What is a CDL?
It takes special knowledge and skill to safely operate large vehicles. Only drivers with special training and a professional attitude can receive and keep their California Commerical Driver’s License. A CDL license California is proof that you have the skills and knowledge to operate large trucks and buses.
(Note: These are the California CDL Requirements, click here to see your state’s CDL requirements.)
Do I Need An California CDL?
If you intend on operating any commercial vehicle, you must apply for and obtain your California CDL. Commercial vehicles (or combination of vehicles) are classified into either Class A, Class B, or Class C licenses with endorsements.
A commercial vehicle is defined as any motor vehicle or combination vehicle, used for hire while transporting either cargo or passengers which:
- Has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) which exceeds 26,000lbs.
- Has been designed, used, or intended to carry 10 passengers or more.
- Has a vehicle or trailer in tow that weighs in excess of 10,000lbs.
- Is used to transport hazardous materials in amounts which require a placard.
- Has more than one trailer or vehicle in tow.
- Has three or more axles (unless the vehicle weighs less than 6,000lbs).
Requirements For California CDL Endorsements
California CDL endorsements are required to operate special types of vehicles, or vehicles under certain circumstances. (Endorsements are shown as single letters on your CDL)
California CDL Endorsements include:
(H) – Hazardous Materials – Required for operating vehicles placarded or marked as trasporting hazardous materials.
(N) – Tank Vehicles – Required for operating a vehicle with fixed tanks in excess of 119 gallons or portable tanks in excess of 1000 gallons. (Includes cement trucks.)
(P) – Passenger – Required to operate vehicles designed to transport more than 10 passengers including the driver.
(S) – School Bus – Required to operate any vehicle used to transport any number of children to and from school.
(T) – Doubles/Triples – Required to operate vehicles with double or triple trailer combinations.
(X) – Tanker/Hazardous Materials – Required to operate tanker vehicles carrying hazardous material or waste.
IMPORTANT: You must study and pass the materials covered in sections 1, 2, 3, 5*, 6, 11, 12, 13 to receive an unrestricted Class A California CDL. Study the additional sections that correspond with only the endorsements you would like to receive.
*The air brake section (5) is required to have a Class A license with no restrictions.
California CDL Requirements
In order to obtain a new California Commercial Drivers License, you must meet all of the following requirements:
- You must be at least 21 years old to operate a commercial vehicle across state lines (interstate) for hire. You may drive for hire within California (intrastate) if you are 18 years of age of older but younger than 21, but you may not transport passengers or placard requiring hazardous materials or waste.
- You must hold a valid California Class C (operators) drivers license.
- If you have held a commercial drivers license in any other state besides California in the last ten years you must submit a 10 Year History Record Check (Form DL 929).
How To Get A CDL License In California
There are two steps required to obtain your CDL License California. First, apply for and obtain your California CDL Permit. Then, after adequate skills have been gained, you may apply for your California CDL License.
In order to apply for your California CDL Permit you must:
1. Visit your local DMV CDL Office and fill out a Commercial Drivers License Application Form (Form DL 44C). It is not available online because it requires an original signature.
2. Submit your 10 Year History Record check if necessary.
3. Submit your social security card for verification. (Note: Only your original social security card, medicare card, or some military IDs will be accepted for verification.)
4. Verify your birth and legal residence in California.
5. Pay any applicable fees for the upgrade and any endorsements. (Commercial licenses expire after 5 years)
6. Submit your Medical Examination Report (Form DL 51). Note: You must pass and obtain a Medical Examination Report before you will be allowed to test for your CDL Permit.
7. Pass the traffic laws and sign test for the class of vehicle you want to drive. (Hint: Study sections 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 11, 12, and 13 of the California CDL Handbook. FREE sample California CDL tests can be found here.)
**You have three attempts to pass your CDL Permit tests.
Once you have passed all of the traffic laws and signs tests, you will be issued a temporary permit. You may only drive or train with a driver who holds a valid California CDL in the class which you have tested for. You may choose to train at a third party testing site or trucking school.
After you have had sufficient training you may apply for your California CDL License.
The steps for applying for your California CDL License are as follows:
1. Call a DMV CDL office and make an appointment for a driving test. (CDL appointments can’t be made online)
2. Bring a vehicle in the class of license which you wish to obtain. (Make sure it passes all DOT and pre-trip inspection requirements.)
3. Pass a pre-trip inspection. You will be tested on your ability to determine if your vehicle is safe to drive. (See section 11 of your California CDL Handbook)
4. Pass a skills and driving test. You will be tested on your ability to maneuver your vehicle forward and backwards within a defined course, as well as on the road in a variety of traffic situations.
**Note: You have three chances to pass each part of the pre-trip/skills/road test.
Submit a Certificate of Driving Skill (Form DL 170) if your employer is authorized by DMV to issue such certificates. Be sure both parties have signed before submitting the form.
After passing all of your tests you will receive a temporary CDL license valid for 90 days, or until your permanent license arrives in the mail.
How Much Does A CDL In California Cost?
The cost of a CDL License California will vary depending on which endorsements you choose to apply for, how many test re-takes you require, and if your health insurance covers a DOT physical.
The fees for a California CDL are:
- DOT Physical Card – $50-100 dollars depending on your location/insurance.
- CDL Class A – $64.00 (Non-Refundable)
- Re-testing Fees – $30.00*
TOTAL: $144 – 194.00 DOLLARS
*Only required if you require more than three opportunities to pass.
Official California CDL Handbook: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/comlhdbk/comlhdbk.pdf
California Department Of Motor Vehicles: http://dmv.ca.gov/dl/dl_info.htm
FMSCA Guidelines: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration-licensing/cdl/cdl.htm