Requirements for Obtaining Your CDL License (Commercial Driver’s License) Both Federal and States Requirements!

CDL Requirements to Drive Trucks | Federal & States Process

In the world of driving vehicles, several things are essential and required, and a valid driver’s license is one of them.

When it comes to getting a driver’s license, there are different types and while you might assume that every other motorist is holding the same drivers’ license that you are, such is not always the case.

It is therefore imperative to know which driver’s license is required for the type of vehicle you want to drive, though smaller truck sizes may not requice CDL

Types of Driver Licenses

There are different types of driver’s licenses in the United States, but the major two categories are non-commercial driver’s licenses (class D, Class E, Class MJ, and Class DJ) and commercial driver’s licenses (Class A, Class B, and Class C). 

The requirements and classification for these licenses in each state are created according to the regulations set by the states’ department of motor vehicles and general federal government regulations as well. 

In this article, we would focus on commercial driver’s license (CDL), and tell you all you should know about it; from obtaining one to maintaining it. 

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What is CDL for Drivers and Why Does It Matter?

Let’s start with the full meaning of the acronym, CDL. It stands for Commercial Driver’s License. Now that you know that, let’s get into details. 

Generally, the CDL is the license type issued to drivers who intend to drive or tow heavy vehicles; ideally vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight of at least 26,000 pounds.

In simple terms, if you intend to drive a heavy truck or any big vehicle, you will be required to have a CDL, except you want to be on the other side of the law, which no one want to be. 

Getting a CDL is very important for drivers because it’s illegal and dangerous to drive any vehicle that requires the license without it, even if you have another type such as a non-commercial driver’s license.

Your CDL will be issued by the government as proof that you have the training and legal backing to drive a particular kind of vehicle based on successfully meeting the required criteria. 

It’s also very important to get your CDL because you cannot apply to truck driving jobs without it. And it is also not only illegal, but you would be putting the lives of road users and the other motorists in a lot of danger.

The Different Categories of CDLs

As we mentioned earlier, there are three (3) main types of CDLs and each has its unique training and requirement.

The specification for each category differs and you must put into consideration what you want to use the license for before deciding which to go for. We’d come to the requirement per state soon, but first, here are the three types of Commercial Driver’s License and their purposes.

Class A

The Class A commercial driver’s license is the highest attainable type and gives you access to those vehicle specifications in class B and C. This type of CDL permits drivers to drive vehicles with a total gross weight of 26,000 pounds or more with towed vehicles more than 10,000 pounds.

The types of vehicles that fit into this category include truck trailers, semi trucks, double and triple trailer types, The flat models, Livestock carriers, 18 wheelers, etc.

Class B

Vehicles like box trucks, large passenger buses, dump trucks that have small trailers, construction vehicles, segmented buses, etc., are the ones that require this type of license.

The allowance for this type of CDL is similar to that of class A type except in this case, you cannot use this license for towing vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 pounds, albeit still can tow a total of 26,000 gross vehicle weight or more.

Class C

The class C license is the least and you cannot use it to drive vehicles that require either of the previous two classes.

This license type is required if you are carrying hazardous items in your vehicle and it’s also primarily for vehicles that take at least 16 passengers or smaller minivans

The question now is if you have what it takes to obtain the CDL you’d like to have in your state. Let’s take a look at what will be required of you before you can be granted a CDL.

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CDL Requirements at Federal and State Levels

Knowing what would be required of you before getting a CDL is important because that way you can enjoy a seamless process.

The specifics of these requirements differ by state. We would look at what these requirements are for a couple of states, but here are the primary requirements you must meet to get a CDL based on federal regulations. 

  • You must be at least 18 years old and 21 years old to drive hazardous materials or interstate. 
  • You need a valid, non-commercial driver’s license (Class D, Class MJ, etc.)
  • You must not have any ongoing suspensions.
  • You must write and pass all manners of examinations including medical, and have certificates to prove so.
  • You need a minimum of 1-2 years of driving experience.
  • You must be able to show proof of citizenship or permanent residency along with other valid means of identification.
  • Must have completed your training course with specific alignment to the applicable license class.
  • You must pass all required background checks by your state.
  • You must not possess two CDLs for different states.

