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How do I apply for a Commercial Driver License?

What is a commercial driver license (CDL)?
Operating large commercial motor vehicles requires specialized skills and training that must be learned. A CDL is a professional license permitting the holder of the license to drive those large commercial vehicles and buses on public roadways in Texas and in the United States. This license demonstrates that you have been trained, tested, and are qualified to safely operate large commercial motor vehicles.

What types of CDLs are there?
To obtain a CDL, it will be necessary for you to determine which class you will need. There are three basic classes of CDLs:

What are Endorsements?
Depending upon what you will be transporting, you may need one or more of the following six endorsements. An endorsement allows you to operate certain types of commercial motor vehicles and transport specific items. There is additional testing required to obtain an endorsement and in some cases, if you already have a CDL you will be required to hold a commercial learner permit for that endorsement for at least 14 days before being able to add it to your CDL.

Endorsement Require a
knowledge test?
Require a
driving test?
Must be issued a CLP?

Double/Triple Trailer (T)

Yes

No

No

Passenger (P)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Tank Vehicle (N)

Yes

No

No

Hazardous Materials (H)

Yes

No

No

School Bus (S)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Combination (X)

Yes

No

No

With the exception of motorcycles and mopeds, if you hold a valid CDL you may drive all vehicles in the class for which that license is issued, including your personal vehicle, so long as all applicable restrictions and endorsements are adhered to.

What is the difference between Interstate and Intrastate?
When applying for a CDL it will be necessary for you to understand what type of commerce you will be operating in so that the correct type of license can be issued to you. You may apply for a CDL that allows for the transportation of either interstate and/or intrastate commerce. If you apply for an interstate commerce CDL, it will allow you to operate in both interstate and intrastate commerce, unless you apply for an interstate CDL specifically to operate within a certain capacity.

The definition of interstate and intrastate commerce are provided below to assist you in determining what type of commerce you will be operating in and the appropriate form you will need to certify to when applying for your CDL. You may only certify to one form and one section.

Interstate Commerce
Is trade, traffic or transportation:

To be able to operate in Interstate Commerce, you must be able to certify that you meet the requirements provided on either the Interstate Driver Certification form (CDL-4), or the Certification of Physical Exemption form (CDL-10).

Intrastate Commerce
Is the transportation of property (a commodity) where:

To be able to operate in Intrastate Commerce, you must be able to certify that you meet the requirements in only one of the Sections on the Intrastate Driver Certification form (CDL-5).

The Bill of Lading will be an indicator as to whether a shipment or commodity is interstate or intrastate. If there is not a Bill of Lading then the origin and destination of the shipment will be an indicator.

Medical Certification Requirements
Once you have determined which form you will be certifying to, review the instructions on the form very carefully to determine if you need to provide and maintain a current medical examiner's certificate with the Department.  For more information, visit our webpage on Commercial Driver License Medical Certification Requirement

Will I need to apply for a Commercial Driver License Permit (CLP) before getting my CDL?
If you are applying for a CDL for the first time, upgrading your existing CDL (Class C to Class B or Class A, or Class B to Class A) or adding a passenger, school bus, or tank endorsement, you will be required to obtain and hold a permit for at least 14 days.  The purpose of this is to allow you an opportunity to obtain behind-the-wheel experience before taking your driving test.  The following requirements apply for a CLP:

Applying for a Commercial Learner Permit
The first step is to have a Texas driver license.  If you do not have a Texas driver license, visit our page on How to apply for a Texas Driver License.  Once you have your Texas driver license, the Texas Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver's Handbook and several instructional videos are available online to help you in obtaining your CLP.  You will need to provide proof of the following to apply for a commercial learner permit:

  1. U.S. Citizenship or, if you are not a U.S. Citizen, evidence of lawful presence
  2. Texas Residency
  3. Identity, and
  4. Social Security Number (a CLP or a CDL cannot be issued if you do not have a Social Security Number)
  5. Self-Certification Of Medical Status (you must certify to only one of the following forms: CDL-4, CDL-5, or CDL-10)
  6. Medical Examiners Certificate (depending upon the type of self-certification of medical status you selected
  7. Evidence of Texas Vehicle Registration* for each vehicle you own. Registration must be current. Visit Texas DMV vehicle registration for more information. (New Residents who are surrendering an out-of-state driver license only)
  8. Proof of Insurance* for each vehicle you own

Once you have gathered the necessary documents and completed the required courses, you will need to do the following:

  1. Complete the CDL application before arriving at your local office. (This form is also available at all driver license offices)
  2. Visit your local driver license office. You may be able to get in-line before arriving. Locate the office nearest you.
  3. Provide the following documentation to the customer service representative:
    1. CDL application for the issuance of CLP.
    2. U.S. Citizenship or, if you are not a U.S. Citizen, evidence of lawful presence
    3. Texas Residency
    4. Identity, and
    5. Social Security Number
  4. Pay the application fee.
  5. Provide your thumbprint.
  6. Have your picture taken.
  7. Pass Vision Exam.
  8. Pass the knowledge tests for the appropriate driver license including any endorsements you will be adding.  The knowledge exam must be taken in the following order:
    1.  Texas Commercial Rules
    2. General Knowledge
    3. Combination (Class A Only)
    4. Air Brake (If applicable)
    5. Endorsements   
  9. Schedule your skills test at one of the CDL testing locations.
  10. Read about testing in other languages and driving test requirements

Applying for a Commercial Driver License
Once you have held your CLP for a minimum of 14 days, you are eligible to complete the necessary driving tests to obtain your CDL.  You will need to provide a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for the driving test.  The CMV must be representative of the type of CLP you hold. 

