Tennessee CDL Requirements

Landlocked Tennessee is far from boring - on the contrary, the state is home to some of the most interesting roads and scenery in the world. Home to the Grand Ole Opry, the beautiful Smoky Mountains, and of course, Graceland, Tennessee is an exciting mix of cosmopolitan cities and quiet rural byways. Driving truck throughout the state means drivers experience some of the best and most notable roads on the planet. For an easy, scenic drive, many motorists enjoy the 10-state-long Great River Road along the mighty Mississippi River, sometimes called the Blues Highway, which leads travelers back into early American blues history. Most notably, however is Tennessee's 489-curve, 33-mile cruise on Highway 421 in the Cherokee National Forest. Known as 'The Snake' - it's a road that keeps truckers on high alert due to the level of skill it requires. While Tennessee's other claim to road-fame is open to CDL drivers, it's even more dangerous, with tight hairpin turns and blind corners. Starting in Deal's Gap, Tennessee, Highway 129 is also known as the 'The Tail of the Dragon,' - with less mileage and less curves, it's still more treacherous overall and has global fame.

What CDL Licenses are Available in Tennessee?

Individuals who want to become commercial drivers in the state of Tennessee are subject to a different set of regulations once the commercial motor vehicle or combination of vehicles weighs more than 26,000 pounds, or transports passengers regardless of weight. Below are Tennessee's license classes.

Tennessee has an exception to the Class A licensing: for drivers who do not require a Class A license but who nonetheless haul trailers that weigh more than 10,001 pounds, they may require an A/57 license. Common examples of this type of situation include heavy pick-up trucks that tow a construction or other trailer, or a service maintenance vehicle that tows other machinery from job site to job site.

CDL Class A

Class A vehicles are combination units. In combination, the 'tractor' and 'trailer' must weigh more than 26,000 pounds, with the trailer portion weighing not less than 10,000 pounds. Most long haul truckers possess Class A licenses.

CDL Class B

Class B vehicles are single vehicles with a total or gross weight of greater than 26,000 pounds. Often this includes cube and delivery vehicles and may include construction vehicles. Any rear or towed portion must weigh less than 10,000 pounds. Commonly, short haul truckers that stay in their state of origin possess Class B licenses.

CDL Class C

Class C vehicles are vehicles that have been designed to carry a driver and 15 or more people, like a bus or other similar passenger transport vehicle. The weight of the vehicle is not a determining factor in this case.

If a vehicle that would ordinarily be Class A or Class B but requires a placard for carrying hazardous materials, it is reclassified as a Class C vehicle and additional endorsements or restrictions may apply.

Class D License

Class D license is Tennessee's standard motor vehicle operator license. Tennessee CDL drivers who already possess a valid Class A, B, or C license are able to legally operate a Class D vehicle and allows them to operate all personal passenger and recreational vehicles.

CDL Eligibility in Tennessee

Over the last few decades, the U.S. Department of Transportation has been continually improving legislation and practice that relate to CDL driving, vehicles, and legislation in order to make the nation's roads safe and accountable to all. The nationwide scope of changes from the mid-1980s onward means that it is easy for each state, and Tennessee among them, to carefully enforce federal laws and standards. Federal laws are a nationwide minimum expectation and Tennessee exceeds this standard. Interstate drivers are responsible to be familiar with how laws vary from state to state.

License and Permits

  • A Tennessee Class D license or a CDL or driver's license from another state is required to begin the application process.


  • Intrastate (generally Class B) drivers must be 18 years of age or older. Interstate (generally Class A or C HME) drivers must be age 21 or older.

Proof of Residence in Tennessee

Proof of domicile or residence is required before the CDL process can begin. Applicants require two proofs of domiciliary address in order to continue the application.

