Driver Benefits - CDL License Requirements

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CDL License Requirements

Requirements for obtaining a commercial driver license are governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Each state has its own commercial driver license guide and application processes differ, but ultimately, each state is required to adhere to the federal requirements outlined by the FMCSA.


The basic federal CDL requirements include:

  • Driver must be at least 21 years of age to drive across state lines or operate a HAZMAT vehicle.
  • Driver must have no prior disqualifying criminal offenses.

Every state requires drivers applying for a CDL to test for and obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) and hold it for a minimum of 14 days before taking the road skills test to complete the CDL prep and application process. To apply for your CLP, you will be required to provide: your current driver’s license, a 10-year driving record history, and certification from a qualifying medical examiner that you are physically able to operate a commercial vehicle.

You will be required to take your state’s knowledge and skills test and achieve a score of at least 80%.

Once you’ve met the CLP requirements and held your permit for at least 14 days, you may begin the CDL application process. Each state varies in their requirements, but federal regulations state that all applicants must:

  • test in a vehicle of the same type that you plan to drive when licensed
  • pass a three-part test consisting of a vehicle inspection, basic controls exam, and road test.

If you are seeking an endorsement to your CDL, additional testing, fees, applications, and requirements may apply. Endorsements include:

  • Double/Triple Trailers (knowledge test only)
  • Passenger (knowledge and skills tests)
  • Tank vehicle (knowledge test only)
  • Hazardous materials (knowledge test only)
  • Combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials (knowledge test only)

What can disqualify you from getting a CDL?

Several factors can disqualify an individual from obtaining a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). These can include, but are not limited to, a history of certain driving offenses such as DUIs or reckless driving, disqualifying medical conditions that impair the ability to operate a commercial vehicle safely, a criminal record involving vehicle-related felonies, and recent suspensions or revocations of a personal driver's license. The specific disqualifications can vary by state, so it's essential to be aware of local regulations and standards.

How hard is it to get a CDL?

Acquiring a CDL can be challenging, as it requires both theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Candidates must demonstrate proficiency in the operation of large and potentially hazardous vehicles, understanding traffic rules, safety regulations, and the mechanics of the vehicle. Training and practice are crucial, and while some individuals might find the process relatively straightforward with proper preparation, others might need more time and training to master the necessary skills and pass the exams.

How many times can you fail the CDL test?

The number of times an individual can fail the CDL test varies by state. Typically, after failing the test a certain number of times (often two or three), the applicant may be required to wait a set period before retesting. Continuous failures might also necessitate the applicant to restart the entire CDL application process or undergo additional training. It's crucial to consult the local DMV or relevant licensing agency for specific regulations and guidelines in one's jurisdiction.

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