Tennessee Code Annotated

Title 55: Motor and Other Vehicles

Chapter 50: Uniform Classified and Commercial Driver License Act

Part 3: Application, Examination, and Issuance

TCA 55-50-322: Examination of applicants.

(a) (1) (A) The department shall examine every applicant for a driver license, intermediate driver license, learner permit, temporary driver license, temporary learner permit, and temporary intermediate driver license, except as otherwise provided in this part. This examination shall include a test of the applicant's eyesight to be administered according to standards set by the department, the applicant's ability to read and/or understand highway signs regulating, warning and directing traffic, the applicant's knowledge of the traffic laws of this state, and shall include an actual demonstration of ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in the operation of a motor vehicle or combination of vehicles of the type covered by the license classification or endorsement that the applicant is seeking. The examination may also include further physical and mental examinations the department finds necessary to determine the applicant's fitness to operate a motor vehicle safely upon the highways.

(B) All such examinations given to persons under eighteen (18) years of age shall be written, with the exception of examination of the applicant's eyesight including, but not limited to, night vision performance. However, this restriction shall not apply to any person who, prior to January 1, 1990, obtained a valid license other than by written examination, or to any person with a medical condition, certified by a physician, which would render a written examination impractical, or to any handicapped child, including the learning disabled, certified by a specialist as unable to be tested by written examination.

(2) In addition, all examinations administered to applicants for a driver license or intermediate driver license shall include questions concerning drugs and alcohol, the effects of those substances on a person's ability to operate a vehicle and the applicable Tennessee laws pertaining to operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and the alcohol and drug related questions shall constitute one-fourth (1/4) of the written examination. The department shall ensure the driver manual used to prepare applicants for the license examination includes sufficient information concerning drugs and alcohol to enable a reasonably diligent applicant to correctly answer the additional questions.

(b) (1) The department may waive the required knowledge and skills tests upon application for a Tennessee driver license by a nonresident who establishes residency in this state. The new resident must surrender a driver license or submit a certified report from the former state of residence. Either the license or the report shall verify that the license is not subject to cancellation, suspension or revocation and that the license is valid, or has not been expired in excess of six (6) months.

(2) (A) As used in this subdivision (b)(2), "valid military commercial driver license" means any commercial driver license that is recognized by any active or reserve component of any branch of the United States armed forces as currently being valid or as having been valid at the time of an applicant's separation or discharge from the armed forces that occurred within the two-year period immediately preceding the date of application for a commercial driver license.

(B) The department shall waive the required skills test upon initial application for a commercial driver license by any applicant who, at the time of initial application, has been issued, or is in immediate possession of, a valid military commercial driver license and who certifies on the application that, during the two-year period immediately preceding the date of application, the applicant:

(i) Has not had more than one (1) driver license, except for a valid military commercial driver license;

(ii) Has not had any driver license suspended, revoked, or cancelled in this state or any other state;

(iii) Has not had any convictions while operating any type of motor vehicle for the disqualifying offenses contained in 49 CFR 383.51(b), and has not lost the privilege to operate a commercial motor vehicle, or been disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle, in this state or any other state;

(iv) Has not had more than one (1) conviction while operating any type of motor vehicle for serious traffic violations as defined in § 55-50-102 or contained in 49 CFR 383.51(c);

(v) Has not had any conviction for a violation of any military or state law or local ordinance relating to motor vehicle traffic control, in this or any other state, other than a parking violation, arising in connection with any traffic accident; and

(vi) Has no record of an accident in which the applicant was at fault.

(C) The applicant shall also certify on the application, and submit supporting documentation as required in subdivision (b)(2)(D), that the applicant:

(i) Is regularly employed or was regularly employed within the ninety-day period immediately preceding application in a position in the United States armed forces requiring operation of a commercial motor vehicle that is representative of the license class and endorsement for which the applicant is applying;

(ii) Is exempted or was exempted from the commercial driver license requirements in 49 CFR 383.3(c); and

(iii) Is operating or was operating a commercial motor vehicle in the United States armed forces that is representative of the license class and endorsement for which the person is applying, for at least the two (2) years immediately preceding separation or discharge from the armed forces, in the case of an honorably discharged member, or for at least the two (2) years immediately preceding application, in the case of a member in active duty.

(D) The application shall be accompanied by the following documentation establishing the applicant's military occupational specialty and driving experience as indicated in subdivision (b)(2)(C):

(i) A notarized affidavit signed by a commanding officer, if the applicant is on active duty; or

(ii) If the applicant is honorably discharged from military service:

(a) A copy of the applicant's certificate of release of discharge from active duty, department of defense form 214 (DD 214); or

(b) A statement from the appropriate branch of the United States armed forces, certified by the department of veterans services.

(E) Any applicant who is a member of the active duty military, military reserves, national guard, or active duty United States coast guard or coast guard auxiliary whose temporary or permanent duty station is located in this state obtaining the skills test waiver under this subdivision (b)(2) shall submit documentation acceptable to the department establishing the applicant's current duty station assignment.

(F) An applicant who obtains the skills test waiver under this subdivision (b)(2) shall be required to successfully complete any applicable vision and knowledge tests, and pay the appropriate fees, other than the skills testing fee.

(c) (1) The examinations for applicants for commercial driver licenses shall be conducted in compliance with 49 CFR part 383.

(2) The department is permitted to promulgate rules and regulations pertaining to third-party testing for the skills tests required for commercial driver licenses, in accordance with 49 CFR part 383.

