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How to Start a Driving School in Maryland: A Step-by-Step Guide

Here you’ll learn everything you need to start your Driving School in Maryland

Compared to many states, Maryland makes it relatively easy to establish a driving school. You still need to complete forms, and meet requirements, but the state seems to be driving-school friendly.

Maryland driving schools MUST offer classroom, on-road, and the required parental class in order to be licensed.

How to open your driving school in Maryland

Driving School Licensing and Requirements

General requirements

To operate a driving school in Maryland, you will need to be licensed by the state. Licenses are valid for two years from date of issue; applications must be received at least 2 weeks before the expiration date. You must submit a completed application packet which includes the application form and the following required documents:

  • A completed fire inspection form
  • Zoning and other local approvals for both the business office and classroom space
  • Authorization for a criminal background check
  • Certificate of liability insurance
  • Surety bond information–the bond needs to be in the amount of $40,000
  • Vehicle information
  • You must also provide
  • A list of instructors as well as a copy of the curriculum
  • Proof of Workers’ Compensation insurance
  • Instructor’s applications.
  • Incorporation documents
  • Vehicle inspection documents

If you rent space in a public school for your classroom portion, you must complete a special form.

The current regulations for Drivers’ Schools and the Driver Education Program are a bit repetitive. A driving school does not offer the full 30-hour/6-hour Driver Education Program, which requires certification. You may apply for licensing and certification simultaneously.

Maryland requires the following minimum insurance coverages:

  • $1,000,000 in general liability
  • $500,000 combined single limit for automobile liability (on each vehicle)
  • $100,000 for damage to rental premises
  • $10,000 medical expenses
  • $1,000,000 personal injury
  • $2,000,000 general aggregate insurance

You must carry workers’ compensation insurance covering them-, even if you’re the only one working at the school, in the event of injury while on the job. You should, of course, consider higher coverages and/or an umbrella policy to cover your operations.

You must contact the MVA Driver Instructional Services Division for the certification packet. It is not available online.

Driving School Owner’s License

Maryland places few personal requirements on owners of driving schools. The main bar would be conviction for a number of crimes involving fraudulent behavior or moral turpitude.

The owner(s) must be at least 21 years old.

You may not operate without a license for your program, and it is expected that your program of instruction will meet or exceed the requirements set by the MVA.

Driving Instructor’s License

While no specific requirements are set for driving school owners, instructors must demonstrate qualification before they receive a license from Maryland. Submit the application form and the $25 fee. Instructors must meet the following qualifications.

  • Be at least 21 years old. and have at least a high school diploma (or the equivalent).
  • Must have a valid driver’s license.
  • Not have a suspended or revoked license or more than 4 points on the license.
  • Pass the criminal background check.

Driving instructors may be licensed for either classroom instruction, or behind-the-wheel training, or both. Driving instructors must also pass a required course in driving instruction.

Certified instructors must complete courses in educational methods for classroom driving instruction and behind-the-wheel instruction.

Location

You are generally free to establish your business anywhere you see fit–meeting the requirements outlined below. You can choose to have classroom space, or you may conduct classroom driver education at off-site locations, including local public or private schools. Your contract with the school or other location should be included in your license application.

Your office must have a telephone connected to voicemail or an answering machine, as well as a computer with email access. You must have a visible sign on the exterior, and keep regular business hours.

Your office space must meet local and state building requirements, and it must be accessible to the public during your regular business hours. It must be accessible to persons with disabilities as well as all guidelines set by the Registrar.

Your office and classroom may be in the same space (as opposed to separated in the same building or unit), you must adjust office hours so that office hours and classroom instruction do not coincide.

Your school license must be conspicuously posted in your business office. Along with the license, you should display your hours, fees, refund policy, and complaints procedure.

Records must be maintained at your main business office.

Classroom facilities must be in a building suitable for instruction. Compliance with local and state sanitation requirements is expected. The classroom must be equipped with suitable desks, tables, chairs and other items appropriate to the setting.

Certified school classrooms must have sufficient seating and writing surfaces for all students. You must have a chalkboard or whiteboard at least 4’ x 6’, projection system, and a TV monitor at least 25” diagonally.

Your school name cannot be substantially similar to that of another driving school, and you may not use the words “State”, “Government”, “Municipal”, “City”, or “County” in the school name, and you must use your school’s name only in advertising and publicity.

Don’t ever give a student or parent the impression that your instruction guarantees receiving a driver’s license–you may mention your pass rate.

Vehicles

Your vehicles need to have dual controls for the brakes. They must have passed the most recent Maryland safety and emissions inspections–and those inspections may be the most rigorous in the country. An airbag for the driver is expected.

Signage needs to be on the vehicle, identifying the name of the school and telephone number–letters must be at least 1.5” high and .5” wide, and be visible from front and rear or the sides. “Student Driver” signs should also be visible from the front and rear.

Records and Contracts

You will need to keep records of all students and instruction for at least three years after they finish their training with you. They may be kept on paper or electronically. The records you need to keep are:

  • Instructor employment records
  • Vehicle insurance, maintenance, inspection, and registration records
  • Surety bond certificates
  • Student test results and evaluations
  • Number of students trained annually
  • Signed student rights/responsibilities forms.

