Last updated on April 12, 2023
CDL License Requirements
There are numerous CDL license requirements that you need to be aware of. Some requirements that are universal whether you want a Commercial Learners Permit (CLP) or a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). There are also some requirements that are specific to the CLP and some that are specific to the CDL. There are even specific CDL License requirements depending on whether you have a CDL A license, CDL B license, or CDL C license.
Section 1: CDL License Requirements for all CLPs and CDL Licenses
All State licensing agencies will require you to show some form of government issued identification to prove that you are who you say you are on your license application. This is not unique to the CLP or CDL, it is required for any license to operate any kind of vehicle on public roadways. In most States, applicants for either a CLP or a CDL are required to show their Social Security card. Your State licensing agency will not display your social security number on your CLP or CDL. Your social security number will be used for identification purposes only.
All State licensing agencies will require you to show your current driver’s license. You must be currently licensed to operate a motor vehicle on public roadways in order to apply for a CLP or a CDL license. It is also a CDL license requirement that your driver’s license and social security number will be checked in the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) and the National Driver Registry (NDR). The CDLIS and the NDR are national databases that every State and Washington, D.C. are connected to. When your State runs a check on you in these two databases, they are looking for two specific things, 1) that you are not disqualified for a CLP or CDL license, and 2) that you do not have a driver’s license, CLP, or CDL license from more than one State or jurisdiction.
CDL License Disqualifications
Please refer to CDL disqualifications for a list of criminal offenses that would disqualify you from getting a CLP or a CDL license. It is against the law to have a driver’s license, CLP or CDL license in more than one state or jurisdiction, so in order to avoid the fines and penalties associated with this violation, you must surrender any driver’s license, CLP, or CDL license issued in another State or jurisdiction before being issued a new license in the State you are applying to be licensed in.
Proof of U.S. Citizenship or Legal Immigration Status Requirement
It is a federal law that all applicants and current holders of either a CLP or CDL license must provide proof of U.S. citizenship or legal immigration status. This CDL License requirement applies to new issuance of a CLP or CDL license, renewal, transfer of a license from another state or jurisdiction and when changing class of license or adding or removing any endorsements or restrictions to a CLP or CDL license.
Most States accept the following as proof of U.S. citizenship or legal immigration status:
Valid U.S. passport
U.S. State or local government issued Certificate of Birth
Valid permanent resident card
U.S. Certificate of Naturalization
Certificate of U.S. Citizenship
Valid U.S. visa
These represent the most common methods of proof of U.S. citizenship or legal immigration status, please refer to your State licensing agency for a complete list of approved documents.
It is also federal law that temporary visitors from either Canada or Mexico can no longer get a CLP or CDL license in the United States. Temporary visitors from Canada or Mexico must get a CLP or CDL license issued from the country they are a legal citizen of in order to operate a commercial vehicle in the United States.
English Language Proficiency Requirement
It is a federal regulation that all applicants and holders of either a CLP or a CDL license be able to speak and read English proficiently enough to communicate with the general public, understand all traffic signs and signals, and be able to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records (49 CFR 391.11(b)(2)).
CLP and CDL License Medical Requirement
It is a federal regulation that all applicants and holders of either a CLP or a CDL license have a valid federal DOT medical card. You must complete a CDL DOT physical by a licensed physician. The licensed physician will need to complete the FMCSA Medical Examination Report form and the Medical Examiner’s Certificate. The Medical Examiner’s Certificate (DOT medical card) must include the medical provider’s federal registry number to be valid.
CDL License General Knowledge Test
All applicants for a CLP or CDL license must successfully pass the general knowledge test. This test only needs to be taken once and successful completion is required before a CLP or CDL license can be issued to you.
Section 2: Commercial Learner Permit (CLP) Requirements and Restrictions
All new drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) must get a Commercial Learner Permit (CLP). The CLP authorizes drivers to practice driving the type of commercial motor vehicle and practice for the skills test. A Commercial Learner Permit (CLP) is only good for 6 months and is only valid for the type of commercial motor vehicle and endorsements you are qualified for. The following are Commercial Learner Permit (CLP) requirements and restrictions.
CLP Age Requirement
In most States you have to be at least 18 years old to apply for a Commercial Learner Permit (CLP). You should refer to your State licensing agency to obtain the exact age requirements to apply for a Commercial Learner Permit (CLP).
All applicants for a Commercial Learner Permit (CLP) must pass the knowledge tests for the class of commercial motor vehicle they will be driving. You can also take the knowledge tests for what endorsements you will need on your CDL license.
There are only three (3) endorsements that are allowed on a Commercial Learner Permit (CLP).
A CLP holder can have a passenger (P) endorsement, but it prohibits the carrying of any passengers except for government auditors and inspectors, test examiners, other CLP trainees, and the CDL holder that is instructing the CLP holder (49CFR383.25(a)(1)).
A CLP holder can have a tank (N) endorsement, but can only drive a tank vehicle that is empty. The tank vehicle cannot have previously contained any hazardous materials unless that tank vehicle has been completely purged of all residue.
Commercial Learner Permit (CLP) Restrictions
A CLP holder must have a CDL license holder that is at least 21 years old in the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) with them at all times. As mentioned above in the CLP endorsements, a CLP holder may not transport any passengers, except a CDL licensed instructor along with other CLP holders and those persons identified under the passenger (P) endorsement and school bus (S) endorsement. A CLP holder can carry property in the CMV they are operating unless they are restricted from doing so. A CLP holder may not operate a CMV engaged in interstate commerce unless that CLP holder is at least 21 years old and has a valid DOT medical card.
Section 3: CDL License Requirements
CDL Age Requirement
Although in some states you have to be at least 18 years old to get a Commercial Learner Permit (CLP), federal regulations dictate that you have to at least 21 years old in all States to get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
As stated above in the CLP requirements, you will have to take one or more knowledge tests depending on which class of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) you want to be licensed to drive and for what endorsements you will need. The following is a list of knowledge test that can be taken:
General knowledge test – must be taken by all applicants
Combination vehicle test – required if you are going to be driving a tractor-trailer
Double/triple trailers test – required if you are going to be driving a CMV that will be pulling two or three trailers
Tank vehicle test – required if you are going to be driving a tank vehicle
Air brakes test – required if you are going to be driving a CMV equipped with air brakes or a vehicle that is equipped with an air over hydraulic brake system (requires skills test also)
Hazardous materials test – required to transport hazardous materials outlined in 49CFR383.5. You must also pass the TSA background check.
Passenger transport test – required for all bus driver applicants (requires skills test also)
School bus test – required to drive a school bus (requires skills test also)
You must have a CLP for at least 14 days before you can take any skills tests. As of February 7, 2022, Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) is required to obtain a Class “A” or “B” CDL for the first time. It is also required to obtain a Passenger, School Bus, or Hazardous Materials Endorsement (Classroom Only) for the first time.
The three (3) parts of the skills test are:
1) vehicle inspection test, which is more commonly referred to as a pre-trip inspection.
2) the basic controls test.
3) the road test. You must pass all three (3) parts of the skills test before you are issued a CDL license.