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Commercial Driver's License Program


Driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) requires a higher level of knowledge, experience, skills, and physical abilities than that required to drive a non-commercial vehicle. In order to obtain a Commercial Driver's License (CDL), an applicant must pass both skills and knowledge testing geared to these higher standards. Additionally CDL holders are held to a higher standard when operating any type of motor vehicle on public roads. Serious traffic violations committed by a CDL holder can affect their ability to maintain their CDL certification.


Driving a commercial motor vehicle is a big responsibility. It requires special skills and knowledge. Most drivers must obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL) through their home State (it is illegal to have a license from more than one State). In addition, special endorsements may be required if you or your company drivers will be driving any of the following vehicles:

  • a truck with double or triple trailers
  • a truck with a tank
  • a truck carrying hazardous materials
  • a passenger vehicle

Contact your State licensing bureau (e.g., Department of Motor Vehicles) for details.


What's New?

Any summary, description, or paraphrase of a regulatory requirement on this site is intended to provide general guidance only.  Please consult the text of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations for a full account of the applicable requirements.


Truck in sunset

FMCSA does not issue Commercial Driver's Licenses (CDLs). State governments are responsible for issuing CDLs.

Last updated: Wednesday, September 15, 2021


Commercial Driver License

General Information

NOTICE: Customers with CDL licenses that have expired for one year or more, will be required to complete and pass all applicable CDL knowledge and skills exams to obtain a new “Original” CDL.

Do I need a CDL?

All applicants for a Commercial Driver License are required to have an Operator’s License, pass the vision requirements, and pass knowledge and skills tests. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age. If they are under 21, they will be restricted to intrastate operation only.

Knowledge tests are offered in multiple languages and may be taken orally in English or Spanish with the exception of the hazardous materials test. Skills tests must be conducted in English. Interpreters may not be used during the administration of any tests. Click here to review the CDL Handbook.

Class A Requirements – To operate trucks or truck combinations weighing 26,001 lbs or more, and towing a vehicle/unit over 10,000 lbs, a Class A license is required. The following tests are required:

  • Knowledge Tests
    • General Knowledge Test
    • Combination Vehicles Test
    • Air Brakes Test (if applicable, most Class A vehicles are equipped with Air Brakes but not all)
    • Applicable exams for desired endorsements
  • Skills Tests
    • Pre-trip Vehicle Inspection
    • Basic Vehicle Control
    • On-road Test

Class B Requirements – To operate straight trucks and buses 26,001 lbs or more, a Class B license is required. The following tests are required:

  • Knowledge Tests
    • General Knowledge Test
    • Air Brakes Test (if applicable)
    • Applicable exams for desired endorsements
  • Skills Tests
    • Pre-trip Vehicle Inspection
    • Basic Vehicle Control
    • On-road Test

Class C Requirements – To operate vehicles transporting placarded amounts of hazardous materials, or vehicles designed to transport 16 or more people including the driver, with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of less than 26,001 lbs, a Class C license is required. The following tests are required:

  • Knowledge Tests
    • General Knowledge Test
    • Air Brakes Test (if applicable)
    • Applicable exams for desired endorsements
  • Skills Tests
    • Pre-trip Vehicle Inspection
    • Basic Vehicle Control
    • On-road Test

Already have an out of state CDL?

We will reciprocate an out of state or a Canadian commercial driver license. However, an out of state applicant with a hazmat endorsement will have to reapply for a hazmat endorsement, which will include a background check, appropriate tests and fees.

Already have a Military CDL?

Military or prior military customers requesting to be issued a CDL due to qualifications of experience while serving on military duty must:

  • Pass all required knowledge and endorsement tests for the CDL license class and endorsements they are applying to obtain, and
  • Present the Certification for Waiver of Skill Test for Military Personnel form completed by their commanding officer or designee while on active duty or within 90 days of separation from service in order to be exempt from taking the skills tests.

The process must be completed and the CDL issued within 120 days of separation from service.

What are Endorsements?

An “Endorsement” is a special authorization, which permits a driver to drive certain types of vehicles, to transport certain types of property, or a certain number of passengers. The following endorsements can be placed on Class A, B, or C commercial driver licenses.

  1. Placarded Hazmat (H) – Issued to those who have passed the required written test and who will transport placarded hazardous materials.
  2. Tank Vehicles (N) – Issued to those who have passed the required written test and who will drive tank vehicles.
  3. Passengers (P) – Issued to those who have passed the required written and skills test and who will drive passenger vehicles. A passenger vehicle is any vehicle designed to transport more than 15 persons including the driver.
  4. School Bus (S) – Issued to those who have passed the required written and skills test and who will transport pre-primary, primary or secondary school students from home to school, from school to home, or to and from school-sponsored events (does not include a bus used as a common carrier). The P endorsement is also required.
  5. Double/Triple Trailers (T) – Issued to those who have passed the required written test and who will drive double or triple tractor- trailer vehicles. Triple trailers are not allowed on Florida roads.
  6. Placarded Hazmat & Tank Vehicles (X) – Issued to those who qualify for the H and N endorsements.
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Commercial Driver’s Licenses

It takes special skills, training, and aptitude to safely operate large vehicles. We issue commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) to ensure that drivers meet our high standards for operating commercial motor vehicles.

