How to Get a CDL
Not everyone has what it takes to drive a truck or school bus. It requires a higher level of knowledge, skill, experience and physical ability than driving a car. In all states, you are required to possess a Commercial Driver License (CDL) if you plan to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). If you want to know how to get a CDL, follow these easy-to-understand steps to streamline the process and help you avoid missteps that could cost you valuable time and money.
NOTE: If you’re planning to attend a trucking school or company-sponsored training program, they should guide you through the steps below.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting a CDL
1. Determine which CDL you will need to drive the vehicle you want to drive
There are three types of CDL’s. Click here for descriptions of Class A, Class B and Class C.
2. Determine if you’re eligible for a CDL
- Click here to check age and driving history requirements for getting a CDL in your state
- Minimum age for an intrastate license (within home state) is 18 years in most cases, but varies by state
- Minimum age for an interstate license (nationwide) is 21 years
- Get the required medical certification (Department of Transportation medical card) by getting a DOT physical from an approved provider of DOT examinations. All approved providers are listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners
- Locate and have ready all personal verification documents. In most States, you’ll be required to show the DMV/DOT the following documents:
- Proof of Age and Identity (e.g., Birth Certificate, Driver’s License)
- Proof of Social Security (e.g., Social Security Card)
- Proof of Residency (e.g., Utility Bill)
- Proof of Clear Driving History (i.e., Certify that you have your license, it is not suspended and that you maintain one current license, not multiple licenses)
- NOTE: Due to the requirements above, most drivers must obtain their CDL in their state of residency
3. Study the CDL handbook or training guide
4. Fill out the application for a CDL Learners Permit (CLP) at the DMV, or online
Remember to be prepared to:
- Show proof of identification
- Show proof of residency
- Have your driving record checked for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia
- Show your DOT medical card (if available)
- Declare which type of commercial vehicle(s) you plan to drive
5. Turn in your CLP application in person and take the knowledge test
- Pay the application fee
- Pass the test and receive your learners permit for getting your CDL
6. Choose the right CDL training program
A good training program will prepare you to sit for your CDL exam. Training programs are offered by private schools, and certain trucking companies offer company-sponsored training.
7. Practice driving a commercial vehicle using your learners permit
- You must practice with a qualified driver sitting next to you (private school and company-sponsored training programs will provide supervised driver training time)
- Be sure to practice the inspection tests and the maneuvers in the CDL manual. Getting your CDL means you must pass all three parts of the driving skills test:
- You must have your CLP for a minimum of 14 days before taking your CDL driving skills exam due to Federal Guidelines
8. Schedule an appointment for the CDL driving skills test
- Contact your local DMV/DOT office to schedule your road test appointment
- If you’re attending a trucking school or company-sponsored training program, they will likely guide you in scheduling your road test
- NOTE: Very soon, all states will require CDL training verification before issuing a CDL license
9. Arrive for your driving skills appointment with the commercial vehicle you plan to drive
- If you plan on being a tractor-trailer driver, arrive for your test with a truck (same applies for school bus drivers, etc.) If you’re attending a trucking school or company-sponsored training program, they normally provide the equipment for your driving skills test
- Pay the required fee
10. Receive your CDL
- After passing your skills test, take all documents to the nearest DMV/DOT office to obtain your physical CDL
11. Maintain your pristine driving record
- Take pride in your status as a professional driver. As a CDL driver, you will be held to a higher standard. A serious traffic violation, even in your personal automobile, could impact your ability to maintain your CDL.
Now that you know how to get a CDL, you can go back to step one and get started!