featured image for a blog post about the traffic control contractor license
  • Construction Zone Traffic Control Contractors offer a highly specialized service to Construction companies engaging in any project that impedes or is near traffic. 
  • Commonly used by public works contractors engaging in the construction, maintenance or repair of freeways, roadways and or below ground pipeline projects. 
  • Traffic control services are often outsourced to firms that specialize in ensuring a safe construction site as well as providing traffic control equipment for lease or rental. 

This article will provide you with every single detail you need to know about:

  • Construction zone traffic control
  • C-31 License requirements 
  • California Contractor License exam questions 
  • Study guides 
  • How to fill out the C-31 License application

What is a Construction Zone Traffic Control Contractor?

Construction worker with stop sign directing traffic around a construction site

"A construction zone traffic control contractor prepares or removes lane closures, flagging, or traffic diversions, utilizing portable devices, such as cones, delineators, barricades, sign stands, flashing beacons, flashing arrow trailers, and changeable message signs, on roadways, including, but not limited to, public streets, highways, or any public conveyance" - CSLB.GOV

The C-31 license is the classification required in the state of California for all persons looking to bid on Construction Zone Traffic Control projects where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500.

A Construction Zone Traffic Control license does not allow you to bid on a project outside of the realm of traffic control.

Duties of a Traffic Control Contractor

Traffic Control Contractors sometimes referred to as traffic management contractors generally vary based on the specific needs of the client but generally include:

  • Designing traffic control plans
  • Creating and installing customized traffic control signs
  • Installation of traffic control devices
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    Implementing lane closures
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    Directing traffic
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    Loading and securing construction equipment for transport
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    Applying for lane closure permits and notifying the public of construction
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    Maintaining job site saftey
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    Bidding, estimating, accounting and book-keeping

Construction ZoneTraffic Control Contractors may also be required to hold an American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) flagger and traffic supervisor certification.

Traffic Control companies must also have traffic signs approved by the California Department of Transportation.

Construction Zone Traffic Control Subcontractor

a street sign that says road closed

In many cases, traffic control contractors work directly with a General Contractor or General Engineering Contractor.

They may continually provide traffic control services for multiple projects over an extended period of time. 

General Contractors seek out companies that holds the traffic control license as they typically have all the necessary equipment and are familiar with the process of pulling the correct permits required. 

General Contractors oversee that the traffic control subcontractor has not only executed their duties in adherence to the codes and laws of a specific county or municipality but often to the specific customized requests of the client.

For a deeper look at the functions of a General Contractor check out this article. 

The CSLB

logo of the CSLB, which is the governing agency for contractors in the state of california. Contractor license law is essentially set by the CSLB

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is the governing body for all contractors in the state of California.

Their sole responsibility is to protect the consumer public and ensure that anyone charging over $500 for construction services is qualified and registered with the state of California.

The traffic control license is issued to contractors by the CSLB. ​

The CSLB administers applications, exams, and maintains a database of all active and inactive contractor license numbers which are public domain.

How to get a Traffic Control License

To get a C-31 license in California, you must prove a minimum of 4 years journeyman level experience and pass a two part state exam with the Contractor State License Board.

To qualify for an exam date you must meet the the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a valid Driver's License or USA Issued Identification
  • Have a Social Security or ITIN #
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    Not Currently be on probation or parole

You must also have:

  • 4 Years Journey Level Experience
  • A Qualifying Individual to sign off on your experience
  • A way to prove your experience if the state asks for documentation

What is Journey Level Experience?

man holding a traffic sign that says slow on the road in front of a jobsite

Journey level experience is experience gained working unsupervised full time for either a construction zone traffic control company, General Contractor, union, or directly under someone that holds the traffic control License.

Some Journeyman level tradesman have also completed apprenticeship programs. A Journeyman level tradesman can perform all the duties associated with his or her trade.

The state will want to see 4 full-time years experience within the last 10 years. The years do not need to be consecutive, but they do need to be 4 years in total.

