In addition to a driver license (DL) of the appropriate class, drivers who transport passengers or hazardous cargo are also required to have a certificate or DL endorsement that allows them to do so.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is responsible for monitoring the driver record of people holding and applying for endorsements or certificates. DMV notifies employers of additions to the driver record and takes appropriate action to protect the public. When DMV refuses, suspends, or revokes a certificate or endorsement, a hearing is provided to a driver upon request, except for mandatory actions.
Certificate or Endorsement
A certificate is issued as a separate document that a driver must have, in addition to the DL, to operate specific vehicles.
An endorsement is not a separate document like a certificate. Instead, DMV places a mark directly on the physical DL and, if the license is revoked, the DL must be surrendered (in this case, a new DL application is required to get another DL).
Each certificate and endorsement has different requirements related to the safe transportation of a specific passenger group or hazardous cargo. In general, each certificate or endorsement requires special training and testing. Each also requires higher medical standards and driver record standards than a class C non-commercial DL.
Below is a list of relevant certificates and endorsements along with their abbreviation/code.
Certificates & Endorsements
|GPPV||General Public Paratransit Vehicle|
|HAM||Hazardous Agricultural Materials|
|SPAB||School Pupils Activity Bus|
|VDDP||Vehicle for Developmentally Disabled Persons|
|TTD||Tow Truck Driver Clearance|
Hazardous Materials Endorsement
Starting on January 31, 2005, new federal regulations require a person who is applying for a California commercial driver license (CDL) with an original Hazardous Materials (HazMat) endorsement to undergo a security threat assessment. The USA Patriot Act requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to complete a security threat assessment (background records check) before the DMV issues a HazMat endorsement.
AMB, SCH, F/L, SPAB, GPPV, VDDP, YOB, and TTD certificate applicants require both an initial criminal background check and an ongoing criminal record review by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Drivers (except tow truck drivers) with any of the certificates and endorsements addressed in this guideline are negligent operators if they accumulate 4 negligent operator points within 12 months, 6 points in 24 months, or 8 points in 36 months. California Vehicle Code (CVC) §12810.5 [a]
Additionally, an SB, SPAB, YOB, F/L, GPPV, VDDP or AMB certificate is refused or revoked if the driver has a 2-point conviction or their DL is suspended, revoked, or placed on probation for any reason involving the safe operation of a motor vehicle within three years. CVC §§13369[a] and 13372[b]
If you are not qualified for issuance of the certificate or endorsement, your application will be refused. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) checks for any criminal record through the Department of Justice (and FBI, if applicable) on each original application it receives for a F/L, SB, SPAB, YOB, VDDP or GPPV certificate or TTD clearance.
DMV receives information about existing certificates and endorsements from numerous sources, including the automated driver record, DOJ, physicians, law enforcement, employers, and the media.
DMV reviews any disqualifying information and determines the appropriate action, such as issuing a warning letter, or processing an order of refusal, cancellation, restriction, term suspension, or revocation of the certificate or endorsement.
Discretionary Action Criteria
Bus Driver, F/L, PV, HM
CVC §13369(b) applies to bus driver certificates for pupil and disabled passenger transportation, F/L certificates, and PV and HM endorsements. It states that DMV may refuse to issue, renew, or may suspend or revoke the certificate or endorsement of any person who has:
- Three Accidents in 12 Months (CVC §13369 (c)(1)) – Caused or contributed to the cause of the accidents.
- Serious Accident in 24 Months (CVC §13369 (c)(2)) – Caused or contributed to the cause of an accident resulting in a fatality or serious injury or property damage in excess of $1000.
- Code Violations (CVC §13369 (c)(3)) – Violation of any provision of the CVC, or any rule or regulation pertaining to the safe operation of a motor vehicle for which the certificate or endorsement was issued.
Depending on the nature of the incident and on individual mitigating or aggravating circumstances, the actions listed below may be taken against a certificate or endorsement for violations of CVC §13369 (c)(1) through §13369(c)(2). These circumstances may include driving history, length of time the certificate has been held, severity of injury or property damage, evidence of negligence or willful disregard for safety, and potential risk.