  1. Complete the CDL application before arriving at your local office. (This form is also available at all driver license offices)
  2. Provide the following documentation to the customer service representative:
    1. Application for the issuance of a CDL.
    2. Identity, and
    3. Social Security Number
  3. Pay the application fee.
  4. Provide your thumbprint.
  5. Have your picture taken.
  6. Pass Vision Exam.
  7. Pass the driving test which consists of:
    1. Vehicle Inspection (Pre-trip) Test
    2. Basic Vehicle Control Test
    3. Road Test
  8. Read about testing in other languages and driving test requirements

CDL Waivers, Exceptions and Exemptions

Texas Vision and Limb Waiver
If you do not meet the physical requirements necessary to obtain a CDL, you may be eligible to apply for a Texas Intrastate Vision Waiver or a Texas Intrastate Limb Waiver. If the waiver is approved, you will be restricted to intrastate driving. You must certify the Texas Commercial Driver Application Intrastate Driver Certification - Section B and provide a valid DOT medical examiners certificate (CDL-5).

A Texas Intrastate Vision Waiver Application (PDF) or Texas Intrastate Limb Waiver Application (PDF) is available at any driver license office or can be downloaded.

The application packet must be fully completed then returned to DPS within 45 days of the physical examination date.

Mailing Address:
Texas Department of Public Safety
Issuance Services
Attn: CDL
P.O. Box 4087
Austin, TX 78773-0320

NOTE:  You must have a valid Texas driver license to obtain a Texas Intrastate Vision and Limb Waiver. If you are licensed in another state, you will be required to surrender your out-of-state license and obtain a Texas Class C driver license before being eligible to apply for the waiver. If the waiver is approved, you will be required to retest for a Texas CDL and obtain the appropriate restrictions within 60 days of your approval.

Federal Skills Performance Evaluation Certification Program
The Federal Skills Performance Evaluation Certification Program (SPE) Certification Program, formerly the Limb Waiver Program, is a federally-sponsored program available to certain individuals who hold a CDL. This program provides an opportunity for some individuals who would otherwise be medically unqualified to obtain a CDL to apply for and maintain an interstate CDL.

For more information on the SPE Certification Program or other interstate medical variances that are available including the Federal Diabetes Exemption Program, please visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Federal Diabetes and Vision Exemption Program
The Federal Diabetes and Vision Exemption Programs have specific requirements for each application. For more information on these programs please visit the FMCSA Driver Exemption Programs.

Farm-Related Service Industry
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) may waive the knowledge and skills tests and issue a restricted CDL to an individual who is an employee of a farm-related service industry. The applicant must certify to the Texas Commercial Driver License Application - Restricted Commercial Driver License (CDL-1F) and meet all other CDL requirements.

  1. Farm retail outlets and suppliers
  2. Agri-chemical businesses
  3. Customer harvesters including cotton modular operators
  4. Livestock feeders

NOTE: A CDL with a Farm-Related Service Industry waiver is only issued for Class B and Class C vehicles.

CDL Exemptions
There are certain motor vehicles that are classified as commercial motor vehicles that do not require the driver to hold a CDL.  Drivers of these vehicles are required to hold a Class A or B non-commercial driver license based upon the gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of the vehicle.  If you operate under one of the following exemptions, you will be required to certify to the Texas Class A or B Driver License Application - Non-CDL Exempt Vehicles (CDL-2). See CDL-Exempt Vehicle Test Sites.

  1. Military or commercial vehicles when operated for military purposes by military personnel,
  2. A vehicle controlled and operated by a farmer, used to transport agricultural products, machinery or supplies within 150 miles of the individual's farm,
  3. Fire-fighting or emergency vehicles necessary to the preservation of life or property or the execution of emergency governmental functions whether operated by an employee of a political subdivision or by a volunteer fire fighter, and
  4. Recreational vehicles driven for personal use (although a CDL is not required, individuals must obtain the proper license class for the vehicle weight), and
  5. A vehicle that is owned, leased, or controlled by an "air carrier" as defined by Texas Transportation Code, Section 21.155, and that is driven or operated exclusively by an employee of the air carrier only on the premises of an "airport," as defined by Texas Transportation Code, Section 22.001, on service roads to which the public does not have access; and
  6. A vehicle used exclusively to transport seed cotton modules or cotton burrs.

CDL Third Party Skills Testing Program
The Texas CDL Third Party Skills Testing (TPST) program permits organizations certified by the Department to administer the CDL driving test to their students and employees.  If you or your organization is interested in becoming a CDL TPST provider, please visit our CDL Third Party Skills Testing Program web page for more information.

Commercial Driver License Training Programs
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is the state regulatory agency for Career Schools and Colleges, including Commercial Truck Driving training locations. Programs regulated by the TWC are required to meet strict compliance guidelines that promote quality services including setting qualification standards for instructors and course material. In order to ensure prospective students are provided the best training available, TWC has a searchable website that will help in identifying the best training program available in their area.

If you have a complaint against a commercial driving instructor or company, please submit the complaint to TWC.