cdl requirements

CDL Requirements: How to get a CDL in 2024?

If you want to drive a commercial motor vehicle, getting your CDL is necessary. Learn about the various CDL requirements to start your career as a truck driver.

December 28, 2021

If you want to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) on the road, getting your CDL is necessary. It all starts with understanding the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s laws and regulations (FMCSA). Each state has its own application procedure, fees, and forms, although they all follow the FMCSA’s federal guidelines. Learn about the various CDL requirements so that you may start your career as a truck driver.

Minimum CDL Requirements

Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) or Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) minimum requirements are listed below:

  • You must be at least 18 years old and have a valid regular (non-commercial) driver’s license (in most states).
  • You must be at least 21 years old to be eligible.
  • To cross state borders in a commercial motor vehicle (interstate).
  • To drive a commercial truck that transports hazardous goods.
  • Driving experience of at least one or two years is required (depending on the state)
  • According to 49 CFR 383.71, an applicant “must provide to the State proof of citizenship or lawful permanent residency.”
  • A social security card or other forms of identification is required.
  • A birth certificate or a green card is an example of another document.
  • Pass all background screenings that apply.
  • According to the FMCSA, the applicant “must give the names of all States where the applicant has been licensed to drive any sort of motor vehicle for the prior ten years.”
  • Have no active suspensions or revocations of your driver’s license in any state.
  • Once you obtain a CDL, you must forfeit your ordinary state driver’s license.
  • He or she must certify that he or she is not “subject to any disqualification under FMCSA 383.51 (full list of disqualifications), or any license disqualification under State law and that he or she does not have more than one state or jurisdiction’s driver’s license.”
  • To drive a CMV in the United States, you must be able to communicate in English and read it. Furthermore, all state written examinations will be conducted in English. You can find more information available from the FMCSA.

New Federal CDL Requirements

The FMCSA has made various improvements in the area of “compliance standards” throughout the years (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration). The FMCSA exists to keep U.S. roads safer, primarily through preventing commercial truck-related accidents, as its name implies.

  • Drivers have been unable to have a CDL in more than one state since the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986. This put a stop to the practice of people acquiring several driver’s licenses in order to hide negative records they may have had in another state.
  • Endorsement Requirements for Hazardous Materials Check out our How to Get Your Hazmat Endorsement step-by-step tutorial.
  • States were required to begin implementing the texting restriction law in late 2013.
  • Then, beginning in 2014, commercial drivers were required to “self-certify” medical information and may only employ “approved” medical examiners who were registered with the National Medical Registry.

Physical and Medical CDL Requirements

A truck driver must have the physical ability to operate a commercial motor vehicle, as well as the many non-driving job duties. Being a truck driver involves unloading and loading freight as well as long hours on the road. Sleep deprivation, high-stress levels, relationship problems, and physical wear and tear can all result from this. With that in mind, it’s critical to ensure you’re physically and medically fit for the job.

One of the most important CDL license requirements is the physical demands of the trucker’s jobs. An approved Medical Examiner from the FMCSA National Registry will check your physical and medical requirements. The following will be examined at the Department of Transportation (DOT) medical exam: 

  • Vision: With or without correction, the visual acuity value in each eye should be at least 20/40. (includes eyeglasses or contacts). In addition, each eye must have at least 70 degrees of peripheral vision measured in the horizontal meridian.
  • Hearing: Truckers should be able to hear a forced whisper in at least one ear from a distance of more than 5 feet. Hearing aids are approved for the purpose of assisting hearing.
  • Diabetes: Truck drivers who need to inject insulin with a needle do not fulfill the standards. Diabetic drivers who take oral drugs, however, are allowed to drive.
  • Blood Pressure: A driver with a blood pressure of less than 140/90 will be issued a two-year card. A one-year card will be issued for stage 1 high blood pressure of 140-159/90-99. A temporary three-month certificate will be provided for stage 2 high blood pressure of 160-179/100-109. (at examiners discretion). Disqualification will be imposed if your blood pressure is over 180/110 at stage 3.
  • Blood Sugar: It is necessary to have a blood sugar level of less than 10%. For levels more than 10%, certificates will be issued at the examiner’s discretion.
  • Sleep Apnea: Unless the problem is proved to be under control, sleep apnea may result in disqualification. This includes a recent yearly sleep study and a physician’s release.

These are some of the most basic physical requirements for commercial drivers. Other variables, such as recent major operations, limb loss, and so on, may be investigated.