Records are open to inspection by the Department.

You must submit an annual report by January 31 of each year. The MVA provides the form for this report. Certified schools provide more information.

Certified schools also need to submit, within 1 day, certification reports for students successfully completing the course

Certified schools must have each student (and parent, if the student is under 18) sign a statement of rights and responsibilities form. The form must include the following, as outlined on page 9 of the certified schools regulations:

  • Classroom and testing locations, dates, and times
  • Cancellation, payment, refund, and retest policies and fees
  • Remedial training fees
  • Makeup policies
  • Behind-the-wheel instruction policies
  • Payment plans
  • Your commitment to update records within 3 days
  • The complaint policy

The Driving School Curriculum in Maryland

Driving schools in Maryland may offer classroom education, behind-the-wheel training, or both.

Certified schools must offer a 30 hour classroom instruction course

  • No more than 30 students may be in one class.
  • No class may receive more than 3 hours of instruction per day.
  • No class may start before 8 am or after 8 pm.
  • Classes must end by 930 pm.
  • Classes must be provided a 15 minute break after 90 minutes of instruction.

Maryland expects that you will follow the state Driver Education Program curriculum. While you may create your own, it will require approval from the Registry.

The Maryland curriculum and sequence is available online.

Your behind-the-wheel course should be structured so that no student receives more than 2 hours behind -the-wheel instruction in a day. The required 6 hours of behind-the-wheel education should be completed within 18 weeks.

Commercial Driver’s License Instruction

Maryland CDL schools should would with the Maryland Higher Education Commission for school licensing.

Starting a Small Business in Maryland

Your driving school is not just subject to the requirements for driver’s education in Maryland. You also need to establish your Driving School as a small business, and have to consider a number of factors. The form of business you take up, as well as the procedures, are appropriate topics of conversation with your lawyer and accountant. The considerations we offer here are not legal advice, but should provide you with things to think about as you set up your business.

Business Registration

All businesses need to register in Maryland, especially the business name—the “doing business as” certificate. Banks may not be willing to set up your account until you have that DBA form. We’ll include where to register in the business structures below.

You will also need to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number. Banks may need it for your business accounts, and you may be wanting to employ people. To obtain an EIN, go to the IRS website and complete the application form you find linked there.

You should also register with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Business name

Search for available names in the Maryland database.

Sole Proprietorship

Owning your own business is the easiest one to set up, but also may open you to liability concerns. As a sole proprietor, your business is simply part of your life. You keep a separate set of books, and complete a Schedule C for your 1040 form every April.

Sole proprietorships can expose the proprietor for full liability, even with insurance. That may mean that if you are sued, you may lose your home and property, as well as your personal bank accounts and other assets. This risk may not be worth the ease and independence.

In Maryland, the big step you have to take is to register your trade name with the Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Corporations and LLCs

You may set up a full corporation (“Inc.”) as your business structure. Corporations limit your liability for loss to your investment in it, as a general rule (although banks may require you to be obligated personally if you take out a loan to get your business going). This form of business keeps your personal assets safe.

As an owner of a corporation, you’ll have to set up your driving school consistently with the rules for corporations in Maryland. You’ll also have to decide whether to be an S Corporation or a C Corporation. Generally, the S Corporation form is set up for small businesses. It allows income and taxes to pass through to the owners. You will want to discuss these forms with your attorney and accountant.

You may be able to set your driving school up as an LLC in Maryland. The LLC form provides the same limited liability as a Corporation, but do not have to comply with the corporate formalities most states require, including items like bylaws, required stockholder meetings, and minutes (although minutes of meetings are probably a good idea).

You’ll have to discuss the advantages and disadvantages for the LLC with your attorney and accountant.

Both Corporations and LLCs file with the Secretary of State. In addition to name reservation, you’ll need to submit the following forms

Now What Do I Do?

Once you’ve complied with all the legal requirements to be both a driving school and a small business in Maryland, you need to get students.

Getting students requires marketing—largely on the internet. You will need the following systems set up to obtain students:

  • A website—focused on the types of students you want to attract, and aimed at your locality.
  • The website should also include a blog, which allows you write about a variety topics and engage in Search Engine Optimization—which will drive traffic to your site.
  • A Facebook page, linked to your website, to become noticed and drive traffic.
  • Getting testimonials from successful students.

Marketing is something you will have to devote time to. DrivingSchool.Marketing can help you get the best bang for your marketing buck.

Conclusion

Disclaimer: This page is part of DrivingSchool.Marketing’s series of state and provincial pages designed to help entrepreneurs like you start driving schools. States change their regulations, or the web pages they host their forms. While we believe these rules are accurate as of the date of publication, we cannot guarantee full accuracy. Please let us know if you spot any problems.

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Josh Meah

Josh Meah

Josh is the CEO of DrivingSchool.Marketing. His goal is to be the marketing and business development partner of driving schools around the world, helping them become thriving businesses while also expanding general awareness for the importance of traffic safety standards and education.

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