Commercial Driver's License (CDL) and Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP)
Requirements to Obtain an Original Illinois CLP or Transfer a CDL From Another State
- You must be age 18 to apply for a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) or a Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP) to operate intrastate and age 21 to operate in interstate commerce or to transport passengers.
- To obtain a CLP, you must possess either a valid Illinois CDL or non-CDL license.
- You must provide Proof of Legal Presence documentation to obtain a CLP or transfer a CDL.
- You must self-certify your intrastate or interstate medical driving status and if you are declaring as a non-excepted interstate (NI) driver you will need to provide an acceptable medical certificate.
- You must pay the appropriate CLP/CDL fee to obtain a CLP or transfer your CDL.
- You must successfully pass the General (Core) Knowledge written test, the Combination Knowledge written test (class A), the Air Brake Knowledge written test (if driving vehicle, so equipped) and any applicable Endorsement Knowledge written test(s), that are required to operate the desired vehicle. The vision screening and the basic car written test are also required for out of state CDL transfers.
- You must schedule a CDL skills/drive testing appointment to complete your testing. All CLP holders will be required to hold their original CLP for a minimum of 14 days prior to conducting their skills/drive testing. You may schedule in advance for a future date beyond the 14 day period.
- You must successfully pass the skills/drive testing in a properly classified, representative vehicle, based on the desired vehicle class, restrictions and endorsements. You must pay the appropriate fee to obtain the CLP or transfer your CDL.
- Once you obtain your original CLP it will be valid for 180 days. Your CLP may be renewed, for the CLP fee, up to 30 days before and up to 5 calendar days after the original CLP expiration date, without retaking the written testing. Any skills/drive testing that has been passed must be re-taken after renewal. If you have allowed the original CLP to expire more than 5 days or if your renewed CLP has expired, you must re-take all applicable testing and pay the CLP fee to obtain a new original CLP.
- If you are transferring in an out of state CDL and you begin the CDL written testing process and then decide to have a basic class D driver's license issued, you will forfeit all your previously completed CDL testing. If so desired, you will have to start the CDL testing over with the General (Core) Knowledge written test and pay the necessary fee to obtain a CLP.
Requirements For Existing Illinois CDL Holders
- You must renew your CDL every 4 years and prior to the expiration date to be valid to drive any vehicle and pay the CDL renewal fee and an additional fee if the CDL contains an L or M class.
- You must provide Proof of Legal Presence documentation to renew or upgrade your CDL.
- If you desire to upgrade your CDL classification, add an endorsement or remove a restriction that requires skills/drive testing, a CLP must be obtained by passing the Combination Knowledge written test and/or the appropriate Endorsement/Restriction Knowledge written test(s), if applicable and pay the appropriate fee(s). After the CLP has been obtained you will need to schedule a CDL appointment to conduct the necessary skills/drive testing.
- If you are a non-excepted interstate (NI) driver, you must provide our office with all updates of your medical certificate and/or medical variances prior to the corresponding expiration date(s).
- You must notify the Secretary of State's office of an address change or name change within 10 days and must obtain a corrected driver's license within 30 days.
- If your current renewal notice states that you must pass all applicable written testing, then that will include the vision screening, basic car written test and all applicable CDL written tests including endorsements. If you have an L or M class, then the applicable motorcycle written is also required.
- If you have an H or X endorsement on your CDL, then you will need to pass the Hazardous Materials written test at each renewal along with acquiring a new TSA security threat assessment. See Hazardous Materials Endorsement (H) for more information.
- If you will be 75 years of age or older on or before your CDL expiration date, you will be required to perform the complete skills/drive testing in the appropriate class representative vehicle to renew your CDL. To conduct your skills/drive testing, you will need to schedule a CDL appointment. The renewed CDL or other Non-CDL will be based on the vehicle in which your testing is conducted.
Vehicles Requiring a CDL
- Any combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, providing the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
- Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
- Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
- Any vehicle, regardless of size, required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
Drivers Exempt From Obtaining a CDL
Under state and federal law, certain drivers are not subject to the requirements of the CDL program. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has determined these exemptions will not diminish the safe operation of commercial vehicles on the highways. Although the following vehicle operators are not required to obtain CDLs, they are required to hold the proper driver's license classification for the type of vehicles they are operating.
