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California CDL

How to obtain your CDL: California



California CDL

How does the California Department of Motor Vehicles define a commercial vehicle?

A commercial vehicle (CMV) is defined by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as a vehicle used to transport people or goods. Here are some characteristics that distinguish a commercial vehicle:

  • The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR*) must be at least 26,001 lbs.
  • Size: It should be large enough to comfortably seat more than ten people, including the driver.
  • Towing Capability: It can tow a trailer or another vehicle weighing at least 10,001 pounds.
  • Hazardous Materials Transported: It is legal to transport hazardous materials, as indicated by official signage.

What is required to legally operate a commercial vehicle in California?

Drivers must have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) in order to legally operate a commercial vehicle. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is in charge of CDL regulation in all states. To obtain a CDL, drivers must pass a written exam as well as a practical driving test.


What is the minimum age in California to apply for a Commercial Driver's License?

To apply for a commercial license in California, you must be at least 18 years old, according to federal regulations. You must be at least 21 years old if you intend to drive across state lines or transport hazardous materials (HAZMAT).


How do I apply for a California Commercial Driver's License (CDL)?

In order to obtain a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) in California, you must first obtain a commercial instruction permit and then the full CDL.

The first step is to obtain a Commercial Instruction Permit.

To apply, follow these steps:

  • Fill out a Commercial Driver License Application in California.
  • Submit a 10 Year History Check (Form DL 939) if you've held a driver's license in any other state in the last ten years.
  • A qualified medical professional must complete a Medical Examination Report (Form MCSA-5876).
  • Submit a Self-Certification Form (Form DL 694) indicating the type of commercial driving you intend to do.
  • Show proof of your Social Security number, birth date, and legal status (such as a Social Security card or U.S. Armed Forces ID).
  • Take your photo and leave your thumbprint.
  • Pass both a vision and written exam for your CDL class. You get three chances to pass.
  • Pay the license class's required fee.
  • Following completion of these steps, the DMV will issue you a commercial instruction permit. This permit allows you to drive in the same class as another driver who holds a valid California driver's license.

Obtaining a Commercial Driver's License is the second step.

You can apply for your full CDL after receiving your commercial instruction permit and passing a skills and driving test.

Here's how it's done:

  • Make an appointment at your nearest CDL office (see below).
  • Bring the appropriate vehicle class that you intend to drive.
  • The DMV requires this vehicle to pass a pre-trip inspection, and you have three chances to pass.
  • Pass the driving skills test (you have three chances) or submit a Certificate of Driving Skill (Form DL 170 ETP) signed by both you and your employer. This form can only be completed by an employer who has been authorized by the DMV to conduct a driving skills test.
  • After passing the skills test and submitting all required paperwork, you'll be issued a temporary commercial driver's license that will be valid for 60 days or until your real CDL arrives in the mail. You can begin driving commercial vehicles once you have obtained your photo CDL.

Self-Certification Requirements for vehicle operation in California

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) needs you to self-certify the kind of vehicle operation you'll be doing. This means you have to declare yourself under one of these driving categories: Non-Excepted Interstate, Excepted Interstate, Non-Excepted Intrastate, or Excepted Intrastate.


Entry-level driver training course

As of February 7, 2022, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires new commercial driver's license (CDL) applicants to finish a special training course for new drivers. This course must be taken from an authorized provider before you apply for your first CDL. The same rule applies if you want to upgrade your current CDL class or get an endorsement for handling hazardous materials, school buses, or passengers.


Renewal of a California CDL: Are You Eligible? What Do You Need?

How long do I have to renew my California CDL before I have to retake the skills test? When does a CDL in California expire?

Your birthday marks the end of your California CDL. You can renew your license up to two years after the expiration date without having to retake the skills test. The DMV doesn't charge a late fee for renewing a CDL that has expired, but keep in mind that it is against the law to drive without a valid CDL.


What medical exams are needed to renew a CDL in California?

A current Medical Examination Report (Form MCSA-5875) and a Medical Examiner's Certificate (Form MCSA-5876), both updated every two years, are required when renewing your California CDL. These forms need to be filled out by a licensed medical expert. Please be aware that depending on certain medical conditions, the examiner may set an earlier expiration date for the certificate. For thorough instructions on how to renew your CDL, refer to the sections below.


What paperwork do I need, and how do I renew my California CDL?

Your California commercial driver's license (CDL) must be renewed in person at a DMV office. To save time, you can, however, begin the procedure online. What you must do is as follows:

  • To avoid standing in line at the DMV, schedule an appointment online.
  • Start your online renewal process by completing the DMV portal's application.
  • Bring the following documents with you when you visit the DMV office:
    • Notice of license renewal to determine if any knowledge tests are necessary.
    • Cross out outdated details from the notice and replace them with the most recent information.
    • Documents demonstrating your identity, Social Security number, and place of residence.
    • If you held a license within the previous ten years in another state or jurisdiction, you must have completed the 10 Year History Record Check (Form DL 939).
  • Paying the required CDL renewal fee
    • $53 for Class A or Class B.
    • Category C: $53.
  • When you arrive at the DMV office, you must:
    • Get your picture taken.
    • Obtain a fingerprint scan.
    • Test your vision.
    • If a knowledge test is necessary, as stated on your renewal notice, take it.

