Kentucky CDL Requirements

Kentucky is one of only four "states" in the US that is actually a Commonwealth. It is the 15th state to join the union, acceding in 1792. It's known as "The Bluegrass State" thanks to the rich soils in Kentucky promoting the spread of this native European plant. Bluegrass is so prevalent that Kentucky's central zone is known as The Bluegrass Region. The two large cities of Louisville and Lexington exist within this zone. Kentucky has a fascinating geology. It's home to the world's largest cave system at Mammoth Cave National Park but the landscape above ground is largely flat, consisting of a mix of plateau and plains. Its economy is a mix of bourbon whisky distilleries, horse racing, coal mining in the west and tobacco production.

Which CDL Licenses are Available in Kentucky?

The applicant must choose from a choice of three CDL license types. Each applies to different types of vehicle based on weight. No matter which class the applicant applies for, he or she must pass both medical and proficiency tests.

Class A CDL

This class applies if the applicant wishes to drive the heaviest types of CMV (26,001lbs+) and the heaviest type of trailer (10,000lbs+)

Class B CDL

This class applies if the applicant wishes to drive the heaviest types of CMV (26,001lbs+) with lighter trailer (lower than 10,000lbs)

Class C CDL

This class applies if the applicant wishes to drive lighter CMVs (lower than 26,001lbs), vehicles designed for carrying hazmat and those for passengers numbering 16 or more

Class D

All applicants are required to hold a standard driver's license before they are eligible to apply for any of the above CMV licenses. This is the Class D license.

Regardless of class, all applicants must pass all required medical examinations A-C CMV licenses. Once passed, you must successfully complete a general knowledge test and then a practical driving test to test your practical skills. Further endorsements (passenger vehicles, hazmat, and tank vehicles) will require extra testing sections.

CDL Eligibility in Kentucky

Kentucky adheres to all Federal CMV licensing regulations but permitted to act with some degree of flexibility in line with industry and safety needs. TSA screening and medical testing will form a part of your CDL application process subject to change.

License and Permits

  • All applicants are required to hold a Class D license with no penalties for a two-year period prior to CDL application
  • All applicants must submit to all health checks required as part of the process. This will include an eye test to ensure sufficient vision quality for driving a CMV
  • Many organizations across the country offer CDL training courses. It is not obligatory to learn to drive a CMV on such a course but we strongly advise it
  • CDL testing is practical driving skills test following a written exam

Age

  • Only applicants 18 years or older are able to apply for a CDL in the Commonwealth of Kentucky
  • Only applicants 21 years or older are able to apply for an interstate CDL permitting them to drive outside of Kentucky
  • 18-21-year-old applicants are limited to driving intrastate
  • Only applicants 21 years or older may drive hazardous material vehicles

Proof of Residence of Kentucky

  • You must present proof of Kentucky residence at application. Any change of address must be registered within 30 days
  • You must present ID as proof of who you are at the time of presentation
  • You must also present your SSN as proof of your eligibility to work in the US

CDL Requirements for Kentucky Residents

  • If you have a driver's license issued in Kentucky, this should be presented with an updated home address. Any change of address must be registered within 30 days
  • You will require your SSN
  • You will require proof of insurance
  • TSA screening is required of all applicants in Kentucky

Kentucky CDL Requirements for Out-of-State Residents and Transfers

Out of state applicants are subject to further checks in Kentucky:

  • If you have an out of state license, you must convert it to a Kentucky-issued license ahead of CDL application
  • You are permitted to switch current licenses and those not more than two years out of date
  • You will require proof of US citizenship. Foreign nationals require presentation of a Permanent Residence card or other related paperwork
  • Your Kentucky address and SSN card must be made available
  • If you have eligible medical documentation, you should present them with the application. Doing so could speed up the application
  • If you are eligible for any exemptions, the office where you make your application should be made aware

Non-U.S. Citizen Requirements for Kentucky CDL

Only foreign nationals with valid Permanent Resident status may apply for a CDL.

  • Your Permanent Resident Card issued on arrival is required at the application along with any supporting relevant paperwork
  • If you have a foreign passport, you should present this too. Other relevant documents include your foreign driver's license and birth certificate
  • Only Permanent Residents living in Kentucky are permitted to apply for a CDL in Kentucky with relevant proof of residence
  • If you have a driver's license from the country of your birth, you may be required to surrender it permanently

Do I Need a CDL?

