island.

CDL Testing in Rhode Island

Applicants for the Rhode Island CDL are expected to complete both a knowledge test and a skills test to receive commercial licensing.

CDL Knowledge Test

The knowledge test is an important part of the CDL application. Applicants will be expected to successfully complete a basic knowledge test about driving and road safety pertaining to the class of vehicle for which they seek licensing.

CDL Road Skills Tests

Only when the candidate has successfully passed the knowledge test will they be permitted to complete a road skills test. This will either be at the local CDL office or licensed third-party test center. Regardless of class, most state tests include three parts:

  • A vehicle Inspection
  • Examination of your basic ability to control and operate the vehicle
  • The road test

Rhode Island CDL Office Locations

Due to its size, Rhode Island has just one CDL testing in the state. Ensure you arrive early and with all appropriate documents. The vehicle should be roadworthy and ready to go. To schedule a test, phone the Rhode Island Community College"

  • 400 East Ave
    RI, 02886

The state's DMV HQ is located at:

  • 600 New London Avenue
    Cranston, RI 02920
    (401) 462-4368

For further information, see the DMV website for Rhode Island at http://www.dmv.ri.gov/licenses/commercial/

Rhode Island CDL Endorsements

Rhode Island's DMV has a number of other centers throughout the state that are able to provide endorsements and certificates for a range of driving roles as well as already discussed licensing such as Hazmat:

  • Passenger Transportation requiring a special endorsement on their CDL (P)
  • Double and Triple Trailers (T)
  • Tank Vehicle (N) and Hazmat Tank combo (X)
  • School Bus (S)
  • Vehicle for Developmentally Disabled Persons (VDDP)

Penalties for infractions in Rhode Island for certified CDL drivers and operators may be higher than for the general population. Such infractions run the risk of license revocation or other measures.

Rhode Island CDL Disqualifications

The list of regulations and penalties to which CDL operators are subjected is under regular review and scrutiny. Any individual violating any such rules while driving in their capacity as a CDL operator could result in suspension or termination of said license. The present list of regulations include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol as set down in Rhode Island law. Recording a blood alcohol concentration equal to or greater than .04% while operating a CMV
  • Driving under the influence of any other controlled substance
  • Refusing an alcohol test
  • Leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it
  • Using the vehicle to commit any felony
  • Driving a CMV when your CDL license has been revoked, canceled or suspended
  • Causing a fatality through the negligence while operating a CMV. This can include motor vehicle manslaughter, negligent homicide and homicide by motor vehicle
  • Using the vehicle for the manufacture, distribution, dispensing or transportation of a controlled substance

Also, the following traffic violations will result in a disqualification for a second offense:

  • Excess speed more than 15mph above the designated speed limit
  • Reckless driving as defined by Rhode Island law
  • Improper and erratic lane changes
  • "Tailgating" or closely following the vehicle ahead and posing a danger
  • Any other violation of Rhode Island law other than a parking violation leading to a fatal accident
  • Driving a CMV without qualifying for a CDL
  • Driving a CMV without possessing the necessary CDL paperwork
  • Driving a CMV without the proper CDL class

Rhode Island also has a list of CDL specific violations:

  • Any vehicle carrying more load than permissible must have a valid and specific permit
  • Log Books must be kept up to date. Federal penalties apply to falsified or out of date information with potential jail time
  • Speeding while towing a trailer can result in suspension of a license if more than 15mph over
  • Some highways in Rhode Island have grade restrictions (steepness). Commercial drivers must not operate vehicles on these roads who drives on a road where not permitted can face license suspension even for a first offense

Rhode Island CDL Salary, Employment, and Prospects

According to present BLS statistics, the next 10 years will see low to moderate increase in the number of available heavy truck job roles in Rhode Island. This is in part due to its small size and lack of centralization in the freight and cargo industry. Opportunities elsewhere are likely higher.

Heavy Trucks

The mean salary for all heavy truck drivers at present is around $41,340 or $19.87 per hour. The average salary in Rhode Island is slightly higher than the national median at $45,870. Median hourly pay is $22.80 and the mean hourly pay is $22.05. The lowest 10% salary according to 2016 statistics was $26,920 with the highest 10% earners reporting a salary of more than $63,140. Seniority, extra responsibilities can add to salary, as can overtime. Nationally, we expect interstate trucking to traffic more livestock and industrial chemicals but numbers have yet to reach pre-recession (2008) levels.

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

Light Trucks

This pays slightly lower nationally with a mean salary of $34,790 and an average hourly pay rate of $16.73. In Rhode Island, as with heavy trucking, light truck drivers can expect a slightly higher rate of pay at $35,510 mean salary. Hourly rates are $15.42 (median) and $17.07 (mean). Driving small trucks and delivery trucks is expected to grow 3% in the coming decade, slower than the average. While e-commerce has proven useful to the industry, GPS tracking has made the job more efficient.

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

Passenger Vehicles

The average salary for all bus drivers and other passenger vehicles is $31,110 or $14.96 for employees contracted by the hour. Rhode Island's average salary is higher than the national average at $39,030 and an hourly pay of $18.09 (median) and $18.76 (mean). Job demand is expected to grow around 6% in the next decade. This is the national average for all jobs at present.

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

Resources for Rhode Island CDL Requirements

Learn more about Rhode Island trucking schools.

Truck Driver Salary in Rhode Island

Location 25th Percentile 75th Percentile Annual Salary
United States $31,270 $48,330 $38,700
Rhode Island $34,340 $49,160 $41,470
Providence-Fall River-Warwick, RI-MA $34,240 $48,590 $41,190

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