Guide to Commercial Driver's License

commercial driver's license
If you are looking to start an exciting and well-paying career, then you may want to look in to getting your commercial driver’s license (CDL). This license is required for anyone working as a truck driver. And believe it or not, earning your CDL won’t take that long and it is fairly easy.

In this guide we are going to delve deeper in the world of commercial driver’s license. We will take a look at any requirements you have to have, the different types of licenses and more. This can be your quick resource for finding out more about commercial driver’s license.

If there is one constant in the trucking industry it is that all truck drivers must earn their commercial driver’s license in order to drive. This license is required by the federal government. The CDL was created to help foster safety and a set of nationwide standards for those driving commercial motor vehicles (CMV).

Since this page is meant to help those looking to learn more about commercial driver’s license, we want your feedback. If you have any suggestions, comments or questions, please feel free to email us. We will quickly get back with you with your answers or to discuss these topics further.

What is a Commercial Driver’s License?

I think we can all agree that driving a CMV is a lot different than driving that car in your driveway. A CMV takes a higher level of knowledge and skill along with some experience to operate it safely and properly. This is one of the main reasons that you will have to apply for and earn a commercial driver’s license.

In October 1987, the federal government signed in to law that started to require that anyone who wants or does drive a CMV must obtain a commercial driver’s license by passing a series of examinations. This was to ensure that drivers of CMVs including tractors and buses were adequately qualified to do so. This in turn would remove unsafe drivers from the roadways and hopefully prevent a large number of traffic accidents and deaths.

There are three different classifications for commercial driver’s licenses namely A, B and C. Click on the tab below to tell the difference.

Classification of Commercial Driver's License
Other topics on commercial driver’s license that you may find useful can be found in the tabs below.
CDL InfoRequirementsState InfoTest InfoEndorsementsWhy Get One?

How Can I get a CDL?

A commercial driver’s license isn’t necessarily hard to get, but you will have to work to earn it. This may involve enrolling in a training program and spending a lot of time studying for your CDL exam. Typically those who want to get their commercial driver’s license will follow the steps listed below.

  • Get a commercial learners permit (CLP)
  • Meet the state and federal requirements
  • Enroll in a truck driving training program
  • Successfully complete training
  • Schedule appointment your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV)
  • Fill out and turn in the application
  • Show social security card and state driver’s license
  • Pay the required fees
  • Pass both written tests with 80% or higher grade
  • Prove your skills in the demonstration test

What Are the Requirements for a CDL?

In order to get your commercial driver’s license you will need to meet a number of federal and possibly state requirements. The state requirements may vary from state to state. Below you will find a list of the federal requirements to fulfill the federal regulations.

  • A person will not be able to drive a commercial motor vehicle unless they have qualified to drive one by earning a commercial driver’s license
  • Must be at least 21 years old to drive across state lines, some states require 18 years old to drive in-state
  • Must be able to read, write and speak the English language proficiently
  • Must be able to understand traffic signs and signals in English
  • Must be physically qualified according to the statutes from the Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • May have one commercial driver’s license issued from only one state
  • Must be able to furnish or prepare a list of violations according to 391.27 to their employer
  • Must not be disqualified from holding a commercial driver’s license or not able to drive a commercial motor vehicle according to the rules in 391.15
  • Must successfully complete a driver’s road exam and provide the certificate to their employer

What are the CDL Requirements by State?

Some states have added requirements in order to get a CDL. For more information on your state requirements for a commercial driver’s license, you can contact your state’s DMV or click on the state name below.

Commercial Driver’s License
State DMV Information
State Address Phone Number Website
Alabama 502 Washington Ave
Montgomery, AL 36104
(334) 242-4259 Alabama Department
of Public Safety
Alaska 1300 W Benson BLVD
Anchorage, AK 99503
Anchorage: 269-5551
Toll Free Alaska: (855) 269-5551
Toll Free Out-of-State: (907) 269-5551
Alaska Division of
Motor Vehicles
Arizona 4335 U.S. 60
Claypool, AZ 85532
(928) 473-2405 Arizona Motor
Vehicles Services
Arkansas Ragland Building
1900 W 7th St, Ste 1100
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 682-4692 Arkansas Office of
Motor Vehicle
California PO Box 942890
Sacramento, CA 94290
(800) 777-0133 California Department
of Motor Vehicles
Colorado 1881 Pierce St
Lakewood, CO 80214
(303) 205-5600 Colorado Division of
Motor Vehicles
Connecticut 60 State Street
Wethersfield, CT 06161
(860) 263-5700 Connecticut Department
of Motor Vehicles

