California CDL Requirements

California CDL Classes

      You will need a California CDL in order to drive any commercial motor vehicle that falls within the following categories:

Class A
      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.  Also, any commercial motor vehicle that is used in transporting materials classified as hazardous, which requires placards, or any vehicle that tows any combination of two trailers (double/triple trailer) or vehicle and trailer.

Class B
      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. Also, any commercial motor vehicle that is used in transporting materials classified as hazardous, which requires placards, or any vehicle that tows any combination of two trailers (double/triple trailer) or vehicle and trailer.

Class C
      Any vehicle or combination of vehicles that does not meet the criteria of either Class A or Class B, but is designed to transport 10 or more passengers (including the driver), or is used in transporting materials classified as hazardous, which requires placards. 

Intrastate vs. Interstate

      In the state of California, you must be at least 18 years of age to drive a commercial motor vehicle within state lines (intrastate) and at least 21 years old to drive a commercial motor vehicle across state lines (interstate).

Applying for a Commercial Learner’s Permit

      Before you can apply for a commercial driver’s license, you will first need to obtain a commercial learner’s permit. To apply for a commercial learner’s permit you will need to:

  • Possess a valid California Class D driver’s license.
  • Visit a nearby DMV office.
  • Fill out CA CDL Application form DL 44C (Call toll-free 1-800-777-0133 to have one mailed to you).
  • Fill out a Ten Year History Record Check (Form DL 939).
  • Give your thumb print for future identification purposes.
  • Have your photo taken.
  • Provide your social security number.
  • Verify your date of birth and legal presence with either a birth certificate and two forms of photo I.D. or your valid CA driver’s license.
  • Pass the vision test (20/40 visual acuity with or without prescription eyeglasses).
  • Submit a completed Medical Examination Report and Medical Examiner’s Certificate.
  • Pass the general knowledge test and any other knowledge test for the class of vehicle you plan to drive.
  • Pay the application fee for a five year commercial driver’s license.

      If you have any questions, you can speak to a customer service representative at the California Department of Motor Vehicles Call Center by calling toll-free 1-800-777-0133. The California DMV Call Center is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm, and Wednesday, from 9 am to 5 pm, PST. The California Department of Motor Vehicles is closed on all statewide holidays.

The CDL Knowledge Tests

      The CDL written knowledge tests are administered at all DMV Field Offices. All commercial driver’s license applicants must pass the written general knowledge test in order to be eligible to receive a CDL. 

      The CDL general knowledge test consists of 50 questions. In order to receive a passing score, each applicant is required to answer at least 80% of the questions correctly in the time allotted for that test. All written tests require a score of at least 80% to pass. Applicants will be given three chances to pass the general knowledge test.

      Any applicant that exceeds the time limit or incorrectly answers too many questions on the general knowledge test will fail. Any applicant that uses any kind of test aid during the test will automatically fail the test. Anyone caught talking to another person during the test will automatically fail the test. Use of cell phones and camera devices is prohibited in the testing area.

      All applicants should arrive at the DMV Field Office at least one hour prior to closing when taking the written tests. 

      Once you successfully pass the CDL written general knowledge test, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will issue you a commercial learner’s permit so that you can practice operating a commercial motor vehicle. The commercial learner’s permit will be valid for 180 days from the date of issuance. If you are unable to pass the CDL Skills Test within the 180 days, you will be allowed to renew the permit for another 180 days.

      You can only renew the commercial learner’s permit once in a two year period. You may only operate a CMV under the supervision of a front seat passenger who is at least 18 years old and carries a valid California CDL of the same class or greater than the class of vehicle you are operating. You may not operate any vehicle that is transporting materials deemed hazardous. 

      Over 60% of first time CDL applicants fail the written test! Be sure to download and study the California Commercial Driver Handbook, as it contains the information you need to pass the CDL tests, including some sample test questions.  You can also test your CDL knowledge by taking the online interactive Sample Commercial Drivers Written Test 1 and Sample Commercial Drivers Written Test 2.

      Our Free CDL Practice Tests will help prepare you for the actual CDL knowledge tests administered by the DMV.

      Click here to find a DMV Field Office that administers the CDL written knowledge tests. You can schedule a DMV Office appointment online using the DMV Appointment System.