Proof of U.S. citizenship may include one of the following:

  • Current and valid U.S. Passport.
  • Certified birth certificate filed with the state of birth
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad (DS-1350 or FS-545)
  • Certificate of Naturalization (N550, N570 or N578)
  • Certificate of Citizenship (N560 or N561)

CDL Requirements for Tennessee Residents

In order to begin the CDL process, Tennessee residents must present the following documents:

  • Tennessee driver's license, or
  • Valid driver license or CDL from another state
  • Valid Department of Transportation Medical Card
  • Social Security Number
  • 2 proofs of Tennessee domicile
  • Proof of U.S. Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Resident Status

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

CDL transfers from state to state are rigorous and designed to help our nation avoid fraudulent and dangerous conditions, and Tennessee is no different. CDL truck drivers from out-of-state who wish to begin the transfer process to Tennessee CDL truck drivers should arrive prepared to show any and all of the following original documentation to substantiate their identity and credentials.

  • Original personal identification including out-of-state personal or CDL driver's license
  • Proof of date of birth (non-hospital issued)
  • 2 proofs of domiciliary address showing Tennessee
  • Social security number
  • Valid Department of Transportation Medical Card

Non-U.S. Citizen Requirements for Tennessee CDL

Individuals who were born outside the country and who wish to legally obtain employment by first attaining their Tennessee commercial driver's licence, are required to produce substantive documentation to support their dual claims for citizenship and CDL issue. Tennessee's legal immigrants are advised to bring any or all of the following:

  • Current and valid U.S. Passport
  • Certified birth certificate filed with the country of birth
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad (DS-1350 or FS-545)
  • Certificate of Naturalization (N550, N570 or N578)
  • Certificate of Citizenship (N560 or N561)
  • Valid, unexpired Permanent Resident Card, issued by USCIS or INS

Additionally, immigrant CDL applicants will provide:

  • Personal identification
  • Proof of date of birth (government issued)
  • 2 proofs of domicile in Tennessee
  • Social security number

Do I Need a CDL?

Are you a member or former member of the military, National Guard or reserves who is active or who has been honorably discharged within the last year? You may be apply to waive the basic road skills test portion of the Tennessee CDL. Tennessee is proud of the service that military individuals provide for our country and upholding the new federal regulation eliminates the need for applicants to provide a commercial vehicle for testing.

In order to apply, military and former military must provide:

  • Proof of Tennessee domicile
  • Tennessee driver's license, or
  • Eligibility for a Tennessee driver's license
  • Proof of military operator's permit provided by CO
  • Attestation provided by CO that the applicant has relevant driving experience within the last two years
  • Proof of discharge in one of the following documents:
    • U.S. Military I.D. Card
    • DD-214
    • WD-AGO
    • DD-256
    • NGB-22

To apply, obtain a copy of Tennessee's form entitled ‘CDL Skills Test Military Waiver Application' either online or at any DMV office.

Being exempt from the Tennessee CDL road skills test is not exemption from the Tennessee CDL knowledge test; prepare for the knowledge test by studying the Tennessee CDL Handbook.

Medical and Physical CDL Requirements

Applicants are required to have a valid DOT Medical card in good standing,

To begin the process, drivers must attest whether they intend to drive inter- or intrastate, and whether they will drive in excepted or non-excepted circumstances. A list of excepted circumstances are found below.

Tennessee commercial drivers are required to complete an online re-attestation of medical status. It is the CDL driver's sole responsibility to ensure that they are in good standing at all times.

Background Check for CDL Applicants

Any applicant that wants to transport placarded (hazardous) materials is subject to a fingerprint background security check by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Varying slightly from state to state, Tennessee CDL applicants are encouraged to inquire about timelines while applying.

CDL Testing in Tennessee

To obtain your CDL in Tennessee, there are both a knowledge test and a practical test that must be successfully passed in order to having a CDL issued to you. There are a number of CDL offices throughout the state, including Elizabethton, Trenton and Paris, and a CDL-only Driver Service Office in Maury County. Due to the volume of customers who visit the offices, it is encouraged to arrive early with your arranged vehicle ready for the practical portion of the test.