- Warning Letter
You may receive a warning letter if you have committed a traffic law violation which was the primary cause of the accident, or if you have had only one violation in 36 months and the violation does not indicate willful disregard for safety.
- Thirty, Sixty, or Ninety Day Suspension
You may receive a suspension if:
- You broke the law and caused an accident as a result.
- You have been involved in at least one previous accident in a vehicle requiring a certificate or endorsement within the 12 months immediately preceding the accident.
- In addition to the current violation, there is one additional violation within 36 months, and neither violation indicates a willful disregard for safety, or if there is one minor violation which caused or contributed to an accident which did not result in injury, death, or serious property damage.
The certificate may be revoked or renewal refused if your driver record or other documentation shows one or more acts or behavior demonstrating a disregard for safety, if the violation resulted in a responsible accident resulting in injury, death, or serious property damage, or you have a history of accidents in vehicles requiring a certificate or endorsement.
Employers of SCH, SPAB, YOB, and GPPV drivers often take remedial action against their drivers who are involved in accidents in those vehicles. Employer remedial actions may be taken into account when determining appropriate action.
CVC §13369 (c)(4):
Actions that may be taken against the certificate or endorsement for violation of any restriction of the certificate, endorsement, or the CDL include a warning letter, 30-90 day suspension, refusal, and revocation.
CVC §12517.4 authorizes DMV and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to place restrictions on a certificate to assure the safe operation of the vehicle and the safe transportation of passengers. The types of restrictions depend on the type of vehicle used in the drive test and the abilities and physical condition of the driver. Examples of restrictions include:
- Automatic transmission
- Hydraulic brakes only
- Type 2 bus only
- Conventional or type 2 bus only
CVC §13369 (c)(5):
The certificate may be refused, suspended, or revoked if the driver has knowingly made a false statement or concealed a material fact on an application for a certificate or endorsement when the truth would have resulted in a department action. If the truth which was falsified or concealed requires refusal, the certificate will be refused on both grounds.
CVC §13369 (c)(6):
The certificate may be refused, suspended, or revoked if the driver has been determined to be a negligent or incompetent operator pursuant to CVC §12809 (e) and §12810.5, if mandatory action under CVC §13369 (b)(2) is not required. A PV or HM endorsement may be retained or issued, provided the negligent operator or other action imposed was probation only.
CVC §13369 (c)(7):
The certificate may be refused, suspended, or revoked if the driver has demonstrated irrational behavior to the extent that a reasonable and prudent person would have reasonable cause to believe that the ability to perform the duties of a driver may be impaired. For action to be warranted, both driving behavior and the certificate/endorsement holder’s ability to perform the duties required in driving the vehicle requiring the certificate or endorsement must be deemed unsafe.
CVC §13369 (c)(8):
The certificate may be refused, suspended, or revoked if the driver has excessive, habitual use, addiction to alcoholic beverages, narcotics, or dangerous drugs, or a clinical diagnosis thereof.
CVC §13369 (c)(9):
The certificate may be refused, suspended, or revoked if the driver does not meet the minimum medical standards established by the department in Article 2.1, CVC §28.18 and §28.19, of Title 13, California Code of Regulations. If there is an immediate risk to safety, the action may be taken under the authority of CVC §13953.
Under CVC §13369 (f)(1), reapplication may be made after one year from the effective date of denial or revocation, except in cases where a longer period of withdrawal is required by law.
CVC §13370 (b) applies only to bus driver certificates and provides that DMV may deny, suspend, or revoke a SCH, SPAB, GPPV, VDDP, or YOB certificate if any of the following causes apply to the applicant or certificate holder:
- Sex Offenses (CVC §13370 (b)(1))
The certificate may be denied, suspended, or revoked if the driver has been convicted of any crime specified in CVC §44424 of the Education Code within the seven years preceding the application date.
