Requirements For Getting
a CDL License

CDL Requirements
  • You must be at least 18 years old to hold a CDL and drive a commercial vehicle within your home state.
  • You must be at least age 21 to drive a commercial motor vehicle across state lines, carry hazardous materials, or transport any passengers.
  • You must not have more than one driver’s license, and your driving privileges must not be suspended, revoked, canceled or disqualified.
  • You must meet the medical requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
  • You must have one or two years of driving experience, depending on your state’s requirements.
  • You must pass a set of written exams to obtain your commercial learner’s permit. You can study for these exams using our
  • You must prove citizenship or permission to work in the United States using legitimate personal identification which may include a Social Security Card, a Birth Certificate, or a Green Card
  • You must certify that you are not subject to any of the CDL disqualifications for drivers (listed below)
  • Must be able to speak and read the English language

CDL Requirements By State

Knowledge And Skills Test Requirements For Getting A CDL

States develop their own knowledge and skills tests, which must meet the minimum Federal standards in Subpart G and H of 49 CFR Part 383. Model driver and examiner manuals and tests have been prepared and distributed to the States to use, if they wish.

Each basic knowledge test covers the 20 general areas outlined in 49 CFR 383.111(a). The knowledge test shall contain at least 30 items. A separate test for drivers seeking to operate CMV’s with air brakes must cover the 7 areas outlined in 49 CFR 383.111(b).

To pass the knowledge tests (general and endorsement); applicants must correctly answer at least 80 percent of the questions.

To pass the skills test, applicants must successfully perform all the required skills (listed in 49 CFR 383.113 through 49 CFR 383.123). The skills test must be taken in a vehicle representative of the type of vehicle that the applicant operates or expects to operate.

 Federal standards require States to issue CDLs to certain commercial motor vehicle drivers only after the driver passes the knowledge and skills tests administered by the State. The vehicle you take the CDL test in must also relate to the type of vehicle the driver expects to operate.

Restrictions are placed on a CDL when a driver takes the Skills Test in a vehicle which lacks critical equipment present in particular types of CMVs. Examples of these restrictions are listed below. Therefore, to avoid restrictions, drivers should take the Skills Test in the same type of vehicle for which they are seeking a CDL to operate.

Drivers are required to obtain and hold a CDL if they operate in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce and drive a vehicle that meets one or more of the classifications of a CMV are also described below.

Knowledge Requirements for a Commercial Driver's License

  • Safe operations regulations.
  • Safe vehicle control systems. 
  • CMV safety control systems.
  • Basic control. The proper procedures for performing various basic maneuvers.
  • Shifting. The basic shifting rules and terms for common transmissions.
  • Backing. The procedures and rules for various backing maneuvers.
  • Visual search. The importance of proper visual search, and proper visual search methods.
  • Communication. The principles and procedures for proper communications and the hazards of failure to signal properly.
  • Speed management. The importance of understanding the effects of speed.
  • Space management. The procedures and techniques for controlling the space around the vehicle.
  • Night operation. Preparations and procedures for night driving.
  • Extreme driving conditions. The basic information on operating in extreme driving conditions and the hazards encountered in such conditions.
  • Hazard perceptions. The basic information on hazard perception and clues for recognition of hazards.
  • Emergency maneuvers. The basic information concerning when and how to make emergency maneuvers.
  • Skid control and recovery. The information on the causes and major types of skids, as well as the procedures for recovering from skids.
  • Relationship of cargo to vehicle control. The principles and procedures for the proper handling of cargo.
  • Vehicle inspections. The objectives and proper procedures for performing vehicle safety inspections.
  • Hazardous materials.
  • Mountain driving. Practices that are important when driving upgrade and downgrade.
  • Fatigue and awareness. Practices that are important to staying alert and safe while driving.
Knowledge Requirements

Medical Requirements for a Commercial Driver's License

A valid Medical Examiner’s Certificate is required for all commercial drivers of vehicles in interstate commerce with a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 pounds (ME Certificate). CDL holders must provide a copy of their ME Certificate to their SDLA.

Self-Certification

All CDL holders must declare to their State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA) that they will exclusively use their CDL for commercial purposes in one of four categories. This is known as self-certification. The four categories are as follows:

  • You must meet the Federal DOT medical card standards (e.g., you are “not excepted”) if you are an Interstate non-excepted driver.
  • You are an Interstate exempted driver, which means you do not need to meet the Federal DOT medical card standards.
  • Intrastate non-excepted: As an intrastate non-excepted driver, you must comply with your state’s medical criteria.
  • Intrastate excepted: As an Intrastate excepted driver, you are exempt from meeting your state’s medical criteria.

Requirements for Hearing

If a person first perceives a forced whispered voice in the better ear at not less than five feet with or without the use of a hearing aid, or if tested with an audiometric device, does not have an average hearing loss in the better ear greater than 40 decibels at 500Hz, 1000HZ, and 2,000 Hz with or without the use of a hearing aid when the audiometric device is used, the person is physically qualified to drive a CMV.

Vision Prerequisites

The following vision requirements must be met:

A distant visual acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in each eye without corrective lenses or 20/40 (Snellen) or better with corrective lenses in each eye;
With or without corrective lenses, a distance binocular acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in both eyes;
In each eye, a horizontal Meridian field of vision of at least 70 degrees;
The capacity to detect the conventional red, green, and amber hues of traffic signals and equipment.

Medical Requirements

Requirements for Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure should be less than 140/90.
Stage 1 hypertension (blood pressure between 140/90 and 159/99) requires a 12-month medical certificate that must be renewed every year.
3 month medical certification for

Stage 2 hypertension (blood pressure between 160/100 and 179/109). If the condition is not under control after three months, the disqualification period will be extended until the condition is under control. Renewal will be required every 12 months.
Automatic disqualification, 6 month certification once blood pressure is under control, must be renewed every 6 months.

Stage 3 hypertension, blood pressure of 180/110 or higher: automatic disqualification, 6 month certification once blood pressure is under control, must be renewed every 6 months.
With or without medication, blood pressure can be managed.

Physical Disabilities

To be permitted to drive commercially, drivers with physical limitations that impede their capacity to safely operate CMVs must get a “variance” from their state. When operating a commercial motor vehicle, the commercial driver must have the variance papers with them. For drivers with defective or missing limbs, a Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) is a unique type of “variance” that must be completed (e.g., a hand or finger, an arm, foot, or leg). If eligible, drivers with missing limbs must get a SPE certificate. The SPE certificate must be carried by the commercial driver at all times.

Alcohol Testing

Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Program

The Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Program is a program that assesses a person’s ability to do tasks.
CMV drivers who drive in interstate commerce are eligible for the Skill Performance Evaluation program. Drivers with missing or impaired limbs can drive CMVs across state lines if they have been fitted with (and are wearing) the appropriate prosthetic device and can demonstrate their ability to drive the truck safely by completing on- and off-road activities. The motorist will receive a SPE certificate if he or she passes the driving exam. Over the years, the FMCSA has awarded over 3,000 SPE certificates to truck drivers who have demonstrated their ability to drive safely on America’s highways.

Alcohol Testing with Implied Consent

While on duty, operating, or in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle, any person who holds a CDL is considered to have consented to such testing as is required by any State or jurisdiction in the enforcement of being under the influence of a controlled substance or using alcohol, be under the influence of alcohol, or have any measured alcohol concentration or detected presence of alcohol. Driving a commercial motor vehicle implies consent.

Drugs on Prescription

Even if the driver has a valid prescription, he or she may be disqualified if the medicine has the potential to impair the driver’s ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle.

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