The nationwide program known as "Troops to Trucks" enables recently retired or retiring military personnel to fast track into a career in CMV driving. Personnel are eligible so long as they retired from active military service not less than 90 days prior to their application date and not more than 1 year. Applicants on this scheme are not required to take the practical driving part of the test. They must, however, pass the written test section and any endorsements they elect to take. Outside of the 90-day period, personnel still qualified to drive heavy military vehicles may also be subject to exemptions as are qualified police drivers and firefighters in some cases. The Drive Kentucky website provides further details. Please see the resource list at the end of this article.

Some other waivers include:

  • Personnel qualified to drive hazmat vehicles for small volume transportation
  • When a peace officer instructs any individual to drive a CMV during an emergency
  • People eligible to drive RVs
  • Personnel driving farm vehicles on public roads not more than 150 miles of their work location
  • Anybody instructed by any authorised person to operate emergency clearing vehicles. This is common during a natural disaster or extreme weather conditions
  • Any person qualified and able to drive public service equipment such as firefighting equipment and police vehicles

Any driving conviction - pending or present - will invalidate your CDL application. Violations that will damage your application include DUI (alcohol or illegal drugs), speeding and leaving the scene of an accident. Any revocation of your Class D standard driving license means rejection of your CDL application. Any felony involving a motor vehicle will also void your application.

Medical and Physical CDL Requirements

  • The CDL application process requires several medical tests of the applicant. Our list of resources includes a website with details of nationwide medical professionals authorized to carry out such testing
  • Once you have successfully completed the medical testing, you will be passed two documents. The first is the Medical Examination Report Form; the second is the Medical Examiner's Certificate
  • Both documents are required at a relevant CDL application office in Kentucky
  • You must state whether your application is for intrastate or interstate CDL. See above for applicable age restrictions
  • Only when Kentucky State DOT has processed these documents will the interstate applicant be issues with a Federal Medical Card
  • If you fail the medical testing, you may be able to apply for restrictions within Kentucky
  • It is normal that the employer pays for the application process. Therefore, any queries should go through the relevant contact with your employer

Background Check for CDL Applicants

Due to the nature of the job, only US citizens and permanent residents are eligible to hold a CDL. All applicants must go through TSA screening to ensure good security standing. Further checks such as fingerprint check are required of prospective hazmat drivers.

CDL Testing in Kentucky

CDL applicants must complete all medical checks before the TSA screen, Knowledge Exam and Driver's Test.

CDL Knowledge Test

The Knowledge Test part of the CDL process consists of 50 questions, multiple choice, testing the applicant's general knowledge. Any further required endorsement is additional 20 questions for each section.

CDL Road Skills Tests

Only when all parts of the knowledge test are complete is the applicant allowed to take the driver's test.

  • It is a requirement of the test that the examiner check the vehicle's roadworthiness
  • Once complete, the CDL applicant must demonstrate control over basic functions such as mirrors and seat adjustments
  • The test will then begin; the candidate will be expected to demonstrate proficiency in normal road conditions

Kentucky CDL Office Locations

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has offices at the following locations:

In Ashland

  • Boyd County Clerk's Office/Sub-branch (also Vehicle Registration and Title Office)
    335 16th Street
    Ashland, KY 41101
    (606) 325-3547
  • Russell County Clerk's Office (Registration & Title)
    101 Monument St.
    Jamestown, KY 42629
    (270) 343-2125
  • Driver License Office (office is for license renewals)
    Ashland Arcade Room 19
    Ashland, KY 41101
    (606) 325-2722
  • Boyd County Clerk's Office (Registration & Title)
    2800 Louisa Ave.
    Catlettsburg, KY 41129
    (606) 739-5116
  • Boyd County Driver License Office
    2805 Louisa St.
    Catlettsburg, KY 41129
    (606) 739-4131

In Bowling Green

  • County Clerk's Office
    429 E. 10th St.
    Bowling Green, KY 42101
    (270) 842-9416
  • Warren County Driver License Office
    1001 Center St. Suite 102
    Bowling Green, KY 42101
    (270) 746-7417
  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office
    110 S. Main St.
    Brownsville, KY 42210
    (270) 597-3918
  • Edmonson County Clerk's Office (Registration & Title)
    108 N. Main St.
    Brownsville, KY 42210
    (270) 597-2624
  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office
    101 N. Court St.
    Franklin, KY 42134
    (270) 586-4241
  • Bell County Clerk's Office (Registration & Title)
    101 Courthouse Square
    Pineville, KY 40977
    (606) 337-6143

In Covington

  • County Clerk's Office
    303 Court St.
    Covington, KY 41011
    (859) 392-1600
  • Driver License Branch
    230 Madison Avenue
    Covington, KY 41011
    (859) 292-6579
  • County Clerk's Office
    New Office Building
    Mount Olivet, KY 41064
    (606) 724-5212