CDL Knowledge Tests

For all classes of CDL, Tennessee commercial drivers are required to pass a General Knowledge test.

CDL Skills Tests

After successfully passing the General Knowledge test, applicants can book a time for practical testing at the state's accredited facility in Maury County. Ensure that you arrive with the same class of vehicle that you wish to drive professionally.

Depending on the class of license, CDL drivers might need to add specific endorsement modules to their practical testing.

Schedule your road skills test here - https://dl.safety.tn.gov/_/

Tennessee CDL Office Locations

Full Service Locations

  • Oak Ridge Driver Services Center - Anderson County
    475 Oak Ridge Turnpike
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830
    (865) 220-6520
  • Shelbyville Driver Servcies Center - Bedford County
    1304 Railroad Avenue
    Shelbyville, TN 37160
    (931) 680-2540
  • Maryville Driver Services Center - Blount County
    318 Home Avenue
    Maryville, TN 37801
    (865) 981-2359
  • Elizabethton Driver Services Center - Carter County
    206 Cherokee Park Drive, Suite 3
    Elizabethton, TN 37643
    (423) 547-5886
  • Tullahoma Driver Services Center - Coffee County
    307 Industrial Blvd.
    Tullahoma, TN 37388
    (931) 461-7850
  • Crossville Driver Services Center - Cumberland County
    136 Dooley Street
    Crossville, TN 38555
    (931) 484-1360
  • Nashville/Hart Lane Driver Services Center - Davidson County
    624 Hart Lane
    Nashville, TN 37216
    (615) 532-9780
  • Hickory Hollow Driver Services and Reinstatement Center - Davidson County
    5216 Hickory Hollow Parkway
    Antioch, TN 37013
    (615) 770-5701
  • Dickson Driver Services Center - Dickson County
    114 West Christi Drive
    Dickson, TN 37055
    (615) 441-6218
  • Dyersburg Driver Services Center - Dyer County
    180 Highway 51 Bypass North
    Dyersburg, TN 38024
    (731) 286-8325
  • Oakland Driver Services Center - Fayette County
    160 Beau Tisdale Drive
    Oakland, TN 38060
    (901) 465-6576
  • Trenton Driver Services Center - Gibson County
    2211 Highway 45 Bypass SOuth
    Trenton, TN 38382
    (731) 855-7826
  • Greeneville/Greene County Driver License Reinstatement Center - Greeneville County
    1210 Hal Henard Road
    Greenville, TN 37743
    (423) 638-3285
  • Morristown Driver Services Center - Hamblen County
    2567 Buffalo Trail
    Morristown, TN 37814
    (423) 587-7044
  • Chattanooga/Bonny Oaks Driver Services Center - Hamilton County
    6502 Bonny Oaks Drive
    Chattanooga, TN 37416
    (423) 634-3127
  • Chattanooga/Red Bank Driver Services Center - Hamilton County
    4873 Dayton Blvd.
    Chattanooga, TN 37415
    (423) 875-4611
  • Savannah Driver Services Center - Hardin County
    60 Brazelton Street, Unit 10
    Savannah, TN 38372
    (731) 926-1581
  • Paris Driver Services Center - Henry County
    1120 Tyson Avenue
    Paris, TN 38242
    (731) 641-8863
  • Knoxville/Strawberry Plains Driver Services Center - Knox County
    7320 Region Lane
    Knoxville, TN 37914
    (865) 594-6399
  • Fayetteville Driver Services Center - Lincoln County
    4110 Thorton Taylor Pkwy
    Fayetteville, TN 37334
    (931) 438-1915
  • Jackson Driver Services Center - Madison County
    100 Benchmark Circle
    Jackson, TN 38301
    (731) 423-6622
  • Jasper Driver Services Center - Marion County
    4950 Main Street
    Jasper, TN 37347
  • Athens Driver Services Center - McMinn County
    150 Plaza Circle
    Athens, TN 37303
    (423) 744-2812
  • Clarksville Driver Services Center - Montgomery County
    220 West Dunbar Cave Road
    Clarksville, TN 37040
    (931) 648-5596
  • Union City Driver Services and Reinstatement Center - Obion County
    1604B West Reelfoot Avenue
    Union City, TN 38261
    (731) 884-2133
  • Cookeville Driver Services Center - Putnam County
    4600 South Jefferson Avenue
    Cookeville, TN 38506
    (931) 528-5669
  • Rockwood Driver Services Center - Roane County
    1070 North Gateway Avenue
    Rockwood, TN 37854
    (865) 717-7609
  • Springfield Driver Services Center - Robertson County
    4676 Highway 41 North, Suite C
    Springfield, TN 37172
    (615) 384-1885
  • Murfreesboro Driver Services Center - Rutherford County
    1035 Samsonite Blvd
    Murfreesboro, TN 37129
    (615) 898-8036
  • Sevierville Driver Services Center - Sevier County
    1220 Graduate Drive
    Sevierville, TN 37862
    (865) 429-7016
  • Memphis/East Shelby Dr. Driver Services and Reinstatement Center - Shelby County
    3200 East Shelby Drive
    Memphis, TN 38118
    (901) 367-3639
  • Millington Driver Services Center - Shelby County
    5019 W. Union Rd.
    Millington, TN 38053
    (901) 745-7020
  • Memphis/Summer Avenue Driver Services Center - Shelby County
    6340 Summer Avenue
    Memphis, TN 38134
    (901) 543-7920
  • Blountville Driver Services Center - Sullivan County
    3769 Highway 11-W
    Blountville, TN 37617
    (423) 279-3250
  • Gallatin Driver Services Center - Sumner County
    855 North Bluejay Way
    Gallatin, TN 37066
    (615) 230-2995
  • Covington Driver Services Center - Tipton County
    220 Highway 51 N., Suite 1
    Covington, TN 38019
    (901) 475-2517
  • McMinnville Driver Services Center - Warren County
    594 Vervilla Road
    McMinnville, TN 37110
    (931) 506-2190
  • Johnson City Driver Services Center - Washington County
    4717 Lake Park Drive
    Johnson City, TN 37615
    (423) 926-4911
  • Franklin Driver Services Center - Williamson County
    3830 Carothers Parkway
    Franklin, TN 37067
    (615) 790-5515
  • Lebanon Driver Services Center - Wilson County
    204 Maddox Simpson Parkway
    Lebanon, TN 37090
    (615) 443-2757