- Pursuant to CVC §13376 (c)(1), DMV may temporarily suspend a certificate if the holder or applicant is arrested for or charged with any sex offense as defined in §44010 of the Education Code. These actions are based on the driver’s arrest. It is not necessary to wait for court proceedings to determine if there is a conviction. If the court later convicts the driver of a sex offense, DMV will revoke the certificate which was previously suspended for the sex offense. If the conviction is of a lesser offense, DMV removes the suspension or refusal from the record and may take action on moral turpitude grounds. If the charge(s) is dismissed, DMV’s action is removed from the record.
- Moral Turpitude (CVC §13370 (b)(2))
The certificate may be denied, suspended, or revoked if the driver has committed any act involving moral turpitude. A correlation must exist between the act, behavior, or crime and the safe transportation of passengers.
- Felony Conviction (CVC §13370 (b)(3))
The certificate may be denied, suspended, or revoked if the driver has been convicted of any offense not specified in CVC §13370, and other than a sex offense, that is punishable as a felony, within the seven years preceding the application date. A correlation must exist between the crime and pupil transportation safety.
- Employment Dismissal (CVC §13370 (b)(4))
The certificate may be denied, suspended, or revoked if the driver has been dismissed as a driver for a cause relating to pupil transportation safety.
- Drugs (CVC §13370 (b)(5))
The certificate may be denied, suspended, or revoked if the driver has been convicted, within the seven years preceding the application date, of any offense relating to the use, sale, possession, or transportation of narcotics, habit-forming drugs, or dangerous drugs, excepted as provided in paragraph (3) of subdivision (a).
- Reapplication (under CVC §13370 (c))
Reapplication may be made no sooner than one year from the effective date of a refusal, revocation, or suspension except in cases where a longer period of withdrawal is required by law.
The “dismissal for cause” certificate revocation under CVC §13370 (b)(4) applies to a school bus (or any other bus driver certificate) driver who has been terminated from employment as a bus driver. “Cause” means that the driver committed an act that compromised pupil transportation safety.
This is a discretionary action and hearings are allowed. DMV is required to prove at the hearing that the employer notified DMV of the dismissal. This can be done by receiving into evidence the employer’s report of dismissal.
DMV relies on the employer’s determination that the dismissal involved pupil transportation safety, even if the relation to safety is not apparent to DMV. If the employer’s statement is incomplete or lacking the specific reason for the dismissal, DMV can subpoena the employer. At the hearing, it will be determined whether the dismissal was for a cause involving pupil transportation safety.
Under CVC §13372, DMV may refuse, revoke or suspend an ambulance driver certificate of any person who gives any cause, before or after issuance of the certificate, for discretionary refusal of certification. If there is an immediate risk to safety due to a physical or mental condition, an action under CVC §13953 may be taken.
What do I need to drive an ambulance?
A California Ambulance Driver Certificate (DL 61) is a document issued by DMV authorizing a person to drive an ambulance used to respond to emergency calls.
Ambulance driver certificates are not required for persons driving ambulances:
- In the line of duty as salaried, regular, full-time police officers, deputy sheriffs, or members of a fire department of a public agency.
- Into California to provide interstate emergency service only, but based out of state, if the drivers are appropriately licensed or certified by the state of origin.
Volunteers, part-time employees, or members of a department whose duties are primarily clerical or administrative in nature must obtain an ambulance driver certificate to drive an ambulance.
To apply for an Ambulance Driver Certificate, you will need to:
- Be at least 18 years of age.
- Hold a driver license that is valid in California.
- Visit a DMV office (appointments are recommended).
- Pay an application fee.
- $25 for an original certificate.
- Pass an Ambulance Driver Certification examination.
- Allow sufficient time for testing, DMV will not administer knowledge tests within 30 minutes of closing. See hours of operation for the field office you are visiting.
- Submit a completed Medical Examination Report (MER) Form (MCSA 5875) and Medical Examiner’s Certification (MEC) Form (MCSA 5876).
- Submit a completed Request for Live Scan Service Application (DMV 8016). (Not required on renewal applications.)
Ambulance Driver Certificates are valid for a period not to exceed 5 years and 6 months from the date of issuance.
