How to Get a CDL

Not everyone has what it takes to drive a truck or school bus. It requires a higher level of knowledge, skill, experience and physical ability than driving a car. In all states, you are required to possess a Commercial Driver License (CDL) if you plan to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). If you want to know how to get a CDL, follow these easy-to-understand steps to streamline the process and help you avoid missteps that could cost you valuable time and money.

NOTE: If you’re planning to attend a trucking school or company-sponsored training program, they should guide you through the steps below.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting a CDL

1. Determine which CDL you will need to drive the vehicle you want to drive

There are three types of CDL’s. Click here for descriptions of Class A, Class B and Class C

2. Determine if you’re eligible for a CDL

• Minimum age for an intrastate license (within home state) is 18 years in most cases, but varies by state

• Minimum age for an interstate license (nationwide) is 21 years

  • Get the required medical certification (Department of Transportation medical card) by getting a DOT physical from an approved provider of DOT examinations. All approved providers are listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners
  • Locate and have ready all personal verification documents. In most States, you’ll be required to show the DMV/DOT the following documents: 

• Proof of Age and Identity (e.g., Birth Certificate, Driver’s License)

• Proof of Social Security (e.g., Social Security Card)

• Proof of Residency (e.g., Utility Bill)

• Proof of Clear Driving History (i.e., Certify that you have your license, it is not suspended and that you maintain one current license, not multiple licenses) 

  • NOTE: Due to the requirements above, most drivers must obtain their CDL in their state of residency

3. Study the CDL handbook or training guide

4. Fill out the application for a CDL Learners Permit (CLP) at the DMV, or online

Remember to be prepared to: 

• Show proof of identification 

• Show proof of residency

• Have your driving record checked for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia

• Show your DOT medical card (if available)

• Declare which type of commercial vehicle(s) you plan to drive

5. Turn in your CLP application in person and take the knowledge test

  • Pay the application fee
  • Pass the test and receive your learners permit for getting your CDL

6. Choose the right CDL training program

A good training program will prepare you to sit for your CDL exam. Training programs are offered by private schools, and certain trucking companies offer company-sponsored training. 

7. Practice driving a commercial vehicle using your learners permit

  • You must practice with a qualified driver sitting next to you (private school and company-sponsored training programs will provide supervised driver training time)
  • Be sure to practice the inspection tests and the maneuvers in the CDL manual. Getting your CDL means you must pass all three parts of the driving skills test:

• Vehicle Inspection Test

• Basic Controls Test

• Road Test

  • You must have your CLP for a minimum of 14 days before taking your CDL driving skills exam due to Federal Guidelines

8. Schedule an appointment for the CDL driving skills test

  • Contact your local DMV/DOT office to schedule your road test appointment 
  • If you’re attending a trucking school or company-sponsored training program, they will likely guide you in scheduling your road test
  • NOTE: Very soon, all states will require CDL training verification before issuing a CDL license

9. Arrive for your driving skills appointment with the commercial vehicle you plan to drive

  • If you plan on being a tractor-trailer driver, arrive for your test with a truck (same applies for school bus drivers, etc.) If you’re attending a trucking school or company-sponsored training program, they normally provide the equipment for your driving skills test
  • Pay the required fee 

10. Receive your CDL

  • After passing your skills test, take all documents to the nearest DMV/DOT office to obtain your physical CDL

11. Maintain your pristine driving record

  • Take pride in your status as a professional driver. As a CDL driver, you will be held to a higher standard. A serious traffic violation, even in your personal automobile, could impact your ability to maintain your CDL.

Now that you know how to get a CDL, you can go back to step one and get started!