How do I apply for a Commercial Driver License?

September 29, 2020

DPS Implements CDL Skills Test Modernization Initiative

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is preparing to implement the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) commercial driver license (CDL) Skills Test Modernization initiative after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced its approval. AAMVA has prepared the process changes and training guides for states to implement the initiative.

The more robust CDL testing solution offers standardization with flexibility regarding changing roads and technology. The goal is to create a simpler and more effective testing process that best assesses an applicant’s readiness to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safely. The CDL Skills Test Modernization initiative will deliver:

  1. Modernized protocols for CMV pre-trip vehicle inspection and basic control skills testing
  2. Checklist for a pre-trip vehicle inspection test as an aide to applicants
  3. Updated CDL Driver’s Manual: Commercial Driver's License Manual-Supplement for Modernized Version

 DPS will begin implementing the initiative at the following offices:

  • Dallas South Mega Center – April 1st 2024
  • Kilgore/Terrell/Canton- April 15th 2024
  • Carrollton Mega Center- May 15th, 2024
  • Paris Driver License Office- May 15th, 2024
  • Houston Area CDL Offices – June 15th, 2024

Other CDL testing locations will be announced at a later date.  

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.

Depending upon what you will be transporting, you may need one or more endorsements. Please visit the Driver License Endorsement and Restrictions page for more information. 

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. Identity, and
  3. Social Security Number (a CLP or a CDL cannot be issued if you do not have a Social Security Number)*
  4. Self-Certification Of Medical Status (you must certify to only one of the following forms: CDL-4, CDL-5, or CDL-10)
  5. Medical Examiners Certificate (depending upon the type of self-certification of medical status you selected
  6. 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)
  7. Proof of Insurance** for each vehicle you own

*You will need to provide your Social Security Number (SSN). It will be verified electronically with the U.S. government. If it cannot be verified, your driver license cannot be issued or renewed. Learn more about this process at our Social Security Number website.

**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, and
    3. Identity.
  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 and completed your Entry Level Driver Training requirements, 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, and
    2. Identity.
  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