United States Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)


Credential: Commercial Driver's License (CDL) CA Eligible
Credentialing Agency: United States Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

 

The United States Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is for individuals who drive certain Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs). There are three classes of CDLs with endorsements for specialized qualifications for vehicles like school buses, tank trucks, and tractor trailers. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires drivers to obtain and hold a CDL if they operate in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce and drive a vehicle that meets one or more of the classifications of a CMV described on the FMSCA website. FMSCA has developed and issued standards for state testing and licensing of CDL holders. These standards require state governments to issue CDLs to certain CMV drivers only after the driver passes knowledge and skills testing that is administered by the state and related to the type of vehicle the driver expects to operate.

More information can be found on the certifying agency's website.

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS

Attainability:    high

Eligibility Requirements (View Details)

  • Credential Prerequisite
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Training
  • Membership
  • Other
  • Fee

Note: This credential may have multiple options for a Service member to meet eligibility requirements. Requirements listed here are based on the minimum degree required. To view other options, see the Eligibility tab.

Exam Requirements (View Details)

  • Exam
  • Written Exam
  • Oral Exam
  • SKILL TEST
  • Performance Assessment

RECERTIFICATION SUMMARY

Renewal Period 

  • Continuing Education
  • Exam
  • Continuing Education OR Exam
  • Fee
  • Other

AGENCY CONTACT INFORMATION

United States Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC  20590

Phone: (800) 832-5660

Contact Page

Other REQUIREMENTS

The Commercial Driver's License (CDL) credential has the following other requirements:

  • Step 1: Obtain the Commercial Learners Permit (CLP):

    • Applicants must meet the state's medical qualifications.
    • Applicants must meet the state's proof of name and residency requirement.
    • Applicants must pass knowledge tests for the type of vehicle and kind of driving they want to get the license for.
  • Step 2: Obtain the Commercial Driver's License (CDL):

    • Applicants must have a valid operator (non-CDL) driver's license, and have passed such vision, sign/symbol, and knowledge tests as the state issuing the learner's permit ordinarily administers to applicants for operator (non-CDL) drivers' licenses.
    • Applicants must possess the CLP for 14 days before taking the skills test.
    • Applicants must successfully complete CDL training prior to testing if required by the state.
    • Applicants must pass all three parts of the skills test: Vehicle Inspection Test, Basic Controls Test, and Road Test.

States develop their own knowledge and skills tests, which must meet the minimum Federal standards in 49 CFR Part 383 Subpart G and Subpart H. The specific types of items that a state must include in the knowledge and skills tests that it administers to CDL applicants are included in this section. The skills tests must be taken in a vehicle representative of the type of vehicle that the applicant operates or expects to operate.

All CMV operators must have knowledge of the following 20 general areas.

  • Safe operations regulations
  • Safe vehicle control systems
  • CMV safety control systems
  • Basic control
  • Shifting
  • Backing
  • Visual search
  • Communication
  • Speed management
  • Space management
  • Night operation
  • Extreme driving conditions
  • Hazard perceptions
  • Emergency maneuvers
  • Relationship of cargo to vehicle control
  • Vehicle inspections
  • Hazardous materials
  • Mountain driving
  • Fatigue and awareness
  • Skid control and recovery

All CMV drivers operating vehicles equipped with Air brakes must have knowledge of the following 7 areas:

  • General air brake system nomenclature
  • The dangers of contaminated air supply (dirt, moisture, and oil)
  • Implications of severed or disconnected air lines between the power unit and the trailer's
  • Implications of low air pressure readings
  • Procedures to conduct safe and accurate pre-trip inspections
  • Procedures for conducting en route and post-trip inspections of air-actuated brake systems
  • General operating practices and procedures

All CMV drivers operating combination vehicles must have knowledge of the following 3 areas:

  • Coupling and uncoupling
  • Vehicle inspection
  • General operating practices and procedures

To obtain a double/triple trailer endorsement, each applicant must have knowledge covering the following:

  • Procedures for assembly and hookup of the units
  • Proper placement of heaviest trailer
  • Handling and stability characteristics including off-tracking, response to steering, sensory feedback, braking, oscillatory sway, rollover in steady turns, and yaw stability in steady turns
  • Potential problems in traffic operations, including problems the motor vehicle creates for other motorists due to slower speeds on steep grades, longer passing times, possibility for blocking entry of other motor vehicles on freeways, splash and spray impacts, aerodynamic buffeting, view blockages, and lateral placement
  • Operating practices and procedures not otherwise specified