For additional details about each full service location check out - https://www.tn.gov/safety/article/dllocationserv#full

CDL Skills Test Location

Tennessee CDL Endorsements

In order to quickly share accurate information to CDL departments and law officials, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees endorsements and professional qualifications of a truck driver. They are:

  • Private School Bus
  • Cargo Tanker
  • For Hire*
  • Passenger Transport
  • Public School Bus
  • Multiple Trailer (Double/Triple)
  • Cargo Tanker plus Hazardous Material

Taxi and shuttle service drivers, couriers, delivery services, and emergency medical drivers are groups of people that require a special condition under Tennessee's ‘for-hire' endorsement but who do not require a full CDL license. Please inquire at the nearest state licensing office and of your employer to determine if you meet the ‘for-hire' endorsement criteria.

Every driver is different, and the state of Tennessee is committed to ensuring that people of different abilities are able to meet state CDL guidelines, however, many limitations must be noted on the CDL. Below are the most common restrictions:

  • Contact Lenses or Glasses
  • Outside Mirror Required
  • Medical Condition
  • Insulin-Dependent Diabetic
  • Alcohol Interlock Device
  • Special Exam Successfully Passed
  • Daylight Only
  • Custom Controls Required
  • Seat Cushion Required
  • Automatic Transmission Only
  • Knob/Power Steering
  • Special Restriction Order
  • School Bus Driver Test Successfully Passed
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Active Military
  • License does not expire while in service
  • No Air Brakes
  • Except Class A Bus
  • Except Class A and Class B Bus
  • Except Tractor Trailers
  • Intrastate Only
  • Intracity Zone Only
  • Intrastate Only, Medical Limitation

Tennessee CDL Disqualifications

Police officers and state troopers throughout Tennessee are responsible for CDL road law compliance. Violating road laws may result in having your license suspended or revoked. Fines may be issued by the state, and additional penalties might be imposed by your employer. These offences include the following:

Tennessee General Driving Laws

If you are disqualified for any reason, you may not operate a commercial vehicle in Tennessee.

