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CDL Federal Requirements

CDL Federal Requirements

CDL Federal Requirements

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is in charge of developing rules and establishing standards for commercial drivers across the country. While each state has its own application process, all must adhere to the FMCSA's federal requirements.

The following are the basic federal requirements for obtaining a CDL license. You can find your state's commercial driver license guide if you want more information specific to your state.

CDL Eligibility Requirements

There are some eligibility requirements you must meet if you want to apply for a commercial driver license. According to federal regulations:

  • You must be at least 21 years old to: Drive across state lines OR Drive a vehicle containing hazardous materials.
  • You must not have a history of disqualifying criminal offenses: Certain serious felonies may preclude you from obtaining a CDL.
  • You must complete an entry-level commercial driver training program (more information on this requirement is provided below).

CDL Training Requirements

Most new applicants for a commercial driver license (CDL) will be required to successfully complete a CDL entry-level driver training program (ELDT) beginning February 7, 2022. In the following circumstances, you must complete this program:

  • Making an application for a new Class A or B commercial driver's license.
  • Converting a Class B CDL to a Class A license.
  • For the first time, I'm applying for a passenger (P), school bus (S), or hazardous materials (H) endorsement.

You must complete the ELDT after obtaining your learner's permit but before taking the CDL skills exam for some CDLs and endorsements. Others require completion of the ELDT prior to taking the written knowledge exam for your Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP).

If you are:

Applying for a hazardous materials (H) endorsement Applying for a Class A or B CDL (or upgrading a Class B to a Class A) Applying for a passenger (P) or school bus (S) endorsement
You must complete your CDL entry-level driver training (ELDT) before taking the written HAZMAT test for your commercial learner's permit (CLP). You can take your CDL entry-level driver training (ELDT) after you have obtained your commercial learner's permit (CLP). You can take it after you get your commercial learner's permit (CLP).

Visit the FMCSA's entry-level training website to find a provider of federally approved ELDT.

Federal Requirements for CDL Application

According to FMCSA regulations, every state follows the following basic steps to obtain a commercial learner's permit (CLP) and a commercial driver's license (CDL):

  • 1. Complete an entry-level training course: You must successfully complete a commercial driver training program.
  • 2. Test for and obtain a commercial learner's permit (CLP): To obtain your CLP, you must pass the required knowledge exams.
  • 3. Hold your CLP for at least 14 days: You must wait at least 14 days before proceeding to the next step.
  • 4. Take the commercial driver's license (CDL) road skills test: To obtain your CDL, you must pass a road skills test.

If you are applying for any CDL endorsements, such as hazardous materials (H), passenger (P), or school bus (S), you may be required to take additional knowledge and road skills exams.

Commercial Learner's Permit

In addition to any state-specific requirements, such as forms, tests, and proof of identity/citizenship, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) requires all commercial learner's permit (CLP) applicants to provide the following:

  • Your current driver's license: During the application process, you must present your valid driver's license.
  • A 10-Year Driver History: Your state may conduct an electronic check of your driving record or request a copy of your driving history. For more information on how to obtain this record, contact your licensing office.
  • A self-certification form for the Medical Examination: You must fill out this form to certify that you have had a medical examination performed by a qualified medical examiner. It verifies your physical ability to operate a commercial vehicle. Visit the FMCSA's Self-Certification FAQs for more information and guidance on how to self-certify.

When applying for a CLP, remember to follow your state's specific guidelines in addition to these federal requirements.

There are a few more things you must do as well:

  • Pass a knowledge and skills test: The specific tests vary slightly by state. The minimum federal requirements, however, include a test with at least 30 questions and a passing score of at least 80%.
  • Pay the applicable fees: The fees you must pay will vary depending on the state in which you are applying.

Please keep in mind that the application process, additional forms, fees, identity documents, and other requirements vary by state. To learn more about what your state requires, contact your local commercial driver licensing office. For more information, see our state-specific CDL guides.

You must hold your commercial learner's permit (CLP) for at least 14 days before applying for your full commercial driver's license, according to federal regulations. Your state, however, may have additional requirements and may require you to keep the CLP for a longer period of time.

Commercial Driver's License

You can apply for a CDL after meeting the requirements listed above and gaining practical experience on the road with a driver who holds a CDL license.

Federal regulations require you to:

  • Keep your commercial learner's permit (CLP) for at least 14 days.
  • Provide a vehicle for your skills test that is the same type to the vehicle you intend to drive once licensed.
  • Pass the CDL skills test, which is divided into three parts:
    • a. Vehicle inspection: Your ability to inspect a commercial vehicle for safety and operational issues will be evaluated.
    • b. Basic controls exam: You will be tested on your ability to control and maneuver a commercial vehicle.
    • c. Road test: Your ability to operate a commercial vehicle safely on public roads will be assessed.

It's worth noting that some states may have additional requirements, such as passing a CDL training course. These extra steps may differ by state, so check with your local licensing office for specific state requirements.

CDL Endorsements & Waivers

If you want to add an endorsement to your CDL, you may have to go through additional testing, applications, and security checks. Here are some examples of recommendations:

  • Tank vehicles: With this endorsement, you can drive commercial vehicles that transport liquid or gas in tanks.
  • Passenger vehicles or school buses: With this endorsement, you can operate passenger vehicles or school buses.
  • Carrying hazardous materials: This endorsement is required when transporting hazardous materials.

If you are a military veteran with prior experience driving military vehicles, you may be eligible for a CDL skills test waiver.

In addition, certain industries have the authority to waive some CDL requirements. Among these industries are:

  • Farming.
  • Medical Emergencies.
  • Firefighters.
  • Employees engaged in snow and ice removal.

If you work in any of these industries, you should contact your local commercial driver licensing office for specific information on the requirements and procedures for obtaining a CDL in those situations.


David Armento

Chief programmer

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