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A Primer On The Commercial Driver’s License

Are you looking to enter a secure, satisfying, and potentially lucrative career as a truck driver? If so, you may be wondering how to go about it. Don’t worry, we’re here to help.

There are a lot of things that go into being a trucker, but first and foremost you will need a Commercial Driver’s License. There are several things you must do before obtaining your CDL, which we will cover today.

What Is a Commercial Driver’s License?

A Commercial Driver’s License – or CDL – is a special license required for anyone driving a vehicle weighing 26,001 pounds – or 10,001 pounds with the trailer included – across state lines. The requirement first came into being in 1986, with the passage of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act was intended to ensure those operating large commercial vehicles were qualified to do so. The language of the Act gave each state the right to issue CDLs, while still providing a federal minimum of standard for issuance.

CDL requirements generally cover the following transportation types:

  • Transportation of hazardous materials. These would include anything that would require a DOT warning placard, sign, or symbol.
  • Transportation of 16 or more passengers.
  • Compensated passenger transport of 8 or more.

Prior to 1986 truck, bus, and large commercial vehicle driver licensing requirements varied from state to state. Implementation of the new law was designed to streamline those qualifications through a national standard.

How Do I Get A CDL?

Put simply, to get a CDL you must meet the requirements set out by your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. You will also be required to take a knowledge test. Upon completion of the knowledge test, you will be required to demonstrate your practical aptitude through a driving skills test.

All of these steps require the following specific set of procedures:


Each state has different age and medical requirements. Most intrastate licensing requirements mandate a minimum age of 18-years-old. Interstate CDL licensing requires a minimum age of 21, but could this soon be changing?

The best way to find out what the requirements are is to visit a local DMV office in your area. You can also visit www.dmv.org to get more information.


As with any bureaucratic endeavor, there are fees involved with obtaining your CDL license. Most states require fees for the application, knowledge, and driver’s test.

The moral here? Consult with our local DMV office or check the corresponding DMV website for you state. The last thing you want to do is set out on getting a CDL license if it’s something you can’t immediately afford.


Remember, before you can pass any test, you have to study the material. Make sure to schedule some time to study the commercial driver’s license handbook or training guide made available from your state’s DMV.

In many states, you don’t even have to worry about going down to the office in person. Usually your state’s website will have all of the information you need to pass the tests.


When you are filling out the application, you will be required to enter your personal identification information. You will also be prompted to provide information regarding the type of commercial vehicle you plan on driving.

This process is the same as obtaining your training material; it can be done either in person at the DMV or online through your state’s portal. Keep in mind, however, that the application itself must be submitted in person. Once that process is done, you will take the knowledge test that you previously studied for.

Driving Test

Once you have turned in your application, paid your fees, and passed your knowledge test, you will be given a learner’s permit. This allows you to practice driving prior to obtaining your full CDL.

In most states you can only practice with another licensed CDL driver in the vehicle, as it is with most standard passenger car learner’s permits.


Remember that the driver’s test must be scheduled. You will want to contact your local DMV to find out what their specific scheduling requirements are.

You will also be required to take the driving test in whatever vehicle you plan on driving once you obtain your license, whether it be a tractor-trailer or school bus.

Get Your License!

Once you have successfully passed your driving skills test, you will be issued your CDL. In most states you will be given a temporary CDL before receiving your permanent one in the mail.

We wouldn’t be the first to tell you: A career in trucking is just what you’re looking for. We hope this primer on obtaining your CDL will set you on the right path to career independence and financial freedom!

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