In Frankfort

  • Franklin County Clerk's Office
    315 W. Main St.
    Frankfort, KY 40602
    (502) 875-8702
  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office
    222 St. Clair St.
    Frankfort, KY 40602
    (502) 564-4576
  • County Clerk's Office
    100 South Main Street
    Lawrenceburg, KY 40342
    (502) 839-3041
  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office
    151 S. Main St.
    Lawrenceburg, KY 40342
    (502) 839-3508
  • Woodford County Clerk's Office (Registration & Title)
    103 S. Main St. Suite 120
    Versailles, KY 40383
    (859) 873-3421
  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office
    130 Court St.
    Versailles, KY 40383
    (859) 873-3711

In Lexington

  • Driver License Branch
    3301 Keithshire Way
    Lexington, KY 40503
    (859) 246-2106
  • Fayette County Clerk's Office
    162 E. Main St. Room 206
    Lexington, KY 40507
    (859) 253-3344
  • Driver License Branch & Circuit County Clerk's Office (Suite 103)
    1591 Winchester Road Suite 103
    Lexington, KY 40503
    (859) 246-2151
  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office (Driver's License)
    107 N. Main St
    Nicholasville, KY 40356
    (859) 885-4531
  • Magoffin County Clerk's Office
    42 E. Maple St.
    Salyersville, KY 41465
    (606) 349-2216

In Louisville

  • County Clerk's Office/Sub-branch
    531 Court Place
    Louisville, KY 40206
    (502) 574-5700
  • Jefferson County Clerk's Office
    527 West Jefferson Street
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 574-5700
  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office (Driver's License)
    514 W. Liberty St.
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 595-4924
  • County Clerk's Office/Sub-branch
    New City Hall
    Corbin, KY 40701
    (606) 528-0099
  • County Clerk's Office/Sub-branch
    3131 W. Broadway
    Louisville, KY 40211
    (502) 574-5700
  • Driver License Branch #1
    3501 Roger Schupp St.
    Louisville, KY 40205
    (502) 595-4405

In Newport

  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office
    330 York St.
    Newport, KY 41071
    (859) 292-6311
  • Campbell County Clerk's Office
    1098 Monmouth St.
    Newport, KY 41071
    (859) 292-3850
  • Driver License Branch
    8100 Ewing Blvd. Suite 140
    Florence, KY 41042
    (859) 647-8705

In Owensboro

  • County Clerk's Office
    212 Saint Ann St.
    Owensboro, KY 42302
    (270) 685-8434 EXT 1
  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office
    100 E. Second St.
    Owensboro, KY 42302
    (270) 687-7225
  • County Clerk's Office
    210 Main St.
    Calhoun, KY 42327
    (270) 273-3082
  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office (Driver's License)
    310 Hawesville School Drive
    Hawesville, KY 42348
    (270) 927-8144
  • County Clerk's Office
    225 Main Cross St.
    Hawesville, KY 42348
    (270) 927-6117

In Paducah

  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office
    301 S. Seventh St.
    Paducah, KY 42003
    (270) 575-7276
  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office
    122 W. Adair St.
    Smithland, KY 42081
    (270) 928-2172
  • Livingston County Clerk's Office
    335 Court St.
    Smithland, KY 42081
    (270) 928-2162
  • Marshall County Clerk's Office
    1101 Main St.
    Benton, KY 42025
    (270) 527-4740
  • Circuit Court Clerk's Office
    100 E. Broadway
    Mayfield, KY 42066
    (270) 247-1733
  • Graves County Clerk's Office
    101 South St., Suite 2
    Mayfield, KY 42066
    (270) 247-1676

Kentucky CDL Endorsements

The following endorsements are available in the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

  • Hazardous material (H)
  • Tank vehicles (N)
  • Passenger vehicles (P)
  • School buses (S)
  • Double and triple trailers (T)

Kentucky CDL Disqualifications

There are stricter laws for CDL holders while driving a CMV than apply to the rest of the driving population.

  • Where a blood alcohol reading registers 0.04% or above when driving a CMV
  • Where a blood alcohol reading registers 0.08% or above when driving any vehicle except a CMV
  • Where there is a positive reading of any test for controlled substances
  • Refusal when instructed to supply samples for drug and alcohol testing. This is an offence even when the driver has not been drinking or taking controlled substances
  • Failure to report an accident that the CMV driver is involved in
  • Failure to stop during an accident that the CMV driver is involved in
  • Using your CMV for felonies unrelated to driving
  • Reckless or dangerous driving leading to fatalities
  • Driving a CMV when the license is canceled, revoked or suspended

Any of the above infractions will mean a 12-month suspension of the CDL. Should the driver be convicted of a second offence, he or she will be subject to a life suspension of their CDL. Courts in the Commonwealth of Kentucky may apply further punishment beyond this. For infractions while driving a hazmat vehicle, drivers will incur a minimum of a three-year disqualification against any first offence. Life suspensions apply to any driver using a CMV for felonies involving controled substances. Where a blood alcohol reading registers alcohol level lower than.04% will incur a 24-hour suspension.