Signature of a Qualifying Individual

The following people may be used as Qualifying Individuals to sign off on your experience when applying for the traffic control license:

  • Licensed General Contractor
  • C-31 traffic control license Holder
  • Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
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    Former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
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    Business Associate
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    Fellow Journeyman
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    Union Representative

Filling out the C-31 Traffic Control License Application

a white persons hand holding a pen filling out a white application

Your Qualifying Individual will also need to provide a brief but detailed description of your masonry knowledge and skillset.

The way this description is written will be critical to whether or not your application is accepted. For example:

“Ed set up some cones and directed traffic for us while we fixed an underground pipe” will not be accepted by the CSLB.

Your description will want to read something more like:

"Ed has Verified permits for traffic control projects, knows proper procedures for flagging, owns and maintains all personal protective equipment, and has designed traffic control plans" etc.

Work experience for the Traffic Control License

large construction site, that traffic control contractors typically work in

There is a possibility that the CSLB will ask you to submit documentation supporting your construction zone traffic control experience.

The state board gives you many ways to prove your experience including Tax Returns, check stubs, receipts, invoices and even contracts.

The contractor's state license board receives thousands of applications per month so there is a good chance they won’t request further documentation of your experience but if you are one of the applicants that get reviewed you will need to be ready to submit this documentation.

Once your application has been accepted, you should receive your exam date within a matter of weeks.

Application Processing, Fees and Criminal History

The average application processing time is between 6-8 weeks.

Typically you receive your exam date with another 3-4 weeks notice before actually going to take the exam.

  • This time frame can fluctuate based on many factors including:
  • Time of year (processing time slows down during the holidays),
  • Criminal History,
  • Request to prove further documentation of experience
  • Potential mistakes on your application.

In total the entire process should take 90 days assuming none of the mentioned issues arise.

The current state fees are:

1. $330 State Application Fee ( one time fee per application sent to the state board )

2. $200 License Activation Fee ( paid every two years )

Upon passing the exam, you will also be required to provide a Contractor Bond numberFor more information on bonding. Check out my article on Contractor Bonds.  

Can you get a Contractors License with a Felony in California?

Wooden gavel and two law books

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting the construction zone traffic control License.

Thousands of contractors get licensed each year despite their criminal records. Be honest on the application, even if the felony or misdemeanor happened years ago and even if it was expunged.

BE 100% HONEST ON THE APPLICATION, because they will see everything when you do a live scan fingerprinting. The CSLB handles criminal records on a case by case basis. 

Fraud, Embezzlement, and Forgery

Remember, the state boards responsibility is to protect the public.

In my experience, they are mainly concerned with criminal charges associated with fraud, embezzlement, forgery, or some type of financial related crime. 

If your conviction does not fall under these categories most likely, you will have no issues when applying for a masonry license, but you will need to be prepared to submit any court documents or prove rehabilitation at the state’s request.​

In the state of California, you are required to divulge any criminal charges when applying for any type of state license even if they have been expunged.

Contractor License Exam

The traffic control license exam will be:

  • 115 Questions of Contractor LAW
  • 115 Questions on masonry
  • 3 hours to complete each portion
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    Multiple choice exam done on a computer
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    Closed Book

The Construction Zone Traffic Control license (C-31) Examination is divided into four key sections:

1.    Planning and Estimation (16%)

  • Designing traffic control plans
  • Reading and evaluating plans to determine scope of work
  • Evaluating compliance with CA MUTCD and other regulations
  • Estimating material, equipment, and labor costs

2.    Permits and Notifications (4%)

  • Verifying permits for traffic control projects
  • Notifying the public and the appropriate agencies regarding traffic control

3.    Traffic Control Installation (56%)

  • Developing installation plans with contingencies
  • Installing traffic control devices
  • Procedures for flagging
  • Inspecting and maintaining traffic control zones
  • Removing traffic control devices
  • Implementing lane closures

4.    Safety (24%)

  • Personal protective equipment
  • Evaluating traffic control equipment
  • Loading and securing equipment for transport
  • Implementing safe environments and emergency procedures

Recommenced Resources

CSLB Test Locations

The C-31 Traffic control license exam is administered on a computer. Currently, the CSLB testing locations are in: 

  • Berkeley 
  • Fresno 
  • Norwalk 
  • Oxnard 
  • Sacramento 
  • San Bernardino 
  • San Diego  
  • San Jose

The Contractors State License Board will assign you a testing center based on your location. The state exam is not available online.

