How to Get a CDL
Download a printable infographic for the steps in getting a CDL here
Step 1: First Get a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP)
(Costs vary by state)
- Get a Commercial Driver’s License Manual from your state’s driver license agency. The manual may be available online.
- Study commercial driving requirements and laws. There is a 50-question knowledge test, and you must answer 80% correctly to get a CLP.
- Complete a medical examination to get a Medical Exam Report Form & Medical Examiner’s Certification Form, which you must submit to apply for a CLP. To find a certified medical examiner, search by city and state or zip code here. Costs vary by provider.
- Submit the state CLP application, fee, and required documents at the driver’s license agency. (The fee for a CLP varies widely, from no cost to $78.)
- Complete and pass the vision test and CDL knowledge exam.
Step 2: Get Your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
You must wait at least 14 days (longer in some states) after receiving your CLP before taking the skills testing for a CDL. This period is designed to let CLP holders practice their skills. Apply for an intrastate CDL. Once you’re hired by a participating company and approved by FMCSA, you’ll get a waiver allowing you to drive interstate.
- Schedule the driving skills testing (road exam) with your driver’s license agency. Skills testing may cost anywhere from $25.00 to $275.00. If you have at least two years military driving experience, you may qualify to use the Military Skills Test Waiver and Even Exchange programs in place of the skills testing.
- Borrow or rent the appropriate truck (same type that you will drive on the job). You must be accompanied to the testing site by a CDL holder. Your hiring company may be able to assist you with this. Costs vary by area.
- Complete and pass all skills testing, which includes:
- A pre-trip inspection
- Basic vehicle controls
- Driving exam (on-road driving)
- Pay CDL license fee (costs vary from $15.50 to $133.50).
Step 3: Seek Reimbursement for CDL Fees and Related Costs
- Check participating motor carriers who are hiring in your area by visiting www.fmcsa.dot.gov/under21militaryjobs. Some may provide CDL training or financial assistance, use of a truck for skills testing, and/or a hiring bonus that may help cover CDL costs.
- Apply for service reimbursement of expenses for a professional credential (i.e., CDL). Each service has a COOL program (Credentialing Opportunities OnLine):