Commercial Driver License

Under federal law, a commercial driver license (CDL) is required for those who wish to operate vehicles weighing 26,000 pounds or more for commercial use. Other requirements for a commercial driver license include transportation of hazardous materials regulated by the Department of Transportation, as well as vehicles designed for 16 or more passengers. These requirements went into effect under the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986.

Commercial Driver License Skills

Those who drive commercial vehicles must have a higher level of experience, knowledge, physical abilities, and skills than those who drive non-commercial vehicles. Due to the inherently dangerous and challenging nature of driving a commercial vehicle, these drivers are held to higher standards. If drivers commit serious traffic violations, their commercial driver license eligibility may be affected. Applicants must pass knowledge and skills testing in order to receive a commercial driver license.

Licensing by State

The process and requirements for obtaining a commercial driver license will typically vary by state. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) CDL Division oversees this process across states and sets standards that apply to commercial drivers. The FMCSA CDL Division is responsible for the creation and maintenance of special policies, guidelines, and procedures that create a foundation for each state’s program. While each state’s specific regulations may vary, they must all comply with the federal standards expected of each state.

Commercial Driver License Testing

Federal laws state that in order to obtain a commercial driver license, each applicant must pass a written test detailing highway safety. Additionally, applicants must pass a test about the different parts featured on a commercial vehicle. This test is required to feature a minimum of 30 questions. A passing score equates to roughly 80 percent correct answers.

Driving Skills Test

Each applicant must also pass a driving skills test. During the driving skills test, the applicant must drive the type of vehicle that he or she expects to operate after obtaining the commercial driver license. The driving skills test requires that applicants perform a certain set of maneuvers in the vehicle. When the driver wishes to obtain certain endorsements, such as Air Brakes, he or she must operate a vehicle that features the proper equipment.

Commercial Driver License Features

Information featured on a CDL includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • The driver’s full name, mailing address, and signature
  • Physical identification information, such as date of birth, height, and sex
  • A colored photograph of the driver
  • The issuing state and state license number of the driver
  • The group(s) of vehicles that the driver has received authorization to drive, such as combination vehicles, double/triple trailers, hazardous materials vehicles, or school buses