Applying for a California Commercial Driver’s License

      The state of California differs somewhat from most of the other 49 states when it comes to applying for a commercial driver’s license. For instance, in the state of California, you must complete a Ten Year History Record Check if you have been issued a driver’s license in another state or jurisdiction in the past ten years. You are also required to give a thumb print when you apply for your commercial learner’s permit.

      In order to apply for a California commercial driver’s license, you must:

  • Call toll-free 1-800-777-0133 and schedule an appointment for the CDL Skills Test.
  • Arrive at the test site with your own test vehicle and a front seat passenger who holds a valid CDL.
  • Provide valid liability insurance for the vehicle you are testing in (must be verified by the examiner).
  • Take the Skills Test in the class of vehicle you plan to drive when you obtain your CDL.
  • Pass the Pre-trip Vehicle Inspection (You are given three chances to pass the inspection).
  • Pass the Basic Controls Test and Road Skills Test (You have three chances to pass both tests).
  • You may opt out of the Basic Controls Test and Road Skills Test if you submit a Certificate of Driving Skill (form DL 170) signed by both you and your employer (your employer must be authorized by the DMV to issue form DL 170).
  • Self-certify as to what type of commercial driving you will be doing once you receive your CDL.

The CDL Skills Test

      Once you obtain your commercial learner’s permit, you will be allowed to schedule an appointment to take the CDL Skills Test. The CDL Skills Test is given by appointment only. Walk-ins are not permitted. To schedule a test appointment, you must call toll-free 1-800-777-0133 between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, PST, and speak to a DMV representative. Not all California DMV Offices administer the CDL Skills Test. Please read over page 6 of the California Commercial Driver Handbook to see which DMV locations offer the CDL Skills Test or click here.

      The CDL Skills Test is a three part test that consists of a Pre-trip Inspection, a Basic Vehicle Controls Test, and an On-Road Driving Test. You must be accompanied to the test site by a front seat passenger who is at least 18 years of age and holds a valid CDL for the class and type of vehicle you are testing in. 

      You will be required to take the test in the same class and type of motor vehicle that you plan to drive once you obtain your CDL. If you take the CDL Skills Test in a commercial motor vehicle that is not equipped with air brakes, then you will have an air brakes restriction attached to your commercial driver’s license. If you fail any one part of the CDL Skills Test, you will be required to retake the entire test again.

  • Pre-trip Inspection: Before you can take the CDL driving tests, you will first be tested on your knowledge of the class of vehicle you plan on driving once you obtain your CDL. The Pre-trip inspection also determines if your commercial vehicle is safe enough to drive on public roads. If you fail the Pre-trip Inspection, you may not be allowed to take the Road Skills Test. You will be allowed to use the Pre-trip Inspection test aid, found on pages 155 and 156 of the California Commercial Driver Handbook, during the test.
  • Basic Controls Test: Before you can take the Road Skills Test, you will first need to prove that you have the skills to operate a commercial motor vehicle on public roads. This test consists of various off-road maneuvers such as backing up your vehicle, moving your vehicle forward, and making turns within a defined area. 
  • Road Skills Test: Once you pass the first two tests, you will be required to drive your commercial vehicle on public roads in various traffic situations. You will be required to operate the same class of commercial vehicle you plan to drive once you obtain your CDL.

      The Basic Controls Test will most likely include the following maneuvers:

  • 90 degree alley docking
  • Straight line backing
  • Parallel parking (driver side)
  • Parallel parking (conventional)
  • Offset back/right
  • Offset back/left

      The Road Skills Test will be administered on a route predetermined by the examiner. The test route will most likely include the following:

  • Starting
  • Stopping
  • Braking
  • Turning
  • Observing traffic signs
  • Observing traffic signals
  • Observing other traffic
  • Using vehicle controls
  • Maintaining proper lane positions
  • Downgrades
  • Downgrade stopping
  • Upgrades
  • Upgrade stopping
  • Railroad crossings
  • Bridge clearance
  • Underpass clearance
  • General observance of traffic laws
  • General safe driving practices for trucks or buses

     On the day of your CDL Skills Test appointment you must:

  1. Arrive on time.
  2. Bring your validated commercial learner’s permit.
  3. Bring your valid D.O.T. medical card (cannot be more than 2 years old).
  4. Bring a passenger (age 18 or older) that is qualified to drive a CMV with the same class of CDL or greater than the test vehicle.
  5. Bring a test vehicle that is the same class of license that you are testing for and is currently insured.

