CDL License Getting Started

Obtaining a commercial drivers license requires knowledge, skills, and the driver basic medical qualifications.

  • 1st step: obtain and read your state’s Commercial Driver’s Licensing (CDL) Manual. Each state has a unique process, but the manual is usually available in their physical locations and digitally from the state’s website.2nd step: determine what type of license you want which depends upon the type of vehicle you’ll drive and what you will transport: goods, people, or both.There are 3 classes of CDLs. The endorsements are for specialized qualifications: school buses, tankers, or tractor trailers. Its required to pass all parts of the test in order to obtain an unrestricted license. Certain CDL endorsements require the driver to complete the entry-level driver training before taking any specialized skills tests like for hazardous materials.

The Basics:

The Commercial Learners Permit

commercial learner’s permit (CLP) is a permit that allows the driver to practice on public roads with a certified CDL driver present in the vehicle. Prior to getting this permit, the driver must pass a basic knowledge exam that pertains to the type of driving he ultimately intends to perform.

In order to be eligible for a CDL, the driving record is reviewed for the past10 years in all 50 states. You need to bring in the proof that your state accepts to show that you are medically qualified. Most types of commercial driving require a DOT medical card, requiring a DOT physical. Your state may require specific documents it wants to see to prove your name and proof of residency. There are fees for getting the CLP. Reading and following the instructions in your states CDL Manual streamlines the process.

Step 2: Complete Entry-Level Driver Training

Drivers applying for a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time who are issued a CLP on or after February 7, 2022 must complete entry-level driver training with a registered training provider prior to testing. Some States may have additional requirements above and beyond the Federal training requirements.

Note: There is no Federal requirement for drivers to complete their entry-level driver theory training before applying for a CLP.

Visit the Training Provider Registry ( to search for a training provider. Once you have completed training, the provider will electronically submit certification of your training completion to the Training Provider Registry. Drivers may look up their training certification information using the “Check My Record” tool.

Step 3: Get the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

You are required to possess the CLP for 14 days and complete applicable entry-level driver training to be eligible to take the CDL skills test.

You must pass all 3 parts of the Skills Test: the Vehicle Inspection Test, the Basic Controls Test, and the Road Test. Your state may even allow you to use their “training aid” to help you remember items on the vehicle inspection checklist. Taking the skills test is no guarantee that you will pass.

Once you have passed the skills test you need to take the documentation to the counter for processing. Some States will give you the CDL that same day, while others send it to you in the mail. Regardless make sure that everything is correct before you leave the counter. It can be costly and embarrassing if you find a mistake later.

dot exam