Delaware

New Castle County
2101 Mid County Dr
New Castle, DE 19720

Kent County
303 Transportation Circle
PO Box 698
Dover, DE 19903

Sussex County
23737 DuPont BLVD
Georgetown, DE 19947

(302) 326-5000

(302) 744-2500

(302) 853-1000

Delaware Department
of Motor Vehicles

District of Columbia 3220 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington, DC 20020
(202) 737-4404 D.C. Department of
Motor Vehicles
Florida see state website for details Florida Highway Safety
and Motor Vehicles
Georgia 2206 East View Parkway
Conyers, GA 30013
(678) 413-8400
(678) 413-8500
(678) 413-8600
Georgia Department of
Driver Services
Hawaii County of Honolulu
1199 Dillingham BLVD
Room A-101
Honolulu, HI 96817

County of Kauai
4444 Rice St, Suite A480
Lihu’e, HI 96766

County of Maui
70 E. Kaahumanu Ave, Suite A-17
Kahului, HI 96732

County of Hawaii
349 Kapiolani St
Hilo, HI 96720

(808) 532-7730

(808) 241-4242

(808) 270-7363

(808) 961-2222

Honolulu

Kauai

Maui

Hawaii

Idaho 3311 W, State St, PO Box 7129
Boise, ID 83707
(208) 334-8611 Idaho Division of
Motor Vehicles
Illinois Springfield Office
2701 S Dirksen PKWY
Springfield, IL 62723

Chicago Office
17 N. State, Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60602

(217) 782-6212

(312) 793-1010

Illinois Department of
Motor Vehicles

Indiana 100 N Senate Ave
IGCN, Room N 481
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 745-2269 Indiana Bureau of
Motor Vehicles
Iowa 800 Lincoln Way
Ames, IA 50010
(800) 9215-6469 Iowa Department of
Transportation
Kansas Docking State Office Building
PO Box 2188
Topeka, KS 66601
(785) 296-3963 Kansas Department of
Revenue
Kentucky 200 Metro St
Frankfort, KY 40622
(502) 564-1257 Kentucky Division of
Motor Carriers
Louisiana 1st & Catahoula St
Jena, LA 71342
(318) 992-4791 Louisiana Office of
Motor Vehicles
Maine 29 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
(207) 624-9000 Maine Bureau of
Motor Vehicles
Maryland 6601 Ritchie Highway NE
Glen Burnie, MD 21062
(410) 768-7000 Maryland Motor
Vehicle Administration
Massachusetts See state page for more information (857) 368-8000 Massachusetts
Registry of Motor
Vehicles
Michigan Michigan Department of State
Lansing, MI 48918
(888) 767-6424 Michigan Department
of State
Minnesota 445 Minnesota St
Saint Paul, MN 55101
(651) 215-1328 Minnesota Department
of Public Safety
Mississippi PO Box 958
Jackson, MS 39205
(601) 987-1212 Mississippi Department
of Public Safety
Missouri Harry S Truman State Office Building
301 West High Street
Jefferson City, MO 65101
(573) 526-2407 Missouri Department
of Revenue
Montana 302 North Roberts
PO Box 201430
Helena, MT 59620
(406) 444-3933 Montana Motor
Vehicle Division
Nebraska 625 North 46th Street
Lincoln, NE 68503
(402) 441-7497 Nebraska Department
of Motor Vehicles
Nevada 555 Wright Way
Carson City, NV 89711
Las Vegas: (702) 486-4368
Reno/Sparks/Carson City: (775) 684-4368
Rural Toll Free: (877) 368-7828
Nevada Department
of Motor Vehicles
New Hampshire 15 Ash Brook Rd
Keene, NH 03431
(603) 271-2251 New Hampshire
Department of Motor
Vehicles
New Jersey PO Box 160
Trenton, NJ 08666
(609) 292-6500 New Jersey
Motor Vehicle
Commission
New Mexico 801 4th St NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102
(505) 764-6650 New Mexico Motor
Vehicle Division
New York 4671 Onondaga BLVD
Syracuse, NY 13219
(518) 486-9786 New York State
Department of Motor
Vehicles
North Carolina 1387 SE Maynard Rd
Cary, NC 27511
(919) 468-0319 North Carolina
Division of Motor Vehicles
North Dakota 608 East Boulevard AVE
Bismarck, ND 58505
(701) 328-2725 North Dakota
Department of
Transportation
Ohio 1970 West Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43223
(614) 752-7500 Ohio Bureau
of Motor Vehicles
Oklahoma 3600 N Martin Luther Kings AVE
Oklahoma City, OK 73111
(405) 425-2820 Oklahoma Department
of Public Safety

Oregon

1905 Lana AVE NE
Salem, OR 97314

Bend: (541) 388-6322
Eugene: (541) 686-7855
Medford: (541) 776-6025
Portland Metro: (503) 299-9999
Roseburg: (541) 440-3395
Salem Metro: (503) 945-5000

