How do I apply for a Commercial Driver License?

September 29, 2020

Learn about New CDL Entry-Level Driver Training Requirements!
Effective February 7, 2022

Certain drivers are subject to ELDT requirements, CFR 49 380 Subpart F, and must complete training mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).  This includes those applying to:

  • Obtain a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time;
  • Upgrade an existing CDL to a Class B or Class A; or
  • Obtain a school bus (S), passenger (P),
  • or hazardous materials (H) endorsement for the first time,
  • The ELDT requirements must be verified prior to taking a CDL skills test or prior to the knowledge test for an 'H' endorsement.

The ELDT regulations are not retroactive and do not apply to individuals holding a valid CDL or an S, P, or H endorsement issued prior to February 7, 2022.

If an applicant who obtains a CLP prior to February 7, 2022, obtains a CDL before the CLP or renewed CLP expires, the applicant is not subject to the ELDT requirements. If a CDL is not obtained prior to the expiration of the CLP, the applicant is subject to the ELDT requirements.

Any individual who meets one of the exception for taking a skills test in 49 CFR Part 383 is also exempt from the ELDT requirements.

About the ELDT Training Provider Registry

The FMCSA Training Provider Registry (TPR) provides CDL applicants with the official list of providers authorized to administer the ELDT training.

For more information and a video about the ELDT regulations and the TPR, visit FMCSA's website, Training Provider Registry (

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:

  • Class A – Permits the holder to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle or vehicles towed exceeds 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B – Permits the holder to operate any single vehicle with a  GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, any one of those vehicles towing a vehicle that does not exceed 10,000 pounds GVWR, and any vehicle designed to transport 24 passengers or more, including the driver.  If the skills test is taken in a bus with a GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds, the holder will be restricted to operating busses under 26,001 pounds GVWR.
  • Class C – Permits the holder to operate any single vehicle or combination of vehicles that is not a Class A or B if the vehicle is designed to transport 16 to 23 passengers including the driver, or used in the transportation of hazardous materials that require the vehicle to be placarded under 49 CFR, Part 172, Subpart F.

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. Additional training is required after February 7, 2022 (see Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) section below.)

  • Double/Triple Trailer (T endorsement) - This endorsement allows you to tow a double or triple trailer. 
  • Passenger (P endorsement) – This endorsement allows you to operate a vehicle that carries a specific number of passengers.
  • Tank Vehicle (N endorsement) – This endorsement allows you to operate a tank vehicle.  These vehicles are designed to safely transport liquid or liquefied gaseous materials.
  • Hazardous Materials (H) – This endorsement allows you to transport hazardous materials, such as flammable or combustible liquids, gases or explosives. You will be required to complete a comprehensive state and federal background check.  For additional information visit our Hazardous Materials Endorsement webpage. 
  • School Bus (S) – This endorsement allows you to operate a school bus.
  • Combination of N and H (X) – This combination endorsement allows you to transport hazardous materials in a tank vehicle.
Endorsement ELDT Require a
knowledge test?
Require a
driving test?
Must be issued a CLP?

Double/Triple Trailer (T)

No Yes No No

Passenger (P)

Yes Yes Yes Yes

Tank Vehicle (N)

No Yes No Yes*

Hazardous Materials (H)

Yes Yes No No

School Bus (S)

Yes Yes Yes Yes

Combination (X)

No Yes No No

*If you already hold a CDL, you are not required to obtain a CLP prior to the issuance of the Tank Vehicle endorsement.

With the exception of motorcycles, 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:

  • Within the U.S. between a place in a state and a place outside of such state or outside of the U.S., or
  • Between two places in a state through another state or outside the U.S.

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:

  • The point of origin and destination are within one state and the state line, or
  • An international boundary is not crossed

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 or upgrading 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 or school bus endorsement to an existing CDL

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:

  • You must hold a valid Texas Driver License
  • A CLP is not valid without your base Texas driver license and cannot be used for identification
  • A CLP authorizes you to practice on public roads in a CMV with a qualified CDL license operator, 21 years of age or older who holds the same class of CDL for the vehicle you are driving, sitting next to you
  • You must hold the CLP for 14 days before taking skills exams
  • A CLP is valid for 180 days or when your Texas driver license expires, whichever is earliest
  • A CLP can be renewed one time, up to 30 days prior to expiration, without needing to retake the knowledge exams

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 or Spanish Version, 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

*If you do not own a vehicle, you will sign a statement affirming this.

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. Make an appointment at your local driver license office.
  3. Provide the following documentation to the license and permit specialist:
    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 thumbprints.
  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.

*For more information on skills testing, visit 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 license and permit specialist:
    1. Application for the issuance of a CDL.
    2. Identity, and
    3. Social Security Number
  3. Pay the application fee.
  4. Provide your thumbprints.
  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 driving test requirements

Renewing a Commercial Driver License
If you renewed your CDL in a driver license office at your last renewal and you do not have a hazardous material endorsement, you may be eligible to renew your CDL online. If you are required to maintain a Medical Certificate, it must be valid and not expired. To check your eligibility to renew online please visit the eligibility page.

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 Seizure Variance Program, please visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Federal Vision Exemption Program
The Federal 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;
  4. Recreational vehicles driven for personal use (although a CDL is not required, individuals must obtain the proper license class for the vehicle weight);
  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;
  6. A vehicle used exclusively to transport seed cotton modules or cotton burrs;
  7. Former military vehicle manufactured for use in any country's military forces AND:
    1. Maintained to represent it's military design and markings accurately; AND
    2. Operated intrastate only; AND
    3. Not driven for compensation or in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise;
  8. A covered farm vehicle:
    1. Used to transport agricultural commodities, livestock, machinery or supplies to or from a farm or ranch AND:
    2. Not used in for-hire motor carrier operations.

(A covered farm vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs or less may use the farm vehicle exemption anywhere in the U.S. A covered farm vehicle with a GVWR of more than 26,001 lbs may use the exemption anywhere in the state of registration or across state lines within 150 air miles of the farm or ranch.)

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.