What Is The Most Common Driver’s License Class?

State Requirements

The requirements for states enforce these federal requirements but some might have additional requirements and in many others, the acceptable details for these requirements differ. Here is a list of peculiar requirements for eleven states that you will find useful: 

Please note that the minimum age for all listed states is 18 for obtaining any CDL class, and 21 for interstate driving or driving hazardous materials as set by the federal government.

Ohio

  • Get additional CDL endorsements for the corresponding vehicle such as the P endorsement for carrying passengers.
  • You must have your birth certificate.
  • Have your social card in addition to your proof of residency. 
  • You must have insurance cover along with a non-commercial valid license.
  • Be physically present at the BMV office to fill your CDL form.

California

  • Must have a high school diploma or GED.
  • Must have a clean 10-year background check record.
  • Must present proof of insurance.
  • Class C license is reserved for regular driver’s licenses.

Texas

  • Must present two proofs of Texas residency or proof of legal status for non-U.S citizens.
  • Must have insurance.
  • Provide current valid driver’s license.

Kansas

  • Get additional CDL endorsements like passenger buses (P), School buses (S), Hamzat cargo (H), Bulk liquid tankers (N), and Double/triple trucks (T).
  • Go through a security assessment before getting a Hamzat cargo endorsement.
  • Pay fees to get your license such as endorsement fees of about $10 each or $13 commercial learners permit, etc.

Arizona

  • CLP is valid for only one month.
  • Proof of residency or legal status.
  • Minimum age of 18 years for intrastate CDL.
  • Minimum age of 21 years for interstate CDL and transporting hazardous material.

Georgia

  • No interstate travel for anyone under 21 years.
  • Relinquish another state driver’s license or permit.

Virginia 

  • Have strict CDL restrictions, for example, J—restricts you to operating only school buses, N—operate only a class C passenger bus, Z—you are restricted from operating a vehicle with full air brakes. There are also restrictions O, Q, V, M, L, K, E, B, Y, and C.

Maryland

  • Class C license is reserved for regular driver’s license.
  • Must have a 10-year clean driving record.

New York

  • Must have a DOT Card 2 years or younger.
  • Must have a CDL learner’s permit.

New Jersey

  • Must have a basic class D New Jersey driver’s license.
  • Pay $2 for each endorsement.

Pennsylvania

  • You must get a commercial learner’s permit CLP first before getting a CDL.
  • Must have a valid class D driver’s license to get a CDL.

What CDL Class Do I Need for My Vehicle Type?

To make it very easy for you to select what class of license you need to get, we have made a comprehensive list of different types of trucks and the applicable license required.

  • For trucks and trailers: You will need to have a class A license to drive a combination of trucks and trailers. 
  • For box trucks: A Class B CDL is needed if the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of your box truck is above 26,000 pounds. However, if your box truck is not up to that, a CDL is not necessary.
  • For dump trucks: You can use a class B license with small dump truck trailers. Class B vehicles usually do not have trailers, but you can use the license for this purpose as long as the trailer weighs less than 10,000 pounds. 
  • For semi-trucks: A class A or B will be required for this, depending on the weight. In many cases, additional CDL endorsements are also required for this vehicle type.
  • For school bus: You will need to have a class B license or Class C if the bus is less than a 16-passenger bus. After getting your CDL, you will also need to get passenger and school bus endorsements, P and S respectively. 
  • For tow trucks: If your tow truck has a gross vehicle weight of more than 26,000 pounds or the empty weight is higher than 10,000 pounds, then a Class A CDL is needed by the driver. A class C license can also be used, but only if the tow truck weighs less than 10,000 pounds. 
  • For gooseneck trailers: You will need a class A CDL if the gooseneck trailer has more than one axle and tows more than 10,000 pounds. 
  • For passenger vans: If you’re driving a 15 or less passenger van including a driver, then you do not need a CDL and can use a regular license. However, for 16-passenger vans and above, you need to get a class C license at the very least.
  • For horse trailers: If the GVWR of the horse trailer and towing vehicle is more than 26,000 pounds, then a class A or B CDL is required.