Oregon Department
Of Motor Vehicles

Pennsylvania 1101 South Front ST
Harrisburg, PA 17104
(800) 932-4600 Pennsylvania Department
of Transportation
Rhode Island 600 New London AVE
Cranston RI 02920
(401) 462-4368 Rhode Island Division
of Motor Vehicles
South Carolina 10311 Wilson BLVD – Building C
Blythewood, SC 29016
(803) 896-5000 South Carolina Department
of Motor Vehicles
South Dakota 445 East Capitol AVE
Pierre, SD 57501
(605) 773-3541 South Dakota Division
of Motor Vehicles
Tennessee PO Box 945
Nashville, TN 37202
(615) 253-5221 Tennessee Department
of Safety
Texas 4000 Jackson AVE
Austin, TX 78731
(888) 368-4689 Texas Department of
Motor Vehicles
Utah PO Box 30412
Salt Lake City, UT 84130
Salt Lake City Area: (801) 297-7780
Toll Free: (800) 368-8824
Utah Motor Vehicle
Division
Vermont 120 State St
Montpelier, VT 05603
(802) 828-2145 Vermont Department of
Motor Vehicles
Virginia PO Box 27412
Richmond, VA 23269
(804) 497-7100 Virginia Department of
Motor Vehicles
Washington PO Box 9030
Olympia, WA 98507
(360) 902-3900 Washington State
Department of Licensing
West Virginia 5707 MacCorkle AVE, SE
Charleston, WV 25317
(304) 558-3900
Toll Free in WV: (800) 642-9066
West Virginia Division of
Motor Vehicles
Wisconsin PO Box 7917
Madison, WI 53707
(608) 264-7049 Wisconsin Division of
Motor Vehicles
Wyoming 5300 Bishop BLV
Cheyenne, WY 82009
(307) 777-4375 Wyoming Department of Transportation

What is the CDL Exam Like?

If you want to enjoy a profitable and exciting career as a truck driver, then you will need to pass the commercial driver’s license exam from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The CDL exam contains both written test and skills demonstrations that must be passed in order to obtain the license. If you are also going to add an endorsement on to your CDL, you will need to pass the written test for that endorsement too.

Written Test

The written test for a commercial driver’s license covers general knowledge including some of the following subjects:

  • Highway Safety
  • Highway Signs and Markers
  • Knowledge of Truck or Vehicle
  • Pre-Trip Inspection
  • General Driving Questions
Skills Demonstration

Typically this part of the commercial driver’s license exam needs to be scheduled a head of time so you have an appointment. You will have to show your learned skills on driving with an inspector sitting next to you. This test is generally broken out in to three separate categories that you will need complete adequately to move on.

  • Pre-Trip Vehicle Inspection
  • Basic Vehicle Control
  • On-Road Test
In other words, you will have to prove that you have gained the necessary skill, knowledge and experience to drive a CMV to be able to get your commercial driver’s license.

You can try our practice knowledge test found right here.

What Are Endorsements for a Commercial Driver’s License?

CDL Endorsements
Federal Level
Code Endorsement Definition Rules
T Double or Triple
Semi-trailer
Required to haul
double or triple
trailers.
  • Written test
  • Must have a Class A license
  • Some states like Florida,
    California, New York and
    New Hampshire prohibit
    triple trailers
P Passenger
Vehicle
Required to
operate any vehicle
that transports 16
or more passengers
including driver.
  • Written test
  • Road skills test
S School Bus Required to operate
a school bus that is
designed to carry 16
or more passengers
including driver.
  • School Bus written test
  • School Bus road skills test
  • Background test
  • Sex Offender registry check
  • Must have P endorsement
N Tank Truck Required to drive any
commercial vehicle
designed to transport
liquid in either a permanent
or temporary tank or liquid
or liquefied gaseous materials
in a permanent tank that also
requires placards.
  • Written test
H HazMat Required to operate any
commercial vehicle which
transports hazardous materials
along with placard under
state and federal regulations.
X Combination
Tank and Hazardous
Materials
Required to operate any
commercial vehicle that is
hauling hazardous materials
in a tank.
  • Written test
W Tow Truck Required to operate any
commercial vehicle designed
to tow other vehicles across
state lines.
  • Written test

Note: Some states may have additional endorsements for commercial driver’s licenses. Contact your local DMV for more details.

Do I Need a CDL?

The answer to this question depends on what you plan to do as a career. For the most part, anyone driving a commercial truck or bus will need to have a commercial driver’s license. We say for the most part since some states have slightly different rules and regulations when it comes to the necessity of a CDL. Check with your local DMV for the specifics of your state.

Typically, the following would mean that you need to own a commercial driver’s license to operate:

    • Any vehicle that weighs in excess of 26,000 pounds
    • Towing a vehicle that weighs in excess of 10,000 pounds
    • Any vehicle that is designed to hold 16 more passengers
    • Any vehicle that classified as hazardous by the Hazardous Materials Transportation act

Commercial Driver’s License and You!

Right now the need for qualified truck drivers holding a commercial driver’s license is at an all-time high. It is basically a great time to be a truck driver in the United States since wages are rising with the overall demand. If you are looking for a career that give you excitement, travel and more, then getting your commercial driver’s license is the first step to a long and rewarding career in the area of transportation.

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