The Ambulance Driver Handbook (HPH 82.4, Revised January 2015) incorrectly states an applicant for an Ambulance Driver Certificate must hold a valid California driver license. The correct requirement is an applicant for an Ambulance Driver Certificate must hold a driver license that is valid in California. This will be reflected in the next revision of the HPH 82.4. The Ambulance Driver Handbook may be purchased at DMV field offices for $5.
DMV may refuse, revoke, or suspend an ambulance driver certificate under the following conditions:
- Felony Conviction (CVC§ 13372 (b)(1))
The driver has been convicted during the preceding seven years of any offense punishable as a felony or has been convicted during that period of any theft.
- Moral Turpitude (CVC§ 13372 (b)(2))
The driver has committed any act involving moral turpitude, including fraud or intentional dishonesty for personal gain, within the preceding seven years.
- Use of Alcohol (CVC§ 13372 (b)(3))
The driver habitually and excessively uses intoxicating beverages.
- Drugs (CVC §13372 (b)(4))
The driver convicted within the preceding seven years of any offense relative to the use, sale, possession, or transportation of narcotics, addictive or dangerous drugs, or of any misdemeanor involving force, violence, threat, or intimidation.
- On Probation (CVC §13372 (b)(5))
The driver is on probation to DMV for a cause involving the unsafe operation of a motor vehicle.
- Sanction for Unsafe Driving (CVC §13372 (b)(6))
Within the three years immediately preceding the application, the driver has had their DL suspended or revoked by DMV for a cause involving the unsafe operation of a motor vehicle, or, within the same period, has been convicted of any of the following:
- Failing to stop and render aid in an accident involving injury or death.
- Driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, or under the combined influence of intoxicating liquor and any drug.
- Reckless driving, or reckless driving involving bodily injury.
- Fraudulent Application (CVC §13372 (b)(7))
The driver has knowingly falsified or failed to disclose a material fact in their application. An applicant refused certification under this provision shall not be issued an ambulance driver certificate within 12 months of the refusal.
- Accident(s) (CVC §13372 (b)(8))
The driver has been involved as a driver in any motor vehicle accident causing death or bodily injury or in three or more motor vehicle accidents during the preceding one year period.
- Medical (CVC §13372 (b)(9))
The certificate may be refused, suspended, or revoked if the driver does not meet the minimum medical standards established by DMV in Article 2.1, §28.18 and §28.19, of Title 13, California Code of Regulations.
- Irrational Behavior (CVC §13372 (b)(10))
The driver has demonstrated irrational behavior or incurred a physical disability to the extent that a reasonable and prudent person would have reasonable cause to believe that the ability to perform the duties normally expected of an ambulance driver may be impaired.
- Code Violation (CVC §13372 (b)(11))
The driver has violated any provision of the Vehicle Code or any regulation adopted by the Commissioner of the CHP relating to the operation of emergency ambulances during the preceding one-year period.
- Employment Dismissal (CVC §13372 (b)(12))
The driver has committed any act that warrants dismissal, as provided in §13373.
- Reapplication (under CVC §13372 (c))
Reapplication depends on the time period indicated by each of the above subdivisions. Some time periods are indefinite.
- Moral turpitude is defined as “an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community.”
- An action based on commission of acts where moral turpitude is involved does not require conviction of a crime. Some acts involving moral turpitude include activity such as immoral sexual behavior, or crimes for personal gain, fraud, or theft.
- The concept of moral turpitude depends on the degree of public harm produced by the act in question. In evaluating the conduct, the purpose for which the moral turpitude standard was established must be recognized, which was to insure that the public and other persons dealing with the licensee be protected against them.
- A working definition of moral turpitude used by driver safety hearing officers, is: “Conduct which is contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.”
- Current law requires more than the fact that a person was convicted of a crime; there must be a logical relationship between the criminal conduct and the licensee’s fitness to engage in the profession at issue.
A court dismissal of a criminal conviction under Penal Code §1203.4 is not treated as a dismissal for purposes of the certificate action. Such a dismissal means the applicant has successfully completed court imposed probation. However, the offense still remains a conviction for license and certificate purposes must be disclosed on the certificate application.