      Failure to do any of the above may result in an immediate cancellation of your CDL Skills Test appointment! The California Department of Motor Vehicles advises applicants to schedule their Skills Test appointment a few weeks in advance and to arrive early for their test appointment. If you decide to cancel your Skills Test appointment, you must cancel the appointment no less than 48 hours before your scheduled test date and time. 

      Be sure to download and study the California Commercial Driver Handbook, as it contains pertinent information that will help you pass the CDL Skills Test. 

      Once you pass your tests or submit a valid Certificate of Driving Skill, the DMV will issue you an interim license valid for 90 days. You should receive your new CDL photo license in the mail within this time period. If you have not received your photo license within 60 days, you may call toll-free 1-800-777-0133 to check the status of your photo license. Make sure you have your interim license on hand when you call to provide the necessary information over the phone.

      Click here to see the map and clickable list of CDL Offices that administer the Skills Test.

Commercial Driver Self-Certification

      In the state of California, all commercial driver’s license holders must self-certify as to what type of driving they will be doing (intrastate or interstate), and whether they meet or exceed the medical and physical standards put forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to legally and safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. All CDL applicants must self-certify once they obtain their commercial driver’s license.   

       All commercial drivers who intend to operate a commercial motor vehicle for the following purposes only, do not require a commercial driver’s license and are considered “exempt” and therefore are waived from self-certification:

  • Persons operating Special Purpose Commercial vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 lbs. or less. 
  • Fire and emergency vehicles used to preserve life and property or to carry out governmental operations.
  • Vehicles operated by non-civilian operators of military equipment.
  • Recreational vehicles that are being used for personal recreational use only.
  • Any farm vehicle used to transport agricultural products, farm machinery, or farm supplies within 150 air-miles of the owner’s farm and not used in the operation of a common or contract motor carrier.

      If you intend to operate a commercial motor vehicle for any other purpose than those listed above, then you are considered “non-exempt” and are required to hold a valid CDL and must self-certify. You may also need to provide a current Medical Examiner’s Certificate.

      If you operate a commercial motor vehicle in either intrastate or interstate commerce solely for the following purposes, then you are under “excepted” status, and therefore do not need to provide a Medical Examiner’s Certificate:

  • Transporting school children and/or school staff members between home and school.
  • Operating any vehicle as an employee of either Federal, State, or Local government.
  • Operating fire and rescue vehicles for emergency purposes and other related events.
  • Transporting sick, injured, or deceased persons.
  • Primarily transporting propane heating fuel when responding to an emergency condition requiring an immediate response.
  • When responding to a pipeline emergency requiring an immediate response such as a pipeline leak or rupture.
  • When custom harvesting on a farm or to haul farm machinery and supplies to and from a farm or when transporting crops between a farm and a market or storage facility.
  • When operating a farm vehicle that is not a combo vehicle (power unit and towed unit), and is used to haul agricultural products, farm supplies (cannot be materials deemed hazardous), or farm machinery to and from a farm and within 150 air miles of the farm.
  • Transporting bees as an apiarist during beekeeping season.
  • When transporting migrant workers.
  • As a private motor carrier of passengers for non-business activities.

      If you intend to operate a commercial motor vehicle for any other purpose than those listed above, then you operate in either “non-excepted” intrastate commerce, “non-excepted” interstate commerce, or both. “Non excepted” interstate drivers and “non-excepted” intrastate drivers are required to submit a current Medical Examiner’s Certificate along with a completed and signed copy of the California Commercial Driver License Self-Certification Form. The Medical Examiner’s Certificate cannot expire within 60 days from the date of submission. All other commercial drivers who do not fall into this category must complete, sign, and submit the California Commercial Driver License Self-Certification Form only. 

      If you have any questions regarding self-certification, you can speak to a customer service representative at the California Department of Motor Vehicles CDL Helpdesk by calling 916-657-5771 or 916-657-5772. The California Department of Motor Vehicles Call Center is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm, and on Wednesday, from 9 am to 5 pm, PST. The California Department of Motor Vehicles is closed on all statewide holidays.