The California DMV will renew your CDL once you have taken all the required actions and supplied all the necessary paperwork. Please be aware that only if you want to apply for a REAL ID are specific documents required. Consult the CA DMV's online guide for additional information and a list of acceptable documents for a REAL ID.


How Do I Replace a California Commercial Driver's License (CDL)?

The steps below should be followed if you need to replace your CDL in California:

  • To avoid standing in line, stop by your neighborhood Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office or schedule an appointment.
  • Fill out the Commercial Driver License Application when you get there. There is no online version of this form due to security concerns. You can obtain one from your local DMV office or request a copy be mailed to you by calling the DMV's Automated Telephone Service at (800) 777-0133.
  • Your thumbprint, please.
  • For a duplicate CDL (Classes A, B, and C), you must pay $39 in fees.

The DMV will verify your identity by checking your name, picture, and Social Security number.


What will happen after I submit an application for a replacement California commercial driver's license (CDL)?

The California DMV will issue you with a temporary CDL or a receipt for your new CDL after you submit an application for a replacement CDL. Until you receive your permanent CDL in the mail, you should keep this temporary CDL or receipt, which is good for 60 days, in your commercial truck.

Within 60 days, the DMV ought to mail your new CDL. To ensure that you receive it, confirm that the DMV has your current address on file. After 60 days, if you still haven't received your new CDL, call the DMV at (800) 777-0133 for support.


What Causes a California Commercial Driver's License (CDL) to Be Suspended?

Your Commercial Driver's License (CDL) may be suspended in California for a number of different reasons. On your first offense, the following offenses may result in a one-year suspension of your CDL:

  • Driving while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs.
  • 0.04% or higher blood alcohol content (BAC) while operating a commercial vehicle.
  • Avoiding a breathalyzer test.
  • Leaving the scene of a commercial vehicle accident.
  • Using a commercial vehicle to commit a crime.
  • When your CDL is suspended or revoked, you cannot operate a commercial vehicle.
  • Negligently operating a commercial vehicle and causing a fatality.

In some circumstances, the repercussions may be more serious. For instance, your CDL may be suspended for three years or longer if you violate the law while driving a vehicle carrying hazardous materials. A lifetime suspension is possible for repeat offenders from the list above or for those who use a commercial vehicle to commit a drug-related crime.

Federal rules also apply to commercial drivers in addition to state laws. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is in charge of these, which also include additional grounds for suspension or exclusion, such as breaking out-of-service orders or regulations regarding railroad-highway grade crossings, as well as reckless or excessively fast driving. It should be noted that you must notify your employer within 30 days of receiving a traffic conviction.

You can visit the California DMV website to learn about all the possible causes for CDL disqualification. Visit the FMCSA website for more information on federal regulations and sanctions.

The California DMV keeps track of your driving history and keeps track of your license status. Your CDL may be suspended if you receive too many points for infractions. So it's important to keep track of your driving history and make sure all the details are correct.


What Happens in California If You Get a DUI While Holding a Commercial Driver's License (CDL)?

Your California commercial driver's license (CDL) will be suspended if you are found operating a commercial vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.04% or higher, or if you refuse to submit to a BAC test. This is how it typically works:

  • The suspension is for four months if it is your first infraction.
  • Your CDL will be suspended for a year if you repeat the same offense within ten years.

You'll have to surrender your CDL after the infraction. You will receive an Order of Suspension/Revocation from the arresting officer, along with a temporary driver's license good for 30 days following your arrest.

Remember that the court may impose additional sanctions on you, such as additional suspensions and fines.

By asking for a hearing with the California DMV, you might be able to contest the suspension if you think it is unfair.

Visit the "DUI & DWI in California" page for a more thorough examination of DUI-related offenses.


Can You Challenge a California DUI Suspension of Your Commercial Driver's License (CDL)?

Yes, you can appeal a California DUI-related suspension of your commercial driver's license (CDL). To find out if you qualify for a hearing request, you must first review your Order of Suspension/Revocation.

You have ten days after receiving your Order of Suspension to contest the suspension of your CDL if it was issued by the California DMV due to DUI. In most cases, a DUI charge is brought:

BAC of 0.04% or higher is detected while operating a commercial vehicle, or you refuse to take a breathalyzer test. You can get in touch with your neighborhood California DMV office for more details or to request a hearing.

It's crucial to remember that any hearings with the California DMV will have no bearing on any suspensions or other penalties imposed by the court.


How Does a California Commercial Driver's License (CDL) Reinstatement Work?

The procedure to have your California Commercial Driver's License (CDL) reinstated depends on why it was suspended in the first place. Your Order of Suspension/Revocation should be consulted for any specific requirements.

