Written by Andrei Zakhareuski. With over 16 years of expertise, Andrei leads Driving-Tests.org, a top online resource for driver education. His leadership has established vital partnerships with over 2,600 libraries, educational bodies, and state agencies.

Navigating the path to a CDL? Start by understanding the rules and requirements set by the . While each state might tweak the application process, fees, and forms, they all follow the FMCSA’s federal guidelines. Let’s break down what you need to know to rev up your truck driving career.

Must-Haves for a CLP or CDL

  • Pre-existing License: You need a valid non-commercial driver’s license.
  • Experience on the Road: Depending on your state, 1-2 years of driving experience is required.
  • Specialized Training: For Class A or B CDLs, FMCSA-approved driver training is a must.
  • Age Matters: At least 18 for intrastate and 21 for interstate or hazardous material transport.
  • Proof of Legal Status: This includes a Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, or green card.
  • English Proficiency: A necessary skill (Section 391.11).
  • Medical Clearance: A DOT medical card, following a DOT physical, is required.
  • Clean Slate: No disqualifications as per Section 383.51.
  • State-specific Training: Some states may mandate a CDL training course.
  • Background Checks: Be ready to pass these.

Federal CDL Application Know-How

Your journey to a CDL starts with a . Hold onto it for at least 14 days (though this varies by state) before you can take the road skills test, along with other necessary knowledge or skills exams for endorsements.

Here are some FMCSA compliance musts:

  • Single CDL Policy: Thanks to the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, you can’t hold more than one CDL.
  • No Texting Rule: Texting while driving is a big no-no since 2013.
  • Medical Info Self-Certification: Since 2014, you’ve got to use approved medical examiners from the National Registry.

Physical and Medical Standards

Driving a truck isn’t just about steering the wheel. It involves loading freight, long hours, and more. That’s why being physically and medically fit is crucial. An FMCSA-approved Medical Examiner from the National Registry will assess:


You’ll need 20/40 vision (with or without correction) and 70 degrees of peripheral vision in each eye.


Can you hear a whisper from 5 feet away in at least one ear? Hearing aids are allowed.


Insulin users need not apply, but those on oral meds are good to go.

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure under 140/90 gets you a 2-year card. Higher readings have varying implications, and anything over 180/110 is a disqualifier.

Blood Sugar

Keep it under 10%. Anything higher is examiner’s call.

Sleep Apnea

Controlled sleep apnea is fine, but it needs a doctor’s note and an annual sleep study.

Other factors like recent surgeries or physical impairments are also considered.


Your medical requirements depend on the type of driving you’ll do. Most CDL holders fall under non-exempt and need a Medical Exam Card. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Interstate Non-Excepted: Federal DOT medical card is a must.
  • Interstate Excepted: No Federal DOT medical card needed.
  • Intrastate Non-Excepted: Meet your state’s medical standards.
  • Intrastate Excepted: State standards don’t apply.

Exams: Written and Road Skills

You’ll face several tests:

  • General Knowledge: The starting point for all hopefuls.
  • Endorsement Tests: Depending on your career path.
  • Road Skills: Prove you can handle the vehicle safely.

Prep for these with our CDL practice tests.

State-specific Guidelines

Each state has its quirks. Check out your state’s official CDL manual for the specifics: State CDL manuals.