Tennessee ‘Under the Influence' and ‘Leaving the Scene' Laws

Your CDL may be suspended or worse for these offenses and those of a similar nature not listed here:

  • Leaving the scene of an accident that your commercial vehicle (CMV) was involved in
  • Felony acts committed in or with a commercial vehicle
  • Testing over or acting as though you are over the legal blood alcohol level
  • Refusing to take a roadside BAC test ‘breathalyzer'
  • Testing over or acting as though you are over limit for other controlled substances
  • Traffic violations committed in a personal vehicle

Careless Driving Laws and ‘Out of Service' Laws

  • Operating without a commercial driver's license in a commercial vehicle
  • Operating a commercial vehicle while CDL is suspended
  • Driving in a manner that is hazardous or reckless, including speeds greater than 15 mph over the legal speed limit
  • Not wearing a seat belt at all times

Railroad Laws

  • Violation of any crossing approach laws as they apply to different classes of crossings, CDL, endorsements and restrictions

Additional Laws

Laws pertaining to illegal residency in the United States or in Tennessee, as well as fraud related to CDL possession or felonies and outstanding charges will result in the disqualification of your CDL.

Tennessee CDL Salary, Employment, and Prospects

National economic forecasts predict that all demographics of CDL drivers in Tennessee are poised to have a record decade for growth. Look below for salary, employment and job prospects for this growing career path in the state and beyond.

Heavy Trucks

Forecasted to grow by 12% - double the national average - over the next 10 years, the long haul heavy truck industry is growing in Tennessee. Economists predict that approximately 1,600 new interstate trucking jobs will open each year until the 2020s, and that the median salary for experienced truckers will gross over $38,000 annually, or about $18 per hour. The top 10% of earners in Tennessee can expect to make a third more than that figure at almost $60,000 per year.

Light Trucks

Light truck and delivery driving positions are forecasted to grow by 8% over the next ten years - 5% faster than national averages, meaning that about 550 new jobs will open every year in Tennessee alone, with about 17,000 opening each year nationwide - a rapid field for growth. 75% of drivers earn more than $25,000 each year, with Tennessee's ‘for-hire' drivers with experience earning close to the higher end of the salary range at over $50,000 per year.

Passenger Vehicles

School bus drivers in Tennessee are experiencing strong and stable growth that is on par with the rest of the nation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that bus driver jobs are expected to expand year by year by about 5%, resulting in over 200 new job openings every year throughout the state. The entry wage for school bus drivers throughout the state is over $16,000, while drivers with tenure, experience, and extra credentials earn over $35,000 per year.

Resources for Tennessee CDL Requirements

Learn more about Tennessee trucking schools.

Truck Driver Salary in Tennessee

Location 25th Percentile 75th Percentile Annual Salary
United States $31,270 $48,330 $38,700
Tennessee $29,650 $48,170 $38,130
Chattanooga, TN-GA $30,400 $44,600 $35,910
Clarksville, TN-KY $23,590 $38,610 $31,510
Cleveland, TN $26,130 $43,620 $29,760
Jackson, TN $28,550 $38,990 $34,280
Johnson City, TN $26,880 $37,330 $30,920
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA $27,140 $46,770 $39,540
Knoxville, TN $33,950 $52,720 $43,870
Memphis, TN-MS-AR $31,110 $52,740 $40,900
Morristown, TN $39,530 $46,190 $42,860
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN $30,830 $48,530 $37,630

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