How to Obtain a Commercial Drivers License in California

A California CDL drivers license (commercial drivers license) is required for CA drivers to operate commercial vehicles that transport passengers or property. Applicants must meet CDL license requirements maintained by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in order to obtain a commercial license and legally operate these vehicles. CDL drivers license requirements include submitting a license application, successfully passing required tests and meeting various eligibility criteria. Learn how to apply to a commercial drivers license in CA and discover important eligibility information by reading the sections below.

CDL License Requirements in California

Getting a commercial drivers license in California for driving within the state requires the applicant to be a licensed California driver who is 18 years of age or older. However, to get a commercial drivers license to drive from state to state or transport hazardous materials, the candidate must be at least 21 years of age. Applicants will also need to complete a required medical examination and obtain a medical examiner’s certificate, which must be completed by a licensed physician.

Drivers who wish to obtain a commercial drivers license must have access to the class of vehicle that they intend to drive commercially. When ready to take the CDL license examination, drivers will need to provide a vehicle that matches the class of CDL license for which they are applying. California CDL qualifications require drivers to pass the vehicle inspection test, the basic controls skills test and the road test.

Getting a CDL does not require candidates to take a professional driver training course, but drivers may take a CDL course if they wish. To learn more about how to get a commercial drivers license in CA, download our comprehensive guide.

How to Apply for a Commercial Learners Permit in California

When applying for a commercial drivers license in California, you must inform the DMV if you have been issued a CDL driver’s license in your current name or a different name in another state or jurisdiction within the previous 10 years. If you have, then you must complete and submit a 10 Year History Record Check form along with your Commercial Driver License Application.

Before obtaining a CDL driver’s license for the first time, you must first get a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). To apply for a CLP in California, you must go to your local DMV office and complete the Commercial Driver License Application. You must be able to present acceptable documents that show the following:

  • Birth date and legal presence
  • Verification of your Social Security number
  • California residency

To obtain a CDL permit in California, you must also provide your signed medical examination certificate. Once you have submitted this CDL application documentation at the DMV office, you will provide a thumb print and have your picture taken. You will then be required to pass a CDL written knowledge test and a vision exam. The written test is based on CDL information found within the California Commercial Driver Handbook. The CA commercial drivers license written test will pertain to the specific type of commercial vehicle for which you are applying. You will also be required to pay an application fee. The fee will vary depending on the class of license for which you are applying. If you pass the commercial license exam, you will receive a CLP, which will allow you to drive only with a qualified CDL holder supervisor in the appropriate class of commercial vehicle.

After obtaining a California CDL permit, any candidate applying for a license with a Hazardous Materials endorsement must contact the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to schedule a security threat assessment. This requirement will consist of a background check and fingerprinting. These applicants must pay an additional fee to the TSA.

How to Get a CDL in California

After holding a California commercial learners permit for at least 14 days, candidates are eligible to obtain a CDL in one of two ways. Some CDL driving license applicants may have employers who are qualified to provide a Certificate of Driving Skill to the DMV. If this is the case, the applicant and his or her employer must sign the certificate, and the applicant must submit the certificate to the DMV. Drivers who do not have an employer who is authorized by the DMV must contact a commercial driving license testing office and make an appointment to complete the final skills tests.

After drivers submit the CDL license certificate or pass the CDL skills test, they will receive an interim license, which will remain valid for 90 days. Drivers will receive their official CDL license in the mail.