Below is a list of offences of lesser seriousness but still resulting in punishment. Eac h carries a 60-day suspension for a second offence in three years. A third offence in the same timeframe is a 120-day suspension minimum:

  • Driving at 15mph or more over the road's designated limit
  • Dangerous or reckless driving leading to a law officer pulling the vehicle over
  • Any driving that a law officer deems erratic or dangerous such as reckless lane changes
  • So-called "tail gating" which is driving too close to other vehicles
  • Any other failure to comply with Kentucky laws, particularly to laws regarding what to do in an accident where there is a fatality
  • Driving any CMV when not CDL qualified
  • Driving any CMV with insufficient CDL privileges
  • Driving any CMV without proper and complete endorsement
  • Driving any CMV while not in possession of your CDL documentation

An Out of Service violation is when an inspector deems the vehicle dangerous to drive. The CDL license holder is not permitted to drive the vehicle. Doing so means a 90-day disqualification for a first offence. A second OOS violation is a ten-year disqualification.OOS violations for hazmat vehicles are a two-year suspension for first offences. Second hazmat OOS violations are 3-10 years.

Railroad violations in Kentucky incur a 60-day disqualification for a first offence. Second offences incur 120 days in a three-year period. Any third offence in three years is a one-year ban:

  • When driving a vehicle not required to stop, failure to slow to check the tracks are clear
  • When driving a vehicle not required to stop, failure to stop before reaching the crossing when the tracks ahead are not clear
  • When driving a vehicle required to stop, failure to stop before entering the crossing
  • Failing to use good judgement in leaving sufficient space to drive completely through a crossing
  • Failing to obey instructions of traffic equipment or an enforcement officer under any circumstances
  • When the vehicle has insufficient undercarriage clearance and fails to properly negotiate a crossing

CDL Salary, Employment, and Prospects

Employment data collated by Federal government monitoring body BLS was updated in 2017 with data collected through 2016. Driving jobs expect a 5% growth in the decade of 2014-2024. The national average for all jobs is 7%. That means commercial haulage openings will be lower than the average.

Heavy Trucks

Haulage using large trucks and heavy vehicles is one of long and sometimes unsociable hours, especially working interstate. They are amongst the best-paid of all driving jobs. At present, heavy truck drivers can expect a national average salary of $41,340 and average hourly paid of $19.87ph. The lowest 10% earn $26,920 while the highest 10% earn around $63,140. For Kentucky, the average is marginally higher at $42,100 while hourly paid employees earn $19.36 (median) and $20.24 (mean).

Light Trucks

Job openings in small transport vehicles are expected to increase at around 4% 2014-2024. This is approximately half the national average and slower than heavy trucks. The reason is possibly the rise of self-employed delivery driving in the "gig economy" and greater efficiency in the local delivery process. The national average pay rates are $34,790 (salary) and $16.73 (hourly pay). Pay in Kentucky is close to these averages with $34,370 salaried and $14.02 (median) and $16.52 (mean).

Passenger Vehicles

Drivers of passenger vehicles such as buses will find a stable amount of work in public transportation. This area is expected to experience a 6% increase in openings 2014-2024. This is around the national average for all jobs. At present, the national average pay is $31,920 for salaried employees and $14.96 per hour. As with the other sectors, pay in Kentucky for such drivers is around the average at $33,010 salary and $15.71 (median) and $15.91 (mean) hourly.

BLS Source: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ky.htm

Resources for Kentucky CDL Requirements

Learn more about Kentucky trucking schools.

Truck Driver Salary in Kentucky

Location 25th Percentile 75th Percentile Annual Salary
United States $31,270 $48,330 $38,700
Kentucky $28,780 $46,530 $36,370
Bowling Green, KY $27,210 $43,870 $31,180
Elizabethtown, KY $25,610 $37,040 $30,070
Lexington-Fayette, KY $26,840 $49,310 $33,370
Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN $32,990 $54,230 $40,980
Owensboro, KY $28,760 $43,650 $35,290

Table data taken from 2015 BLS (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes533032.htm)