You will typically need to finish the entire suspension period and then pay reissue fees to the California DMV in order to get your CDL back.

You might be qualified for a restricted non-commercial driver's license while your CDL is on suspension.

You can speak with your nearby California DMV office for more details on how to get your CDL back if it has been suspended.


How Can Someone Who Has Been Suspended in California Get a Restricted Commercial Driver's License (CDL)?

Under specific circumstances, you might be qualified to apply for a restricted commercial license if your commercial driver's license (CDL) has been suspended:

If you did not previously have your CDL suspended and you were operating a non-commercial vehicle at the time it was suspended. You are permitted to drive to and from work with this restricted license. It is available for application 30 days after receiving your Order of Suspension, and it has a six-month validity period. You can get in touch with the California DMV for more information or to confirm your eligibility.

You may be eligible for a restricted non-commercial driver's license if your CDL suspension resulted from a DUI offense under the Admin Per Se (APS) program if:

  • You were at least 21 years old at the time of the suspension, this was your only infraction in the previous ten years, you consented to a BAC test, and your CDL was not suspended for any other reason.
  • This limited non-commercial license does not permit operating a commercial vehicle; it only permits driving to and from a DUI treatment program.

When requesting this license, you must:

  • Sign up for a DUI First Offender program.
  • A Proof of Enrollment Certificate (DL 107) should be submitted by the program provider to the California DMV.
  • Provide the California DMV with evidence of your financial responsibility, such as an SR22 from your insurance provider, a $35,000 cash deposit, or a surety bond.
  • Pay the $125 fee.

After your suspension has been in effect for 30 days, you can apply for this restricted license. The restriction will be in effect for 5 months if your application is approved by the California DMV. You will have to wait out the rest of your suspension after this time period.


What Costs Are Involved in Renewing Your California Commercial Driver's License (CDL)?

Depending on the cause of your suspension, California's Commercial Driver's License (CDL) reinstatement fees change. The following are some of the reissue fees that could be necessary if you want to have your CDL reinstated:

  • Fee for reissue: $55.
  • $20 is the cost to lift a restriction.
  • $15 is the cost to add a court restriction.
  • Suspensions for admin per se (APS): $100.
  • Suspensions because of drugs: $24.

You should get in touch with the California DMV to learn more about the reinstatement costs that apply to your situation.

Keep in mind that you might also be required to pay any fines or penalties levied by the court on top of these DMV fees. It might be beneficial to seek legal counsel if you find yourself in this situation.




Author

David Armento

Chief programmer


Reader's comments

Albert

November 01, 2023

Can I make an appointment online?


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Forms download icon California's official forms for obtain your CDL


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MCSA-5876 - Medical Examiners Certificate

As part of your application for a CDL, send this medical clearance form to the Wyoming DOT. MUST be filled out by a doctor or nurse.

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DL 939 - 10 Year History Record Check

If you've ever had a driver's license under a different name or in a different state, include that information with your California CDL application or renewal.

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DL 170 ETP - Certificate of Driving Skill

A form is sent to the DMV to show that you can drive a business car as well as an examiner says you can. Only for ETP members.


DMV Appointment in California

Appointment information

Most DMV services can be completed without an appointment.

You can, however, schedule a Behind-the-Wheel Drive Test

Appointments for select driver’s license transactions are only available after an application has been submitted. Use the “Get in Line” service when available for same day visits:

Schedule your DMV appointment in California

Depends on the service: Appointment is needed for some services.

Most DMV services can be completed without an appointment.

You can, however, schedule a Behind-the-Wheel Drive Test

Appointments for select driver’s license transactions are only available after an application has been submitted. Use the “Get in Line” service when available for same day visits:

Schedule your DMV appointment in California

Depends on the service: Appointment is needed for some services.

Most DMV services can be completed without an appointment.

You can, however, schedule a Behind-the-Wheel Drive Test

Appointments for select driver’s license transactions are only available after an application has been submitted. Use the “Get in Line” service when available for same day visits:

Schedule your DMV appointment in California


DMV Hours in California

Today, being Friday, California DMV offices open at different hours, starting from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Opening hours:

  • 4 offices at California open today at 7 a.m.
  • 170 offices at California open today at 8 a.m.
  • 1 office at California open today at 9 a.m.

We recommend selecting your county from the list below to find your closest office hours.

Today, being Friday, California DMV offices close at different hours, starting from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Closing hours:

  • 5 offices at California close today at 4 p.m.
  • 170 offices at California close today at 5 p.m.

We recommend selecting your county from the list below to find your closest office hours.

Tomorrow, being Saturday, all DMV offices in California will remain close.

No, the California DMV doesn't open on weekends.

No, the California DMV doesn't open on Saturday.

No, the California DMV doesn't open on Sunday.


Search DMV offices in California by county

DMV Handbooks in California

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Commercial License

California Commercial Driver Handbook.

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