CDL License Requirements

The requirements for obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL license) may vary slightly from state to state, but the federal regulations are universal covering interstate transportation of cargo. Interstate transport includes cargo that originates or terminates out of state even if you pick up and or deliver it in your state.

Basic CDL License Requirements

Common CDL license requirements include the following:

  • Age requirements
  • Documentation, including proof of citizenship
  • Medical and physical standards
  • Language requirements
  • Written and knowledge tests
  • Skill and road test

Applying for a CDL License

To apply for a CDL you must have a valid non-commercial driver's license and in most states be at least 18 years old with one or two years of driving experience depending on the state. To drive interstate, you must be at least 21 years old. When you apply, you need your driver's license, your social security card, or proof of the number. You may also need one other document such as a birth certificate or green card.

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (Section 391.11) a driver must speak English sufficiently to communicate, read traffic signs, respond to official inquiries, and fill out reports and records.

Finally, the written tests may include:

  • General knowledge
  • Passenger
  • School bus
  • Air brake, combination vehicle (semi)
  • Hazardous material
  • Tank vehicle
  • Double or triple trailer

The skill and road test requires a vehicle which is typically supplied by a truck driving school. You take a driving test which includes a pre-trip inspection, backing, space control, and general driving skills, much like your original driver's test.

Types of CDL Licenses

Class A: A Class A license allows you to drive any size or combinations of vehicles providing you have the proper endorsements.

Class B: A Class B license allows you to drive any single vehicle of any weight. You can also pull a trailer providing the GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) is less than 10,000 pounds. Over this weight you will need a Class A license.

Class C: A Class C license lets you drive a vehicle under 26,001 pounds carrying 16 or more persons including the driver if you have a passenger endorsement. It also allows you to drive the same size vehicle carrying hazardous materials with the driver having an endorsement for hazardous materials.

Restrictions: The restrictions on a commercial driver's license include an air brake restriction. You cannot drive a vehicle equipped with air brakes unless you have passed the written air brake examination and taken your skill/road test in a vehicle equipped with air brakes.

The passenger restriction says that you may not drive a passenger vehicle that is in a higher class than you tested in. For example, you cannot drive a Class B vehicle if you tested in a Class C.

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