To obtain a tank vehicle endorsement, each applicant must have knowledge covering the following:

  • Causes, prevention, and effects of cargo surge on motor vehicle handling
  • Proper braking procedures for the motor vehicle when it is empty, full and partially full
  • Differences in handling of baffled/compartmented tank interiors versus non-baffled motor vehicles
  • Differences in tank vehicle type and construction
  • Differences in cargo surge for liquids of varying product densities
  • Effects of road grade and curvature on motor vehicle handling with filled, half-filled and empty tanks
  • Proper use of emergency systems
  • For drivers of DOT specification tank vehicles, retest and marking requirements
  • Operating practices and procedures not otherwise specified

To obtain a hazardous material endorsement each applicant must have such knowledge as is required of a driver of a hazardous materials laden vehicle, from information contained in 49 CFR parts 171, 172, 173, 177, 178, and 397 on the following:

  • Hazardous materials handling
  • Operation of emergency equipment
  • Emergency response procedures
  • Operating practices and procedures not otherwise specified.

An applicant for the passenger endorsement must satisfy both of the following additional knowledge and skills test requirements:

  • Knowledge test
    • Proper procedures for loading/unloading passengers
    • Proper use of emergency exits, including push-out windows
    • Proper responses to such emergency situations as fires and unruly passengers
    • Proper procedures at railroad-highway grade crossings and drawbridges
    • Proper braking procedure
    • Operating practices and procedures not otherwise specified
  • Skills test
    • To obtain a passenger endorsement applicable to a specific vehicle class or group, an applicant must take his/her skills test in a passenger vehicle satisfying the requirements of that vehicle class or group as defined in Commercial Motor Vehicle Groups.

To qualify for the school bus endorsement, the candidate must demonstrate the following knowledge and skills:

  • Knowledge test
    • Loading and unloading children, including the safe operation of stop signal devices, external mirror systems, flashing lights, and other warning and passenger safety devices required for school buses by State or Federal law or regulation
    • Emergency exits and procedures for safely evacuating passengers in an emergency
    • State and Federal laws and regulations related to safely traversing railroad-highway rail grade crossings
    • Operating practices and procedures not otherwise specified
  • Skills test
    • Must take a driving skills test in a school bus of the same vehicle group as the school bus applicant will drive

Skills tests are conducted in on-street conditions or under a combination of on-street and off-street conditions. States may utilize simulators to perform skills testing, but under no circumstances as a substitute for the required testing in on-street conditions. Applicants for a CDL must possess the following basic skills for the vehicle class that the driver operates or expects to operate:

  • Pre-trip vehicle inspection skills
  • Basic vehicle control skills
  • Safe on-road driving skills

Applicants for a CDL must possess the following basic skills for the vehicle class that the driver operates or expects to operate. Skills tests are conducted in on-street conditions or under a combination of on-street and off-street conditions. States may utilize simulators to perform skills testing, but under no circumstances as a substitute for the required testing in on-street conditions.

  • Locate and verbally identify air brake operating controls and monitoring devices
  • Determine the motor vehicle's brake system condition for proper adjustments and that air system connections between motor vehicles have been properly made and secured
  • Inspect the low pressure warning device(s) to ensure that they will activate in emergency situations
  • With the engine running, make sure that the system maintains an adequate supply of compressed air
  • Determine that required minimum air pressure build up time is within acceptable limits and that required alarms and emergency devices automatically deactivate at the proper pressure level
  • Operationally check the brake system for proper performance

  • To obtain a passenger endorsement applicable to a specific vehicle class, an applicant must take his/her skills test in a passenger vehicle satisfying the requirements of that vehicle group as defined in Subpart F - Vehicle groups and endorsements.

  • Must take a driving skills test in a school bus of the same vehicle group as the school bus applicant will drive.

Exam Preparation Resources

There are a number of resources available to help you prepare for the Commercial Driver's License (CDL) examination:

An additional resource is Safari Books Online, a searchable digital library that provides online access to thousands of books, training videos and conference sessions. See the Educational Resources section on the Related Sites page here on COOL to learn how to get free access.

RECERTIFICATION

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

The Commercial Driver's License (CDL) credential has the following recertification information:

  • The CDL period of validity and recertification requirements vary by state. Per federal regulation, the CDL can be valid for no more than eight years from the date of issuance.