- Farm Equipment Operators — The farm operators' exemption is intended to cover legitimate farm-to-market operations by farmers, not commercial grain haulers. If the farmer, his spouse and their children, parents on both sides, brothers and sisters on both sides and their spouses are operating a truck-tractor semi-trailer combination or combinations and meet the below criteria, they are also exempt from the CDL Program. However, these drivers must be age 21 and the vehicle must have Farm plates. CDLs are not required to operate vehicles that are:
- Controlled and operated by a farmer, a member of the farmer's family or an employee;
- Used to transport farm products, equipment, supplies or a combination thereof to or from a farm (including nurseries and aquacultures);
- Used within 150 air miles of the person's farm;
- Not used in the operations of a common or contract motor carrier; and
- Used in nursery or agricultural operations.
- Emergency Equipment Operators — Because emergency organizations have extensive initial training and re-training requirements for their equipment operators, Illinois waives CDL requirements for operators of emergency equipment operated for a government agency. The emergency equipment must have audible and visual signals. The exemption applies when the equipment is being used in the execution of functions for the preservation of life or property.
- Recreational Vehicle Operators — Illinois waives CDL requirements for drivers of a recreational vehicle operated as family/personal conveyance for recreational purposes. This includes motor homes, travel trailers and other recreational vehicles.
- Military Vehicle Operators — U.S. Department of Defense military vehicles being driven by non-civilian personnel for military purposes are exempt from CDL requirements. This includes any driver on active military duty, members of the Reserves, National Guard, personnel on part-time training and National Guard military technicians.
- Township Employees — An employee of a township or road district with a population of less than 3,000, driving a vehicle within the boundaries of the township or road district for the purpose of removing snow or ice from a roadway by plowing, sanding or salting, is waived from CDL requirements. This exemption is allowed providing that the employee who ordinarily operates the vehicle and holds a properly classified CDL is unable to operate the vehicle or is in need of additional assistance due to a snow emergency.
A holder of a Non-CDL class A and B license is permitted to operate vehicles for the above purposes and other non-commercial vehicles at their class level or below.
A holder of a Non-CDL class A for farming purposes cannot operate a semi-tractor and trailer without the J-50 restriction.
CDL and Non-CDL Classifications
- Class A — Combination of vehicles with a GCWR* of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the GVWR of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
- Class B — Single vehicle with a GVWR* of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
- Class C — Single vehicle with a GVWR* of at least 16,001 pounds but less than 26,001 pounds.
- Class D — Single vehicle with a GVWR* of less than 16,001 pounds.
- *GCWR — Gross Combination Weight Rating
- *GVWR — Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
Upgrades, Endorsements and Air Brake Restrictions
- Combination Vehicle — Knowledge and skills/drive testing are required to obtain or upgrade a CDL to drive combination vehicles (class A).
- Passenger Endorsement (P) — Knowledge and skills/drive testing is required to drive a vehicle designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
- Charter Bus Endorsement (C) — Knowledge and (if applicable) skills/drive testing is required to drive a charter type bus transporting students, on behalf of a school, for school sponsored activities. See Charter Bus Endorsement for more information.
- Double/Triple Trailer Endorsement (T) — Knowledge testing is required to double or triple trailers. This endorsement only applies to a class A CDL. Triple trailers are not permitted on Illinois highways.
- Hazardous Materials Endorsement (H) — Knowledge testing is required to drive a vehicle transporting any hazardous material that requires placards. Prior to written testing for the H endorsement, the applicant must be approved through TSA. When renewing a CDL with an H or X endorsement the knowledge/written test must be successfully completed and a new TSA approval is required.
- School Bus Endorsement (S) — Knowledge and skills/drive testing is required to drive a yellow school bus transporting students 12th grade and under to and from school and/or for school-sponsored activities.
- Tank Endorsement (N) — Knowledge testing is required to drive a vehicle designed to carry any liquid or gaseous material within a tank(s) that is permanently or temporarily attached to the vehicle or the chassis. Each tank must be in excess of 119 gallons and all tanks must have an aggregate total of 1000 gallons or more.
- Combined Tank and Hazardous Materials Endorsement (X); must meet all the requirements as outlined under both endorsements as explained above.
- Full Air Brakes (No restriction) — Knowledge and skills/drive testing is required if the vehicle is equipped with full air brakes. An "L" restriction is placed on a CDL if an individual is not able to operate a vehicle that is equipped with a full air brake system. To qualify to operate a vehicle equipped with a full air brake system, an applicant must successfully pass the written air brake test and take the CDL skills/drive testing in a representative vehicle equipped with a full air brake system. To remove an "L" restriction from a CLP/CDL, the air brake knowledge/written test and a skills/drive testing in a vehicle equipped with a full air brake system are required.