Basic Physical Qualifications for Commercial Drivers

Medical examiners use the FMCSA form Medical Examination Report For Commercial Driver Fitness Determination. This form, as well as the whole list (from FMCSA 391.41) farther down on that page, will give you a good idea of the medical qualifications for drivers.

To prove that you are physically capable of operating a commercial motor vehicle, you must now get a “Medical Examiner’s Certificate.” The following are some of the requirements:

  • Standard: Each eye must have at least 20/40 acuity (Snellen) with or without correction. Each eye must have at least 70 degrees of peripheral vision in the horizontal meridian. Corrective lenses (eyeglasses or contact lenses) are permissible, however, they must be specified on the Medical Examiner’s Certificate.
  • You can’t be a diabetic who needs to inject insulin using a needle. It should be noted, however, that some drivers may be exempt.
  • Standard: a) Must initially perceive forced whispered voice > 5 ft., with or without hearing aids, or b) average hearing loss in better ear 40 dB.
  • Has no current clinical diagnosis of high blood pressure that might interfere with his ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Blood sugar levels of 200 or above are deemed “dangerous.” Despite the claims of many other websites, there appears to be no proof that a blood sugar level of 200 or more constitutes a disqualification.
  • Other problems, such as sleep apnoea, may also disqualify you.

CDL Self Certification

Commercial drivers must “self-certify” medical information beginning in 2014, and they may only use “approved” medical examiners who are listed on the National Medical Registry. Click here to discover a medical examiner who is FMCSA-certified to perform DOT physical exams.

In the following categories, all commercial drivers must now self-certify the type of vehicle they will operate:

  • Non-Excepted Interstate simply implies that you must fulfill the Federal Department of Transportation’s medical card standards and operate across state boundaries.
  • Excepted Interstate: If you operate beyond state borders, you do not need to fulfill the Federal DOT medical card standards.
  • Intrastate Non-Excepted: You must fulfill the Federal DOT medical card standards and only operate in your home state.
  • Excepted Intrastate: If you exclusively operate in your home state, you do not need to fulfill the Federal DOT medical card standards

CDL Requirements by State

You should be aware of your state’s requirements for CDL in addition to your employer’s needs while looking for top CDL drivers. Each state has its own CDL official website. Visit your state’s official website for more specific information on CDL requirements in each state.

Pass the CDL Exam

CDL Written and Knowledge Exams 

You must pass knowledge and skills examinations in order to obtain a CDL. The CDL study guide and our free CDL practice test 2021 can assist you in passing the state examinations. This guidebook is not intended to be used in place of a truck driver training course or program. Formal training is the most dependable way to learn all of the technical skills required to safely operate a large commercial vehicle and work as a professional truck driver.

Skill and Road Testing

For the road and skills exam, you must utilize the same commercial vehicle class for which you are applying for a license.

The three parts of the driving exam are as follows:

  • Pre-Trip Vehicle Inspection — Make sure your vehicle is safe to drive before you leave. The CDL Manual’s Sections 11, 12, and 13 address how to explain what you’re checking and why you’re inspecting it.
  • Basic Vehicle Control – Your ability to control your vehicle will be assessed. Moving a vehicle forward, backward, and inside a limited region are all part of this.
  • On-Road Driving Exam — You’ll need to show that you can drive a commercial vehicle safely on the road in a variety of traffic circumstances. (Turning left and right, halting, bends, railroad crossings, and so forth.)

Military Waiver

Did you recently serve in the military and drive a CMV (or the military’s equivalent of a commercial motor vehicle)? The skills test element of the commercial driver’s license skills test may be waived. Military drivers must submit an application within one year after leaving active duty.

Service members who are currently licensed and are or were employed in a military position requiring the operation of a military motor vehicle equal to a Commercial Motor Vehicle may use the Commercial Driver License (CDL) abilities test waiver form (CMV). A qualified military member can apply for a CDL without having to pass a skills exam under this waiver. The knowledge (written) test(s) for a commercial driver’s license cannot be waived. The transfer of School Bus(S) and/or Passenger (P) endorsements are prohibited under this Waiver Program.

Operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle safely necessitates a special set of skills (CMV). To do so, drivers must first get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) after passing the skills and knowledge exam. However, testing does not finish once a driver has qualified for their license. To keep themselves and other drivers safe on the road, CDL truck drivers must follow a strict and comprehensive set of CDL requirements.