(3) The department shall not reject the applicant for a commercial driver license if the examiner believes the condition of the vehicle is unsafe for operation, unless the examiner requests an inspection of the vehicle by a qualified commercial vehicle inspector of the department. This vehicle, and all commercial vehicles inspected by the department, shall be inspected in accordance with the North American Standard Uniform Inspection procedures outlined by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. A commercial vehicle placed out-of-service for mechanical or safety defects by the qualified inspector shall be placed out-of-service for safety defects as defined in the North American Uniform Out-of-Service Criteria. The applicant shall be given a written report listing all defects by the inspector and informed of necessary repairs to cause the vehicle to be in compliance. The examiner shall not conduct a road test if the commercial vehicle inspector determines that the vehicle does not meet the standards defined in the North American Uniform Out-of-Service Criteria.

(d) All persons who are in the United States armed forces and who are holders of driver licenses in this state may have their licenses renewed upon application to the department upon their return to Tennessee without further examination.

(e) Persons applying for reinstatement of a cancelled, suspended or revoked driver license shall not be required to take an eye test or knowledge and skills tests unless their license has been expired in excess of one (1) renewal cycle as provided in § 55-50-338(a)(3).

(f) An applicant who presents evidence acceptable to the department that the applicant has satisfactorily completed a driver education and training course offered for Class D vehicles by nonpublic schools in categories 1, 2, or 3 as recognized by the state board of education, a public school, a public institution of higher learning, or a commercial driver training school, operating under chapter 19 of this title, shall be deemed to have satisfactorily completed the department's examinations. The department may require the courses to include certain knowledge and skills examinations.

(g) The department may authorize early intervention programs and alcohol and drug safety DUI schools administered by the department of health to administer the knowledge element of the driver license examination, subject to oversight by the department of safety. A defensive driving program under the oversight of the department of safety may also administer the examinations. An applicant who presents evidence acceptable to the department that the applicant has satisfactorily completed such a knowledge examination shall be deemed to have successfully completed the knowledge element of the driver license examination.

(h) The department of education may incorporate a driver license knowledge examination developed by the department of safety as a part of proficiency tests administered to eighth and tenth grade students pursuant to § 49-6-6001. The driver license knowledge examination shall comply with the requirements of this section. An applicant who presents acceptable evidence to the department of safety that the applicant has satisfactorily completed such a knowledge examination shall be deemed to have successfully completed the knowledge element of the driver license examination.

(i) (1) The department may enter into a memorandum of understanding with a foreign country, or the licensing authority of the foreign country, under which the department and the foreign country agree to grant like driving privileges to new residents operating motor vehicles in this state or the foreign country.

(2) The memorandum of understanding executed pursuant to subdivision (i)(1) shall be a reciprocal agreement under which the parties agree that:

(A) The foreign country or licensing authority shall waive any required knowledge and skills tests or equivalent tests upon application by a new resident who possesses a valid driver license from this state, and shall issue a driver license or equivalent license to the new resident; and

(B) The department shall waive the required knowledge and skills tests upon application by a new resident who possesses a valid driver license or equivalent license from the foreign country, and shall issue a driver license to the new resident, if the applicant presents documentation to the department that the applicant's presence in the United States is authorized by the United States department of homeland security.

(3) The memorandum of understanding may specify any of the following:

(A) That the foreign country shall verify the residency of the applicant in the foreign country prior to issuance of a driver license;

(B) That the department and the foreign country shall verify that the driver license held by the applicant is not subject to cancellation, suspension, or revocation and is valid, or has not been expired in excess of six (6) months; and

(C) Circumstances under which the department or the foreign country shall limit or deny issuance of a driver license.

(4) The department may enter into a memorandum of understanding with a foreign country regardless of whether the department has previously determined to administer a knowledge or skills test in the language of the foreign country.

(5) As used in this subsection (i):

(A) "Driver license" includes a driver license, an intermediate driver license, a temporary driver license, or a temporary intermediate driver license; and

(B) "Foreign country" means a country or political subdivision of a country other than the United States.

(j) The commissioner of safety is authorized to promulgate rules and regulations to effectuate the purposes of this section. All rules and regulations shall be promulgated in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5.

History: Acts 1937, ch. 90, § 6; 1943, ch. 56, § 1; mod. C. Supp. 1950, § 2715.14 (Williams, §§ 2715.19, 2715.19a); Acts 1955, ch. 114, § 4; 1967, ch. 97, § 1; 1967, ch. 370, § 1; 1969, ch. 176, §§ 1, 2; 1970, ch. 352, § 1; 1972, ch. 652, § 1; 1974, ch. 444, §§ 3, 4; 1974, ch. 748, § 31; modified; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 59-707; Acts 1980, ch. 817, § 1; 1982, ch. 767, § 1; 1984, ch. 942, § 1; 1987, ch. 446, § 9; 1988, ch. 584, § 7; 1988, ch. 978, § 1; T.C.A., §§ 55-7-107, 55-8-322; Acts 1989, ch. 60, §§ 5, 7; 1992, ch. 791, §§ 1-3; 1997, ch. 50, § 1; 2000, ch. 700, §§ 8, 9; 2004, ch. 778, § 4; 2007, ch. 194, §§ 11-13; 2013, ch. 62, § 1; 2015, ch. 24, § 7; 2015, ch. 216, § 1; 2015, ch. 309, § 1.