You are allowed to bring a pre-approved translator with you. The CSLB will grant you 18 months after your application is accepted to pass both examinations.

You must wait three weeks before retaking the state exam ( $60 per retake ) A 70% score will be required to pass.

For more information about what is on the California Contractor LAW Exam, be sure to check out our blog post covering everything you need to know.

Contractor license exam prep

construction traffic sign indicating that there is a construction crew digging on this street

Getting your traffic control license can be a smooth process if you have the right information.

Understanding the difference between how things are done everyday on the job site vs. how the state will expect you to perform your trade is a very important part of passing the exam. 

Trade Experience vs Trade Exam Questions

Applicants get surprised by how different the subject matter on the state exam is from their years of first-hand experience.

They get confused when they see terms used to describe tools or job site practices.

Remember, they are testing you on all the things you will will be allowed to bid on, so make sure that you are knowledgable on all aspects of your trade. 

Being prepared is the most important thing you can do in ensuring your success on the contractor license exam. 

Consistent Study Process

Studying C-31 license practice tests a long with explanations and diagrams for as little as 10 minutes a day is a small investment to make, but will increase your likelihood of success.

It will be essential to study a standardized resource that will give you the information that you need, which is to pass the state exam.

For schools and C-31 traffic control license study guides designed to help you the state exam, check out my post on the best resources to pass your state exam.

Construction Zone Traffic Control Training

logo for the ATSSA. a government agency dedicated to making roads safeer

If you don’t have the 4 years required journeyman level experience to obtain a C-31 license, not to worry.

Your journey begins here. 

Traffic Control work is highly specialized with an unlimited amount of opportunity.

Whether you are brand new to the industry, have dabbled over the years or are coming back and want to brush up your skills, there is a myriad of resources available to help you learn the basics or get up to speed. Books, Certification Classes, and courses are available in most cities and online. 

Traffic Control Certifications

Usually someone looking to enter traffic control would begin obtaining certification with the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) and then find a traffic control company to get a job for.

After gaining the necessary 4 years journeyman level experience, you would then be able to apply for the C-31 Traffic Control license. 

For information on courses in your area or books to get you on the right path click here.

Logo for the United States environmental protection agency. While there is no handyman license, there are a variety of certifications offered by the EPA that are available.

Containing lead paint when making alterations to a home or structure built before 1978 is vital for construction zone traffic control contractors.

Having a solid understanding of the health effects of lead paint and proper procedures to contain or remove it are valuable skills for all tradesman working in a residential or commercial setting.

Traffic control contractors looking to build a profitable business must position themselves as experts and the authority within their industry.

They must be a source of information for their clients and community if they want referrals and repeat business.

For more information on adhering to EPA Standards when dealing with Lead Paint check out my article on lead safety.

blueprint reading course for those looking to get the general contractor license in california

It is critical for construction zone traffic control contractors to be able to follow specific designs and blueprints to correctly identify the full area of a construction site.  

Safety is the most essential aspects of the traffic control license, so being able to see parts of a construction project that may pose particular danger to the public and applying the necessary traffic control procedures is very important. 

The ability to quickly interpret construction blueprints is an invaluable skill for all tradesman but is especially important for traffic control contractors.

For a basic overview of Construction blueprints be sure to check out our Online Blue Print Reading course.

Get Started!

There is a massive opportunity in this space for individuals who have the required experience, professional grade equipment, traffic control license, and bonding. 

Companies that obtain the construction zone traffic control License whom are professional, safe and offer excellent customer service can quickly build a profitable business.

Offering a critical services to lucrative construction businesses that require work zone safety, can position you to become very wealthy.

Getting the C-31 license can be a huge step in your career if you are looking to start a business or even become an RMO.

Just take action!

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