How to Get a CDL

Since April 1, 1992 drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles are required to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). 

Certain vehicles and operations require a CDL to operate.

How to get your CDL?

Getting your CDL involves several steps. You will have to meet the Medical and Residency requirements. This is in addition to the Skills and Knowledge tests.


The first thing you do is apply for a “CDL Learner’s Permit”. Make sure you go to your State of Residence because each State has its own requirements. For this article I am referring to the State of Pennsylvania. How to get a CDL.

The Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) only allows you to practice driving. You must have a certified CDL holder in the vehicle with you. You must also pass the knowledge tests for the type of vehicle and any endorsements required.

To be eligible, your driving record will be checked dating back 10 years. They will check all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

You must provide proof that your state of residence shows you are medically qualified. You will need to get a physical from a certified DOT medical facility or doctor.

You will have to pay fees for the CLP and any endorsements.

You need to prove that you are a legal resident of the state you are applying in.

Identification Requirements!

Blank SS Card

New applicants are required to apply in person. You will need to present one of these identifications when applying.

  • Birth Certificate (must have raised seal) No other birth certificates accepted
  • Passport
  • Current Immigration or Naturalization documents (Your name must match)
  • Also, the FMCSA requires documentation of residency for new applicants, renewing        your CDL or change of address
Blank W2 Form

Proof of residency can be any one of these:

  • W-2 form
  • Current weapons permit
  • Current driver’s license
  • CDL renewal notice
  • Current utility bill
  • Lease agreement
  • Tax records
  • Mortgage documents


If you are upgrading a current driver’s license there will be additional fees. There are separate fees for each endorsement. Everything will be prorated accordingly.

If you have never had a driver’s license you are not eligible for a CDL. First you need to apply for a regular driver’s license. After a certain amount of time you will be eligible to apply for a CDL license.

If you are a new resident to the State and applying for a CDL, you must surrender all valid Commercial Driver’s Licenses issued by other states. No person can have more than one valid driver’s license at any time.

CDL Class A, B, C

Jerr Dan rollback

Before applying, know what Class of CDL License you will need! If you want to drive any truck, straight or tractor trailer, then get a Class A CDL. Your best opportunities are with Class A endorsements.

Make sure to get the Air Brake Endorsement. This will allow you to drive trucks equipped with or without air brakes.

Make sure you take the road test with a tractor trailer equipped with air brakes and manual transmission. This will allow you to drive an automatic or manual. If you take the test in a truck equipped with an automatic transmission you cannot drive a truck equipped with a manual transmission.

You Need to Know This Before Applying!

What you need to know when applying.

1. Who needs a commercial driver’s license (CDL)

  • Anyone driving a commercial motor vehicle
  • Combination of vehicles with gross weight over 26,001 lbs.
  • Truck with single gross weight over 26,001 lbs.
  • Bus or vehicle designed to carry more than 16 passengers including driver
  • School bus
  • Any vehicle transporting hazardous materials and required to be placarded

2. You must self-certify the type of vehicle you wish to operate.

  • CLASS A - a combination vehicle with gross weight over 26,001 lbs. when pulling a                           trailer with a gross weight of over 10,000 lbs.
  • CLASS B -  straight truck or single vehicle with gross weight over 26,001 lbs
  • CLASS C -  straight truck or single vehicle with gross weight under 26,001 lbs

There are many endorsements. You can't have more than three endorsements on your license.

If you are not planning to drive a school bus or passenger vehicle than ignore endorsements P, S, B/M, C/N.

If you are not planning to pull a tank trailer, double or triple trailers than ignore N and T.


3. List of different endorsements.

  • H – if transporting hazardous materials and required to be placarded
  • N – to operate tank vehicles or pulling a tank trailer
  • X – hazardous materials and tank vehicle (H,N)
  • P – vehicle carrying passengers
  • S – school bus
  • T – pulling doubles and triples trailers
  • L – you cannot driver a vehicle equipped with air brakes
  • B/M – restricts you from class A bus
  • C/N - restricts you from class A or B bus
  • E – you cannot drive a manual transmission
  • K – you can only operate in intrastate commerce
  • O – you cannot driver a tractor trailer combination
  • Z – you cannot drive a full equipped air brake vehicle


4. Tests you are required to take.

  • CLASS A – 70 questions plus Skills Test
  • CLASS B -  50 questions plus Skills Test
  • CLASS C -  50 questions plus Skills Test

You Must Wait 14 Days!

After you receive your Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) you must wait at least fourteen days before taking the skills test. Again, please check with your State’s requirements.

When you go for the skills tests you will need to pass all three parts.

  • Vehicle Inspection Test
  • Basic Controls Test
  • Road Test

Once you pass all three you may be given your CDL immediately. Be aware that some states only mail you the license. Also, make sure everything is correct on your license before leaving. If you would need to change something later it will probably cost you fees.


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