- Partial Air Brakes (Z Restriction) - Knowledge and skills/drive testing is required if the vehicle is equipped with partial air brakes. To qualify to operate a vehicle equipped with a partial air brake system, an applicant must successfully pass the knowledge/ written air brake test and take the CDL skills/drive testing in a representative vehicle equipped with a partial air brake system. A "Z" restriction is placed on a CDL if an individual conducts testing in a vehicle that is equipped with a partial air brake system. To remove a "Z" restriction from a CDL, a skills/drive test in a representative vehicle equipped with a full air brake system is required.
- An applicant/driver with an L restriction is not permitted to drive either of the above air brake equipped vehicles. If they wish to remove the L or the Z restriction then they must successfully pass the air brake knowledge test and perform the skills/drive testing in the properly equipped vehicle.
Farm-Related Services Restricted CDL
A seasonal restricted CDL may be issued for 90 to 180 days during any 12-month period and is renewable. The license is valid only within 150 miles of the employer's place of business. The license holder must follow the restrictions as listed on the Restricted Class B CDL application and pay the appropriate fees.
To qualify the driver must meet the following requirements:
- Be employed by a farm retail outlet and/or supplier, agri-chemical business, custom harvester or livestock feeder.
- Hold a valid Class B non-CDL. This can be obtained at any Secretary of State Facility by taking a written and road test in a Class B vehicle and paying the appropriate fee.
- Meet all the eligibility requirements as outlined on the Restricted Class B CDL application.
- Complete the Restricted Class B CDL application and submit it to the CDL Division as noted on the form with the appropriate documents and fee.
- CDL Holders renewing an Illinois CDL or transferring in an out of state CDL — $60
- CDL Holders renewing a CDL or transferring in an out of state CDL with motorcycle class — $65
- Applicants possessing an Illinois non-CDL to adding a CLP — $50
- Applicants possessing a CDL upgrading their CDL classification or adding an endorsement and obtaining an original CLP — $5
- Applicants possessing an Illinois CDL and adding/changing an endorsement/restriction where a CLP is not required — $5
- Applicants possessing an Illinois CLP and adding/changing an endorsement/restriction where a corrected CLP is required — $5
- Applicants renewing an original CLP — $50
- Adding a School Bus Permit (SBP) to a CDL or Non-CDL — $9
Persons who drive commercial motor vehicles (CMV) are subject to minimum physical qualifications. Unless excepted (exempted) by Federal or State law, these physical qualifications require a medical examination. This physical examination is required to help ensure that a person is medically qualified to safely operate a CMV. In the interest of public safety, CMV drivers are held to higher physical, mental and emotional standards than passenger car drivers.
In general, drivers of commercial motor vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) in excess of 10,001 pounds and who are driving in commerce within the United States, Canada and Mexico must obtain medical certification from a Medical Examiner. Currently, a Medical Examiner is a person who is licensed, certified and/or registered in accordance with applicable State laws and regulations to perform physical examinations. The term includes but is not limited to doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathy, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses and doctors of chiropractic.
Any CMV driver must pass a medical examination conducted by a licensed medical examiner. A copy of the medical examination report can be obtained through the following link — http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/safetyprograms/Medical-Report.pdf.
A CMV driver must be issued a Medical Examiner’s Certificate, which must be carried at all times and must be renewed every two years unless the medical examiner specifies a date of less than two years on the certificate. A copy of the required medical examination certificate can be obtained from the medical provider performing the medical examination, or through the following link — http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/safetyprograms/Medical-Examiners-Certificate.pdf
Beginning May 21, 2014, all interstate CMV drivers seeking a medical certificate must use a Medical Examiner on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME). Medical certificates issued prior to this date are valid until the expiration date listed on the medical examination certificate. More information for CMV drivers concerning the NRCME can be obtained through the following link — https://nationalregistry.fmcsa.dot.gov/NRPublicUI/Drivers.seam
All CDL holders must self-certify their medical status in order to renew or upgrade a CDL. All CLP applicants must self-certify along with conducting their initial knowledge testing. All initial medical self-certifications must be provided at a CDL facility.
All Non-excepted interstate (NI) CDL holders must provide a current and acceptable medical examiner's certificate, performed by a National Registry Medical Examiner, during this initial self-certification process. These CDL holders must continue to keep the medical certificate valid or change their medical category to one other than NI. These updates can be accomplished by providing the updated medical certificate in-person at a CDL facility, by mailing the certificate to: Illinois Secretary of State c/o CDL Medical Unit 2701 S. Dirksen Parkway Springfield, IL 62723 or by emailing a copy of the certificate to: email@example.com.