      For more information about the Medical Examiner’s Certificate, please continue reading below.

Medical Examination Report for Commercial Driver’s License

      All CDL applicants must have the Medical Examiner’s Certificate and the Medical Examination Report completed by one of the following:

  • Licensed U.S. doctor of medicine (M.D.)
  • Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O)
  • Licensed physician assistant (P.A.)
  • Advanced practice registered nurse
  • Chiropractor

      The Medical Examiner’s Certificate must be attached to the Medical Examination Report and dated within the previous two years if you are renewing your commercial driver’s license. If you are a first time CDL applicant submitting your Medical Examiner’s Certificate, then the certificate must not expire within 60 days from the date of submission.

      The California Department of Motor Vehicles will only accept your medical forms if they have been completed by a qualified physician who has been certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. You can search for a FMCSA certified physician by using the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

      The FMSCA requires you to have at least 20/40 vision in each eye and a field of vision of at least 140 degrees (70 degrees in each eye) in order to be certified to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Under certain conditions, you may be able to be waived from these and other medical requirements.     

      Once you have completed and signed the Medical Examiner’s Certificate, the Medical Examination Report, the California Commercial Driver License Self-Certification Form, and any applicable medical waivers, you can submit your documents by mailing them to:

                              Department of Motor Vehicles 
                              CDL Unit M/S G204 
                              P.O. Box 944278 
                              Sacramento, CA. 94244-2780                                                                             

      Please include your name, address, and contact number on all mailings. Make sure your information is legible and be sure to double check and, if needed, correct any errors before submitting your documents. All CDL applicants are advised to keep copies of these documents for their own records. Failure to comply with state and federal self-certification regulations will result in a cancellation of your commercial driving privileges.

         If you have any questions regarding self-certification, you can speak to a customer service representative at the California Department of Motor Vehicles CDL Helpdesk by calling 916-657-5771 or 916-657-5772. The California Department of Motor Vehicles Call Center is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm, and on Wednesday, from 9 am to 5 pm, PST. The California Department of Motor Vehicles is closed on all statewide holidays. 

Hazmat Endorsement

      Any person that is applying for a Hazardous Materials CDL endorsement is required to undergo a federal background check and federal fingerprint check according to guidelines set by the Transportation Security Administration. All applicants must also provide the required documents to verify their identification and legal U.S. status. For more information, check out the Transportation Security Administration’s F.A.Q. page.

      You can apply for the security threat assessment on the TSA Hazardous Material Endorsement Enrollment Website. You must begin applying at least 30 days before the expiration of your CDL. You can start the application process on the HTAP Online Application Website. To apply by phone call (855) 347-8371. Use the TSA Enrollment Center Locator to find the nearest TSA approved fingerprint office. 

Military Drivers

      In the state of California, if you are currently serving in the military or have been honorably discharged within the last 90 days, and you have driven military vehicles that would require a CDL to operate as a civilian with a 2 year safe driving record, then you may qualify for the waiver of the CDL Skills Test and may be exempt from taking the commercial driver skills test. You will still be required to take the written tests. Certain restrictions apply.

      Download, print, and complete the CDL Certification for Military Waiver of CDL Driving Test  and have your commanding officer complete and sign the Commanding Officer’s Certification of Driving Experience Form to start the process. 

      If you have any questions about the CDL Certification for Military Waiver of CDL Driving Test, you can speak to a customer service representative at the California Department of Motor Vehicles Call Center by calling toll-free 1-800-777-0133. The California DMV Call Center is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm, and Wednesday, from 9 am to 5 pm, PST. The California Department of Motor Vehicles is closed on all statewide holidays.

California CDL Endorsements

      H      Placarded Hazmat      Required to transport hazardous materials under DOT regulations. 

      N      Tank Vehicles      Required to transport liquids in bulk containers of 1,000 gallons or more.

      X      Tanker/Hazardous Materials Combination   Required to transport hazardous materials in tank vehicles   

      T      Double/Triple Trailers      Indicates CDL holder is certified to operate multiple trailer haulers. 

      P     Passengers      Indicates the CDL holder is certified to operate passenger vehicles.

