Free CDL Help Guides
Our Free 2015 CDL Help Guides Walk You Through the Entire CLP and CDL Process
Simply click on a state below to see the free CDL Help Guide for that state. Each guide contains a step-by-step process on how to obtain your commercial learner’s permit (CLP) and commercial driver’s license (CLD) in your state. You also find all the DMV manuals and forms needed to obtain your CLP and CDL in an easy downloadable format, plus state-mapped locations of all the DMV facilities that administer both the CDL written tests and the CDL Skills Test.
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Commercial Driver’s License
While it is the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that sets the minimum standards that a state must adhere to regarding the commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP), it is the sole responsibility of the state to administer the CDL program and the license itself. Each state is in charge of the application process, license fee, renewal procedures, license renewal cycle, and the reinstatement requirements after a license holder has been disqualified, as long as it meets the rules and regulations set by the FMCSA. Each state may exceed the minimum requirements set by the FMCSA for certain criteria such as medical certification, driver fitness, age limit, and endorsements.
According to the criteria set by the FMCSA, all commercial drivers licenses must contain the following information:
- The words “Commercial Driver’s License” or the abbreviation “CDL”.
- The full name, signature, and mailing address of the driver.
- The driver’s date of birth, height, and gender.
- A color photograph of the driver.
- The state license number of the driver.
- The name of the state that issued the license.
- The date that the license was issued on and the date that the license expires.
- The class or classes of vehicles that the driver is permitted to operate.
- If issued, the notation of the “air brake” restriction.
- Any endorsements that the driver is qualified for.
Commercial Learner’s Permit
A state may issue the driver a commercial learner’s permit for the purpose of behind-the-wheel-training on public roadways and highways as long as the driver is accompanied by a commercial driver’s license holder that is qualified to operate the class and type of vehicle being driven. All commercial learner’s permits come with time restrictions. The permit holder is prohibited from operating any commercial vehicle that is transporting hazardous materials. Also, the CLP holder must possess a valid non-CDL driver’s license issued by the same state as the commercial learner’s permit.
Intrastate vs. Interstate Truck Driving
Federal regulations mandate that you must be at least 18 years old to drive a commercial motor vehicle within the state (intrastate) that issued you your CDL or CLP. You must be at least 21 years of age to drive a commercial motor vehicle across state lines (interstate).
Commercial Driver’s License Classes
A commercial driver’s license or commercial learner’s permit is needed to legally operate a Class A, Class B, or Class C commercial motor vehicle. They are as follows:
Any combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,001 pounds or more, provided that the gross vehicle weight rating of the towed vehicle is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
Any single vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,001 or more pounds, as well as any vehicle towing another vehicle that does not exceed a weight of 10,000 pounds.
Any vehicle or combination of vehicles that does not meet the criteria of either Class A or Class B, but is designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or is used in transporting materials classified as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.
Although formal training is not required to obtain a commercial driver’s license, the applicant is required to pass both a written test and a driving skills test. The applicant must correctly answer a written test consisting of 30 or more questions with a minimum passing score of 80 percent. In order to pass the driving test, the applicant must successfully maneuver the obstacle course. The applicant must take the driving test in a vehicle he or she plans to operate. In order to receive certain endorsements, you may be required to take the driving test with a vehicle containing the equipment for that endorsement.
In order to receive certain endorsements, a CDL holder must complete and pass additional testing. The following CDL endorsements are available in each state:
- H (Hazardous Materials): A written test and background check required for any vehicle to be placarded for the transportation of hazardous materials.
- N (Tank): A written test required for any tank vehicle designed to transport 10,000 gallons or more.
- T (Double/Triple Trailer): A written test required for any vehicle towing two or more trailers.
- P (Passenger): A written and driving test required for any vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
- S (School Bus): A written and driving test required for commercial driver’s license Class A,B, or C when operating a school bus with passengers. Applicant may also have to undergo a background check, sex offender registry check, and hold a “P” endorsement on their CDL.
- X (Combination): A written test required to operate a tank vehicle transporting hazardous materials.
- W (Tow Truck): A written test required to operate a tow truck.
Certain restrictions are automatically placed on the applicant’s commercial driver’s license until that applicant passes the test or tests to remove such restrictions. The following restrictions may vary from state to state and may or may not include:
- B (Corrective Lenses): You must wear corrective lenses when operating a commercial motor vehicle.
- J (Bus Only): You may only operate a school bus. You cannot drive any other type of commercial vehicle.
- K (Air Brakes Restriction) You may not operate a commercial vehicle with Full Air or Air Over Hydraulic brakes. In order to operate a vehicle with either of these types of brakes, you must successfully pass the air brakes knowledge test. You are also required to take the road test in a vehicle equipped with either Full Air or Air Over Hydraulic brakes.
- M (Class B Bus Only): You may operate a Class B passenger bus or a Class C passenger vehicle only.
- N (Class C Bus Only): You may operate a Class C passenger bus or vehicle only.
- O (Class A Restriction): You may not operate a commercial vehicle with a tractor-trailer.
- V (Medical Variance): You must carry your medical variance documentation when operating a commercial motor vehicle.
- Z (Full Air Brakes Restriction): You may not operate a commercial vehicle equipped with Full Air brakes.
Persons applying for a commercial driver’s license must prove that they are healthy enough to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Depending on the driver’s self-certification status, a valid Medical Examiner’s Certificate stating that the applicant meets or exceeds the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s health standards may have to be filled out and signed by a qualified medical professional. The medical professional must be certified by the FMCSA and listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. A copy of the certificate must be sent to the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles CDL Compliance Unit for their records. Commercial drivers may have to undergo a physical examination administered by a FMCSA certified medical professional and submit a copy of the Medical Examination Report along with the Medical Examiner’s Certificate. Certain physical impairments may disqualify an applicant from obtaining their commercial driver’s license. Examples of these impairments include the inability to grasp a steering wheel, the inability to operate foot pedals, insulin use, cardiac and respiratory ailments, high blood pressure, certain mental disorders, epilepsy, color blindness, hearing loss, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other conditions which increase the risk of an auto accident.