Further information in reference to the medical program may be obtained by: visiting http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/medical, contacting IDOT at 217-785-1181 or the Secretary of State's CDL Medical Unit at 217-785-3002.
Knowledge/Written Tests — CDL knowledge/written tests are conducted utilizing a computerized system of random questions. These tests are administered in English only. The test(s) can be read by the applicant or the audio format (computer reads test) nay be requested. After attempting the testing utilizing the audio format, if the applicant desires to have the test read in person by SOS personnel, the applicant will need to request the appropriate information information from facility management to apply for an oral test.
The computerized General (Core) Knowledge written test is a general CDL test required of all applicants to obtain a CLP or transfer a CDL. This test consists of 30 standardized, random multiple-choice questions that cover a wide range of areas concerning the CDL laws, the CDL program and CDL vehicles.
In addition to the General Knowledge test, there are Classification (combination), Air Brake and Specialized Endorsement Knowledge test depending on the type/size of vehicle and its equipment and purposes.
Endorsement Knowledge/written tests include: double/triple trailers, vehicles carrying hazardous materials, passenger vehicles (16+ people), school and charter buses or tank vehicles. Applicants must score a minimum of 80% to pass each applicable test, with the exception of the School Bus test which is 90%.
Skills and Drive Testing — After passing the applicable knowledge/written testing, all CLP holders or transferring CDL holders are required to pass the skills/drive testing. All CLP holders, whether initial, renewal or upgrading existing CDL, will be required to hold their CLP for a minimum of 14 calendar days from the CLP issue date, prior to conducting their skills/drive testing.
Drive/Road Tests — All CDL applicants must drive an approved predetermined route for a CDL Road Test. The CDL Road Test route is determined by the requirements of federal and state law along with the roadways in the surrounding area of the CDL facility in which the test is being conducted.
Each portion of the skills/drive test must be taken in a vehicle representative of the license classification and type of vehicle you wish to drive, with the proper air brake system if so desired. You must schedule CDL skills/drive testing at Schedule a CDL Appointment or by calling 217-785-3013, option #4. Proof of vehicle insurance, valid license plates and current vehicle safety inspection(s) are required for every vehicle prior to the test. The testing is divided into three parts, Pre-trip Inspection test, Basic Control Skills test and Driving/Road test.Special Testing Requirements/Rules
Third-time Fail Rule — CDL applicants who fail any CDL exam(s) three times are required to wait 30 days from the date of the third failed exam. Three additional failures (six total failures) of the same exam(s) will result in a 90-day waiting period. Three additional failures (nine total failures) of the same exam(s) after the 90-day waiting period will result in a one-year waiting period from the date of the last failed exam. The waiting periods apply only to the exam(s) failed three times. There will be additional fees charged after each three time fail waiting period to allow the applicant to continue testing.
CDL Transfers — Out-of-state CDL Holders (transfers in) who wish to obtain an Illinois CDL must take all applicable CDL knowledge/written testing and the skills/drive testing in a representative vehicle(s).
CLP Renewal — An original CLP expires 180 days from the date of initial issuance. The original CLP can be renewed one time for an additional 180 days. This renewal is permitted up to 30 days prior to expiration and up to 5 days after expiration without written/knowledge testing for the appropriate fee. All skills/drive testing that was passed under the original CLP will be forfeited. If an additional CLP is desired beyond the 180 day renewal CLP cycle, then the applicant will be required to conduct all applicable written/knowledge and skills/drive testing and pay the appropriate fee.
Adding/Renewing Hazardous Material Endorsement -- A CDL holder or applicant wishing to obtain or renew a Hazardous Materials (H) or a Combined Tank/Hazardous Materials (X) Endorsement must complete a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) threat assessment. See Hazardous Materials Endorsement for more information.Military Skills Test Waiver Program
Through this program, current or recently discharged military personnel who wish to obtain an Illinois Commercial Driver's License (CDL) and can fulfill the necessary requirements will have the opportunity to have their skills/drive testing (pre-trip, skills and road) waived. To qualify the applicant must apply within 12 months of discharge and provide a fully completed and acceptable Application for Military Skills Test Waiver form signed by their Commanding Officer. After submitting the acceptable application form, plus successful completion of all the applicable written testing and payment of applicable fees, the skills/drive testing will be waived. For further information, please contact your local CDL Secretary of State Facility.
The above information is provided to assist CLP applicants and CDL holders with the necessary requirements but it is not meant to be all inclusive. For additional information, please refer to the Illinois Commercial Driver's web page, CDL Study Guide or the Federal FMCSA website.