Getting your CDL in Iowa

Information On Obtaining a CDL in Iowa

Getting your CDL in Iowa: 

To obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in Iowa, you need to meet specific 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 Iowa and 21 years old to drive across state lines or transport hazardous materials.
– You should hold a valid Iowa 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. CDL Written Test:
– Study the Iowa Commercial Driver’s License Manual thoroughly.
– Visit a local Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) driver’s license issuance site to take the written CDL exam.
– The exam covers general knowledge, specific vehicle classes, air brakes (if applicable), and any additional endorsements you seek.

4. CDL Skills Test:
– Schedule an appointment at an Iowa DOT driver’s license issuance site or an authorized third-party testing location to take the CDL skills test.
– The skills test consists of three parts: pre-trip vehicle 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.

5. 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).

6. Fees:
– The fees for obtaining a CDL in Iowa can vary. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the fee for a Class A or B CDL was $16 for a five-year license and $8 for each endorsement.
– Additional fees may apply for duplicates, skills tests, 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 Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) or contact your local DOT driver’s license issuance site in Iowa. They will provide you with the current requirements and fees for obtaining a CDL in Iowa.

What do I need to get a CDL?

  • Be at least age 18.
  • Provide proof of full name, date of birth, and Social Security number.
  • Provide proof of citizenship (certified copy of U.S. birth certificate, passport, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), Certificate of Naturalization, or Certificate of Citizenship), lawful permanent residency (Permanent resident card), or an employment authorization document (EAD) or I-94 document.
  • Provide proof of Iowa residency (your license showing your Iowa address will meet this requirement).
  • Pass vision screening
  • Hold a CLP (commercial learner’s permit) for at least 14 days prior to application for CDL.
  • We will check your driving record in all other states; the check must show you are eligible for commercial licensing in all other states.
  • Beginning Feb. 7, 2022, drivers applying the first time for a Class A or Class B CDL; upgrading existing CDL’s (Class B CDL to Class A CDL); or adding the following endorsements: hazardous materials (H), passenger (P), or school bus (S) will need to complete Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) prior to taking the applicable knowledge or skills test.
  • You must certify how you will use the commercial motor vehicles you will operate, which may require you to obtain a medical certificate.

How do I get a CDL?

CLP Process

Step one

 Knowledge test

First, you must pass the knowledge test(s) required for the type of commercial vehicle you want to operate. You can study for the test with the Iowa CDL test app.

Types of knowledge tests (number of questions/allowed to miss)

  • General knowledge for any CDL (50/10)
  • Combination vehicle for Class A (20/04)
  • Air brake (25/05)
  • Passenger (20/04)
  • School bus (20/04)
  • Doubles/Triples (20/04)
  • Hazmat (30/06)
  • Tank (20/04)
  • Iowa operator (if applicable) (25/5)

Step two

 Commercial learner’s permit (CLP)

Second, you have to obtain a CLP. You will be issued a CLP after you pass the applicable knowledge tests, and you will have to hold the CLP for at least 14 days before you can go to the third step (skills testing) and get your full CDL.

What CAN I do with a CLP?The purpose of a CLP is to allow accompanied behind-the-wheel training in a type and class of Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) that your current license (commercial or non-commercial) is not valid to operate. With a CLP you can:

  • Drive a commercial vehicle specific to the type of CLP you obtained when accompanied by another driver who has a CDL valid for the same type of commercial vehicle.
  • Continue to drive vehicles by yourself (unaccompanied) that your existing license or CDL is valid for. The cost of the CLP is $12. The permit is valid for one year from the date of issuance, with no renewal period.

What CAN’T I do with a CLP?

  • Drive a commercial vehicle by yourself if your existing license or CDL is not valid to drive that type of vehicle.
  • Use a cell phone while driving a commercial vehicle.
  • Carry passengers while operating a commercial vehicle (other than the CDL driver accompanying you, other trainees, and test examiners).
  • Drive a commercial vehicle containing hazmat or drive a tank vehicle that previously contained hazmat that is not purged of residue.
  • Drive a tank vehicle containing cargo.

The same rules that apply to CDL drivers also apply to CLP drivers. Certain violations could result in the disqualification of the driver’s commercial operating privileges.

More information about violations and disqualification can be found in the CDL manual, available at any driver’s license issuance site or by visiting:

Step three

 Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT)

Beginning Feb. 7, 2022, drivers applying the first time for a Class A or Class B CDL; upgrading existing CDL’s (Class B CDL to Class A CDL); or adding the following endorsements: hazardous materials (H), passenger (P), or school bus (S) will need to complete Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) prior to taking the applicable knowledge or skills test. Once you complete the ELDT, the training provider will upload your driver training certification to the Training Provider Registry, which we will verify prior to testing.

ELDT is a FMCSA program and is not administered by the Iowa DOT. For more information please select the link below or call the FMCSA information line at 1-800-832-5660 or the FMCSA Iowa Field Office at 515-233-7400.

Get more information about ELDT and view the listing of approved training providers 

Step four

 Driving test

After you’ve held the CLP for at least 14 days and completed the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT), the next step is to pass the required skills and driving test.

There are three phases of the driving test.

You must provide a vehicle that is in good working order and is representative of the class of license you are applying for.

1. Pre-trip vehicle inspection test.

A pre-trip vehicle inspection test is required to show the vehicle is safe to drive. You will have to walk around the vehicle and point to or touch each item and explain to the license examiner what you are checking and why.

View the pre-trip inspection memory aid you can use during the test

2. Skills test (maneuvers around cones and backing maneuvers).

See section 12 in the Commercial Driver License manual for a description of the skills test exercises and scoring.

3. Driving test (on public roads with examiner).

Step five


After you have passed the required skills (driving) test, you can obtain your CDL at any driver’s license issuance location. The cost is $8/year plus applicable endorsement fees.


Iowa CDL test app

Iowa CDL Test AppThe Iowa CDL test app has everything you need to pass your Iowa Commercial Drivers License (CDL) test the first time! With over 600 exam-like questions, lifetime access to the complete CDL Manual, and dozens of test-taking strategies, the Iowa CDL test app helps you get the score you need. Spanning every stage of a CDL professional’s career, from pre-licensing and your initial license to driving combinations, hazardous materials, school buses, and more, the Iowa CDL test app offers a comprehensive review of critical material.

CDL pre-trip inspection test

Review section 11 in the Commercial Driver License Manual to prepare for and successfully pass the pre-trip vehicle inspection test.

  • You must successfully demonstrate all three components of the airbrake check before you start the pre-trip vehicle inspection test – prepare for this by reviewing the information in section 11.
  • If you do not pass the airbrake check and/or the pre-trip vehicle inspection test, you must make another appointment to retake the test – that could be two or three weeks out, which will delay the issuance of your commercial driver’s license.

Study for the Pre-trip inspection test using the CDL Test App

The Iowa CDL Test App has been improved to include videos and exam-like questions designed to assist customers in successfully preparing for the necessary pre-trip vehicle inspection test.


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