Getting your CDL In California

Trucking Schools In California

Getting your CDL in California

Getting your CDL in California

To obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in California, you need to meet certain requirements and complete a series of steps. The process involves gathering documentation, passing written and skills tests, and paying the necessary fees. Here’s a general overview:

1. Eligibility Requirements:
– You must be at least 18 years old to drive within California and 21 years old to drive across state lines or transport hazardous materials.
– You should hold a valid California driver’s license.
– You must provide proof of your Social Security Number.

2. Documentation:
– Gather the required documentation, including proof of identity (e.g., birth certificate, passport), proof of residency, and proof of Social Security Number.
– You may also need to provide documents verifying your legal presence in the United States.

3. Medical Examination:
– Obtain a medical examination from a certified medical examiner.
– The medical examiner will complete the Medical Examination Report (MER) and provide you with a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC).

4. CDL Written Test:
– Study the California Commercial Driver Handbook thoroughly.
– Visit a local California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office to take the written CDL exam.
– The exam covers general knowledge, specific vehicle classes, air brakes (if applicable), and any additional endorsements you seek.

5. CDL Skills Tests:
– Schedule an appointment at a DMV office to take the CDL skills tests.
– The skills tests consist of three parts: pre-trip inspection, basic vehicle control, and on-road driving.
– You’ll need to provide the appropriate vehicle for each test, such as a commercial vehicle of the appropriate class.

6. Fees:
– The fees for obtaining a CDL in California can vary. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the fee for a Class A, B, or C CDL was $55.
– Additional fees may apply for endorsements, duplicates, and other services.

Please note that the fees and specific procedures may have changed since my last update. To get the most accurate and up-to-date information, please visit the official website of the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or contact your local DMV office in California. They will provide you with the current requirements and fees for obtaining a CDL in California.

Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) CDL Applicants:

On February 7, 2022, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) implemented federal Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) requirements for commercial driver’s license (CDL) applicants. ELDT must be conducted by a registered training provider listed on the federal Training Provider Registry (TPR).

Successful completion of ELDT is required on or after February 7, 2022, for applicants who are:

  • Obtaining an original CDL (Class A or B);
  • Upgrading an existing Class B CDL to a Class A CDL; or
  • Obtaining a School Bus (S), Passenger (P), or Hazardous Materials (H) endorsement

In addition to the federal requirements, when applying for an original CDL (Class A or B) in California, the applicant must complete a minimum of 15 hours of behind-the-wheel training and submit a California Commercial Driver Behind The Wheel Training Certification (DL 1236) to the DMV as proof of completion prior to the issuance of their CDL.

For more information regarding ELDT, please visit

For more information about the TPR, visit:

Frequently asked questions regarding ELDT for applicants and training providers.


In California, you may be hired to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) carrying cargo that originates and terminates within state lines if you are at least 18 years old, and to drive for interstate commerce or transport hazardous materials/waste if you’re 21 or older. In either scenario, you need to hold a CDL in order to drive a CMV.  What classifies as a CMV?

If you have never had a commercial driver’s license (CDL), or you want to make a classification, endorsement, or restriction change that requires a skills test, you first need to get a CLP and hold it for at least 14 days. Here’s how you apply for a CLP:

  • Get a standard California noncommercial Class C driver’s license (DL) (a temporary/interim DL is acceptable).
  • Complete an online CDL Application.
  • Visit a DMV office, where you will:
    • Pass a vision exam.
    • Have your photo taken.
    • Pass the knowledge test(s). You have three attempts to pass each of the required knowledge tests. If you fail the same test three times, your application is no longer valid and you need to reapply. To allow for sufficient testing time, we do not administer knowledge tests within 30 minutes of closing.
    • If you want to apply for a REAL ID, you must also provide proof of your identity, social security number (SSN), and two proofs of residency from the list of acceptable REAL ID documents.

We will issue you a CLP after you pass the knowledge test(s).

If you do not meet all the requirements to get a CDL within 12 months of applying (including passing the knowledge test and skills test), the application will no longer be valid and you must reapply.

Rules and Restrictions

Here are the rules and restrictions for operating a CMV with a CLP:

  • You must also obtain and carry a valid California DL.
  • The CLP is valid for a maximum of 180 days from the date issued. It can be renewed for an additional 180 days if the expiration date is not more than one year from the initial application date.
  • If you present limited term legal presence documents, your CLP may expire on the same date as your legal presence documents.
  • A CLP is limited to these endorsements:
    • Tank (N)
    • Passenger (P)
    • School Bus (S)
  • You must be accompanied by a California CDL holder while operating a CMV. The license holder must possess the appropriate class of CDL and endorsements to operate the CMV.
  • If you have an “N” endorsement, the tanks must be empty when you are driving the CMV. The tank must be purged if it previously contained a hazardous material.
  • If you have a “P” or “S” endorsement, you cannot operate a CMV with passengers (other than federal/state auditors and inspectors, test examiners, other trainees, and the accompanying CDL holder).

After you hold a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) for 14 days, you can apply to take the skills test to earn your CDL. This 14 day waiting period also applies to classification upgrades and endorsement/restriction changes that require a skills test.

To apply for a CDL:

  • Schedule a skills test appointment (skills tests are not given without an appointment). You may also call 1-800-777-0133 during the regular business hours (8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon., Tues., Thurs., and Fri., and between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed., excluding holidays) to make an appointment.
  • Bring the type of vehicle(s) for the class you want to drive.
  • Pass the skills test, which includes a vehicle inspection, basic control skills test, and road test. If you fail any part of the skills test, all other testing will be postponed. You have three tries to pass the skills test. You must pay a retest fee each time you retake the skills test.

Certain applicants may qualify to have the skills test requirement waived:

  • If you have a valid CDL from another state that is current or has been expired for less than two years, you can surrender that license (or proof thereof). The license must have equivalent classification, endorsements, and restrictions to the one you are applying for in California.
  • You can submit a Certificate of Driving Skill (DL 170 ETP) if your employer is authorized to issue them. Both you and your employer must sign the form.
  • If you have military driving experience, you can submit a completed Commercial Military Waiver (DL 965). Learn more about the Troops to Trucks military waiver program.
  • If you have a California CLP, and completed CDL training and passed the skills test in another state, you are not required to take the skills test in California. The skills test results will be sent to California DMV from the state where you were tested. You will need to go to a DMV Commercial Driving Test Office to finalize your application. Failing to return to a commercial DMV office may result in your application expiring.

After you pass your skills test, surrender your out-of-state CDL, or submit your certificate, we will issue an interim CDL that’s valid for 60 days. If you have not received your official CDL after 45 days, call us at 1-800-77