The certificate may be refused, suspended, or revoked if the driver does not meet the minimum medical standards established by DMV in Article 2.1, CVC §28.18 and 28.19, of Title 13, California Code of Regulations. In addition to determining whether the driver meets the standards, the demands of the duties, and responsibilities of an ambulance or school bus driver are considered.
These drivers must possess skills and abilities which exceed those of a regular commercial vehicle driver. Ambulance drivers must perform under emergency conditions, which may involve moving patients on stretchers for unknown distances in situations such as stairways and other hazards. School bus drivers must cope with hazardous road conditions, children of various ages, and degrees of physical mobility.
In evaluating the medical condition, elements such as the hours the driver works, scope of driving, mileage, driving record, and whether the driver compensates for the disability are considered.
The Hazardous Agricultural Materials Certificate (HAM) under CVC §12804.2 is required by persons who transport agricultural HM or waste without a CDL. Individuals who are qualified for the HAM certificate are exempt from the HM endorsement requirement which is normally required to transport HM or waste.
To qualify, applicants must meet the commercial driver medical standards under CVC §12804.9, or be capable of compensating for any medical disability, and complete specialized training approved by the CHP. They must also meet the exemption criteria listed below:
- Be at least 21 years old.
- Be employed in an agricultural operation.
- Hauls hazardous waste or transports a load which requires placards.
- Operates a vehicle which is an implement of husbandry or requires a Class C driver license and the vehicle is controlled (owned or leased) or operated by a farmer.
- Does not travel more than 50 miles from one point to another.
- Submit a completed Health Questionnaire (DL 546 form) and a HAM program form. (See Appendix A.)
If the applicant does not meet the medical standards, DMV will refuse to issue the HAM certificate. If the person becomes medically unqualified after the HAM certificate is issued, a restriction that “the driver may not transport material requiring placards/markings per CVC §27903 is added to the DL and the driving record. The DL must be surrendered to add the restriction.
- Appeal Rights:
If a person does not meet the medical standards at the time of filing an application or at any time after the certificate is issued, and DMV takes the above described sanction(s), they are entitled to a hearing.
- Possible Decisions:
The hearing officer may sustain the action if it is warranted as stated in the issues. A set aside verdict may be warranted if the driver is qualified based on their ability to compensate for the disability, provided it is a waivable condition. An area type restriction may be appropriate, depending on the medical condition and compensating factors. If appropriate, probation may also be imposed.
Hearing requests are granted by DMV under the following guidelines. Pursuant to CVC §13371, a hearing request must be made in writing within 15 days from the date the order of action is filed. However, hearing requests for AMB certificate actions pursuant to CVC §13374 must be made in writing within 10 days from the mail date. Refusals of original certificate and AMB certificates are not granted stays if there is reasonable cause to believe the stay would pose a significant risk to the safety of persons being transported.
Under CVC §13371 (c) a person who has had a DMV hearing regarding a SCH, SPAB, YOB, VDDP or GPPV certificate, has an opportunity, following the hearing, to submit a written “statement of exception” to the hearing officer’s findings and proposed decision.
Upon receipt of the findings and proposed decision, the driver has 24 days after the mailing date to submit a written statement to DMV. If the driver submits a statement, it is forwarded to the review board. The statement cannot contain new evidence or testimony not presented at the DMV hearing, unless the driver establishes to the satisfaction of the review board that the new evidence could not have been obtained with due diligence prior to the hearing.
Upon conclusion of a SCH, SPAB, YOB, GPPV, VDDP or AMB certificate hearing, the hearing officer submits written findings and a proposed decision to a review board.
The bus driver certificate action review board and the ambulance review board are each comprised of three members. Each board has a member appointed by DMV and CHP. In addition, the ambulance driver committee has a member from the Emergency Medical Health Service Authority, and the school bus driver board has a member from the Department of Education.
The members of the review boards render a final decision after a review of the findings and proposed decision. The board’s decision may be to sustain, modify, or set aside DMV’s action. They may also remand a hearing back to the hearing officer if the hearing is incomplete or the recommendation is lacking soundness.
DMV notifies the driver of the board’s decisions.