MEDICAL REQUIREMENTS for the Commercial Driver's License (CDL) include:

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation requires all commercial drivers of vehicles in interstate commerce with a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) to obtain and maintain a valid Medical Examiner's Certificate (ME Certificate). CDL holders must provide their State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA) with a copy of their ME Certificate. CDL drivers, who do not update the expiration date of their ME Certificate with their state will have their commercial driving privileges downgraded and will not be eligible to drive a CMV that requires a CDL.

    All CDL holders must also declare to their SDLA that they only operate or expect to operate commercially in one of four possible categories with their CDL in order to determine their medical self-certification status. CDL holders, who are found driving in a category other than one to which they self-certified, are subject to suspension or revocation of their commercial driving privileges.

    Additional information, including state-by-state instructions for submitting ME Certificates and the self-certification process, can be found on the FMCSA website.

  • Drivers with physical impairments, which affect the ability to safely operate CMVs, must obtain a "variance" from the state in order to be approved to drive commercially. The variance document must be carried with the commercial driver whenever they are operating a CMV.

FMCSA's Military Skills Test Waiver Program and Even Exchange Program (Knowledge Test Waiver) make it easier, quicker, and less expensive for experienced military drivers to obtain Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs).

In Demand

This certification is considered in demand. The U.S. Department of Labor sponsored CareerOneStop's analysis indicates the certification is frequently mentioned in online job postings.

Click for external link to CareerOneStop's Credentials Center.

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Some

Credential is related to some tasks associated with the duties of the military occupation (at least one critical task but less than 80%)

Most

Credential is directly related to most of the major duties associated with the military occupation (at least 80%)

Other

Credential is related to this military occupation, but is more advanced or specialized and therefore will likely require additional education, training, or experience

CA Eligible

This certification is eligible for CA.

Promotion Points

This certification has been approved for promotion points.

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Star

Star credentials are MOS enhancing, as designated by the Proponent. MOS enhancing credentials are directly related to an MOS or ASI, are taught either partially or completely as part of a Program of Instruction (POI), and improves the MOS technical proficiency.

Skill Level

The Skill Level reflects the level, based on MOS training and/or experience, the Soldier should be the most prepared to successfully earn the credential. See the Table Legend for details about each level.

Navy Bucks

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Early Career

1-3 years experience; Enlisted E1 through E4

Mid Career

4-10 years experience; Enlisted E5 through E6

Late Career

10+ years experience; Enlisted E7 through E9

Early Career

1-3 years experience; Enlisted “A” School through E5

Mid Career

4-10 years experience; Enlisted E6 through E7

Late Career

10+ years experience; Enlisted E8 through E9

GI Bill®

Reimbursement for exam fees has been approved for payment through the GI Bill.

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ANAB (ANSI)

This credential has been accredited by ANAB (ANSI).

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ICAC

This credential has been accredited by ICAC.

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ABSNC

This credential has been accredited by ABSNC.

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NCCA

This credentialing program has been accredited by NCCA.

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IAS

This credential has been accredited by IAS.

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Low

May be difficult to attain: minimum education requirement is a Bachelor's degree, and/or minimum experience is 10 or more years.

Note: In some cases “years of experience” refers to time actively on duty or while holding a certain occupation or prior certification and not always in consecutive calendar years. Additional years required for certain preliminary stages may not be included in this classification. For requirements measured in hours, 1080 hours was considered a year. For days, 365 days was considered a year. Please review all prerequisites and requirements for eligibility, and additional information for details.

Medium

Moderate ease of attainment: minimum education requirement = Associate's and/or prerequisite and/or minimum experience = more than 2 years and less than 10 years of experience.

Note: In some cases “years of experience” refers to time actively on duty or while holding a certain occupation or prior certification and not always in consecutive calendar years. Additional years required for certain preliminary stages may not be included in this classification. For requirements measured in hours, 1080 hours was considered a year. For days, 365 days was considered a year. Please review all prerequisites and requirements for eligibility, and additional information for details.

High

Highly attainable: minimum education requirement = HS or less and/or minimum experience = 2 years or less experience and no additional requirements.

Note: In some cases “years of experience” refers to time actively on duty or while holding a certain occupation or prior certification and not always in consecutive calendar years. Additional years required for certain preliminary stages may not be included in this classification. For requirements measured in hours, 1080 hours was considered a year. For days, 365 days was considered a year. Please review all prerequisites and requirements for eligibility, and additional information for details.

MOS is Military Occupational Specialty
ASI is Additional Skill Identifier
WOMOS is Warrant Officer Military Occupational Specialty
AOC is Area Of Concentration Officer
Functional Area
Branch

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Click here for external link to: My Next Move for Veterans State Map for Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers

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Updated: March 31, 2020
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