      S     School Bus      Indicates the CDL holder is authorized to operate a school bus. 

Methods of Payment

      All California DMV Offices accept the following methods of payment:

  • Cash
  • Checks
  • Money Orders
  • ATM/Debit Cards

      Please note that while debit cards are accepted at all California DMV offices, credit cards are not accepted at any DMV Offices. All fees are non-refundable and are subject to change without notice.      

Important California Commercial Driver’s License Resources

California Commercial Driver Handbook
California CDL Practice Tests
DMV Appointment System
10 Year History Record Check Form DL 939
CDL Certification for Military Waiver of CDL Driving Test Form DL 963
Commanding Officer’s Certification of Driving Experience Form
Report of Vision Examination Form
California Commercial Driver License Self-Certification Form DL 694
Medical Examiner’s Certificate
Medical Examination Report Form DL 51
National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners

  

      Check out our list of truck driving schools in California that will provide you with the necessary skills to obtain your commercial driver’s license and start your career in the exciting field of commercial truck driving! You may also want to check out our nationwide list of truck driving schools.

If you found this article helpful, feel free to share it on Google Plus and Facebook using the buttons below.

  

 

Map of California CDL Skills Test Locations*

TitleAddress
1. Arleta DMV Office 14400 Van Nuys Blvd, Arleta, CA 91331
2. Bakersfield DMV Office 3120 F Street, Bakersfield, CA 93301
3. Bishop DMV Office 1115 W. Line Street, Bishop, CA 93514
4. Capitola DMV Office 4200 Capitola Road, Capitola, CA 95010
5. Compton DMV Office 2111 S. Santa Fe Avenue, Compton, CA 90221
6. El Centro DMV Office 233 N. Imperial Avenue, El Centro, CA 92243
7. Eureka DMV Office 322 W. 15th Street, Eureka, CA 95501
8. Fremont DMV Office 4287 Central Avenue, Fremont, CA 94536
9. Fresno DMV Office 735 E. North Avenue, Fresno, CA 93725
10. Fullerton DMV Office 909 W. Valencia Drive, Fullerton, CA 92832
11. Lancaster DMV Office 1110 W. Avenue I, Lancaster, CA 93534
12. Modesto DMV Office 124 Burney Street, Modesto, CA 95354
13. Montebello DMV Office 424 N. Wilcox Avenue, Montebello, CA 90640
14. Rancho San Diego CDL Office 1901 Jamacha Road, El Cajon, CA 92019
15. Redding DMV Office 2135 Civic Center Drive, Redding, CA 96001
16. West Sacramento DMV Office 2528 Evergreen Avenue, West Sacramento, CA 95691
17. San Bernardino DMV Office National Orange Show at 930 South Arrowhead Avenue, San Bernardino, CA 92408
18. San Luis Obispo DMV Office 3190 S. Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
19. Santa Barbara DMV Office 535 Castillo Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
20. Santa Rosa DMV Office 2570 Corby Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95407
21. Santa Teresa DMV Office 180 Martinvale Lane, San Jose, CA 95119
22. Salinas DMV Office 260 E. Laurel Drive, Salinas, CA 93906
23. Stockton DMV Office 55 S. Lincoln Street, Stockton, CA 95203
24. Torrance DMV Office 1785 W. 220th Street, Torrance, CA 90501
25. Ukiah DMV Office 542 S. Orchard Avenue, Ukiah, CA 95482
26. Vallejo DMV Office 200 Couch Street, Vallejo, CA 94590
27. Ventura DMV Office 4260 Market Street, Ventura, CA 93003
28. Yuba City DMV Office 1570 Poole Blvd, Yuba City, CA 95993

 

*All California CDL Offices are open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm, and on Wednesday, from 9 am to 5 pm, PST.

Some CDL testing locations require you to set up an appointment. CDL testing hours may vary. Please call the testing location for more information.

Please Note: Some of the documents linked on this page are in the Adobe Portable Document Format, also known as “PDF.” Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view, fill out and print forms. If you have problems with Adobe Acrobat Reader, see the Adobe Troubleshooting page for possible solutions.

Copyright © 2017 Truck Driving Schools Info. All Rights Reserved | Home | Contact | About | Terms | Privacy

California CDL Requirements
5 (100%) 1 vote