What Fine for Driving Commercial Vehicles without a CDL?

While we hope this is never you, drivers caught are charged, not only under federal law, but the state as well. The fine attached ranges from $2,500 to $5,000 under federal law for drivers, and could be up to $25,000 for employers who intentionally put unlicensed drivers on the road in commercial vehicles.

What is CDL Practice Test?

CDL practice tests refer to a set of questions drawn from the real exam that you can take in preparation for your certification exams. Several sites offer the practice test online, and you may even find some for free.

The practice test, like the original one, has both the written practice test and the practical practice test. In case you are wondering whether or not to take this test, here are some of its advantages and disadvantages that you should consider:

Pros of Doing a CDL Practice Test

  • Gives you more insight into the types of questions to be expected, thereby boosting your confidence.
  • Helps you to outwit the test by trying out different tricky questions and having a better understanding of how to navigate tricky questions.
  • Gives you knowledge useful for you even when you start driving or if you do not eventually take the main test.
  • It will help you highlight your areas of weakness fast so you can churn more effort into that area.
  • You can learn without rushing.

Cons Involved in a CDL Practice Test

The popular saying of practice makes perfect is also very applicable here, and so there are not many disadvantages to taking a practice test.

One challenge that might happen if you choose to take lots of practice tests is that the type or format of the questions could be different from what you have practiced.

Taking a CDL practice test does not automatically make you ready for the main test, and so, you must not restrict your preparations to that. 

What Are The 3 CDL Tests?

FAQ

What is the most common driver’s license class?

The Class D license is the most common type of driver’s license available. This license is primarily used by drivers of regular cars.

What disqualifies you from getting a CDL in Ohio?

There are a couple of actions that could get you disqualified from getting a CDL in Ohio including drinking while driving or refusing to submit an alcohol test, committing multiple traffic offenses, unclean driving record, or committing acts of felony with your vehicle, and many more.

How much does CDL training cost in Ohio?

The average cost of CDL training in Ohio is $5,000. However, it can be as low as $4,000 and as high as $6,000 depending on the qualification you are going for and the academy you will take your training at.

What are the 3 CDL tests?

CDL test requirement differs per country and license type but the 3 major areas that you will be tested on include air brakes test, general knowledge, and combination vehicles.

What is CDL background check requirements?

These are the checks that must be done on you before you can be granted your CDL. These include alcohol screening, employment screening, a DOT drug test as well as physicals, motor vehicle records, criminal records, etc.

How long does your CDL last?

Your CDL can last between 4 to 8 years depending on the state registered in.

How often do you have to self certify CDL?

Self-certification is important if you don’t want a downgrade of your license and you are required to do this every 2 years at the very least.

What is a dot examination?

The DOT examination is a compulsory test by the Department of Transportation. Every commercial vehicle driver is required to take the test to judge if they are emotionally, mentally, and physically fit to drive.

Is it difficult to get your CDL?

Going by the examinations, a large percentage of people pass so it can be classified as easy, however, the license application and collection process is more technical than a regular driver’s license, so compared to that, it’s a little difficult.

Is CMV the same as CDL?

CMV is the acronym for Commercial Motor Vehicle and refers to vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight of up to 10,000 grams or more. Going by this, it’s not the same as CDL. Your CDL is what you need to drive a CMV.

Conclusion

As a truck driver or employer of truck drivers, your CDL is not something you should treat with levity.

You must find the requirements that fit your state of operation, and go through the due process to receive, and maintain your CDL. Don’t forget, there are different classes, and you should go for the class that suits what you intend to do with the license.

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