In California, you may be hired to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) carrying cargo that originates and terminates within state lines if you are at least 18 years old, and to drive for interstate commerce or transport hazardous materials/waste if you’re 21 or older. In either scenario, you need to hold a CDL in order to drive a CMV.  What classifies as a CMV?

If you have never had a commercial driver’s license (CDL), or you want to make a classification, endorsement, or restriction change that requires a skills test, you first need to get a CLP and hold it for at least 14 days. Here’s how you apply for a CLP:

  • Get a standard California noncommercial Class C driver’s license (DL) (a temporary/interim DL is acceptable).
  • Complete an online CDL Application.
  • Visit a DMV office, where you will:
    • Pass a vision exam.
    • Have your photo taken.
    • Pass the knowledge test(s). You have three attempts to pass each of the required knowledge tests. If you fail the same test three times, your application is no longer valid and you need to reapply. To allow for sufficient testing time, we do not administer knowledge tests within 30 minutes of closing.
    • If you want to apply for a REAL ID, you must also provide proof of your identity, social security number (SSN), and two proofs of residency from the list of acceptable REAL ID documents.

We will issue you a CLP after you pass the knowledge test(s).

If you do not meet all the requirements to get a CDL within 12 months of applying (including passing the knowledge test and skills test), the application will no longer be valid and you must reapply.

Rules and Restrictions

Here are the rules and restrictions for operating a CMV with a CLP:

  • You must also obtain and carry a valid California DL.
  • The CLP is valid for a maximum of 180 days from the date issued. It can be renewed for an additional 180 days if the expiration date is not more than one year from the initial application date.
  • If you present limited term legal presence documents, your CLP may expire on the same date as your legal presence documents.
  • A CLP is limited to these endorsements:
    • Tank (N)
    • Passenger (P)
    • School Bus (S)
  • You must be accompanied by a California CDL holder while operating a CMV. The license holder must possess the appropriate class of CDL and endorsements to operate the CMV.
  • If you have an “N” endorsement, the tanks must be empty when you are driving the CMV. The tank must be purged if it previously contained a hazardous material.
  • If you have a “P” or “S” endorsement, you cannot operate a CMV with passengers (other than federal/state auditors and inspectors, test examiners, other trainees, and the accompanying CDL holder).

After you hold a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) for 14 days, you can apply to take the skills test to earn your CDL. This 14 day waiting period also applies to classification upgrades and endorsement/restriction changes that require a skills test.

To apply for a CDL:

  • Schedule a skills test appointment (skills tests are not given without an appointment). You may also call 1-800-777-0133 during the regular business hours (8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon., Tues., Thurs., and Fri., and between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed., excluding holidays) to make an appointment.
  • Bring the type of vehicle(s) for the class you want to drive.
  • Pass the skills test, which includes a vehicle inspection, basic control skills test, and road test. If you fail any part of the skills test, all other testing will be postponed. You have three tries to pass the skills test. You must pay a retest fee each time you retake the skills test.

Certain applicants may qualify to have the skills test requirement waived:

  • If you have a valid CDL from another state that is current or has been expired for less than two years, you can surrender that license (or proof thereof). The license must have equivalent classification, endorsements, and restrictions to the one you are applying for in California.
  • You can submit a Certificate of Driving Skill (DL 170 ETP) if your employer is authorized to issue them. Both you and your employer must sign the form.
  • If you have military driving experience, you can submit a completed Commercial Military Waiver (DL 965). Learn more about the Troops to Trucks military waiver program.
  • If you have a California CLP, and completed CDL training and passed the skills test in another state, you are not required to take the skills test in California. The skills test results will be sent to California DMV from the state where you were tested. You will need to go to a DMV Commercial Driving Test Office to finalize your application. Failing to return to a commercial DMV office may result in your application expiring.

After you pass your skills test, surrender your out-of-state CDL, or submit your certificate, we will issue an interim CDL that’s valid for 60 days. If you have not received your official CDL after 45 days, call us at 1-800-777-0133 to check the status.

Commercial Driver's License Renewal

If your commercial driver’s license expires in less than 120 days and is not suspended or lost, you may qualify to renew using the Virtual Field office.

What Classifies as a CMV?

A CMV is defined as a motor vehicle or combination of vehicles and trailers used for hire to transport passengers or property.

  • A single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more.
  • A combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more.
  • A vehicle designed, used, or maintained for carrying more than ten passengers (including the driver).
  • A vehicle towing another vehicle or trailer with a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more.
  • A vehicle transporting hazardous materials (requires placards).
  • A vehicle transporting hazardous waste as defined in California Health and Safety Code §25115 and §25117.
  • A vehicle towing a combination of two trailers or vehicle and trailer.
  • A 3-axle vehicle weighing more than 6,000 pounds.

Need something else?

Employer Pull Notice (EPN) Program

The EPN program allows companies to monitor the driving records of their drivers. 

Update Info on Your Driver's License (DL) or ID Card

Learn how to change your name, address, or gender on your driver’s license or ID card.

REAL ID cards

Beginning May 3, 2023, you’ll need a federal compliant card such as a passport, military ID, or REAL ID to board a domestic flight or access some federal facilities.

Commercial Vehicle Weight Limit

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