How to Get Your California CDL

The road to getting your commercial driver license in California may be a little confusing for some, so we are writing this little guide to help you along the way. Just follow each of these steps, in order, and you will be on your way to a new career as a truck driver.

The first step is to make sure you meet all the requirements to obtain a CDL in California. The requirements are as follows:

  • Must be at least 18 years old to drive within California or at least 21 years old for interstate driving (drivers that cross state lines) or to transport hazardous materials.
  • Driving record check from all states where a driver’s license has been held. This is done with the 10 Year Record Check form (Form DL 939) and the Commercial Driver License Application (Form DL 44C).
  • Pass a medical background check and submit Medical Examination Report (Form DL 51). Medical exams must be administered by a M.D., D.O., P.A., or A.P.N. Specific health requirements can be found on the exam form.
  • A background check is required after passing all necessary tests, through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). You can make an appointment here or by calling 877-429-7746. A $94 fee is required.

If you are certain you won’t have any problems with the above requirements, we suggest signing up for a CDL training class. Classes only take a few weeks to complete, and are taught by experienced teachers that know what you can expect to see not only on your CDL tests, but also when you are out on the road by yourself as a truck driver.

After completing your training comes the time to make your first appointment with your local DMV office. During this visit, you will receive and complete they California Commercial driver License Application (Form DL 44C), which you can only receive at the DMV). You will also submit the 10 Year History Record Check form and medical examination form you printed and completed before visiting the DMV. You will also give a thumbprint and have your picture taken, provide verification of you SSN, verify birth and legal presence in the United States. Take a vision exam (drivers must have 20/40 vision), and finally pass the traffic laws test.

Once you have passed your tests, you will receive an instruction permit or CDLI. This allows you to drive a commercial vehicle with a person who has a valid license for the class vehicle you are driving and is of the required age.

All the above steps should be taken while you are attending truck driving school, near the end of your knowledge classes, so you can use the training classes for driving experience.

Your next step is to apply for the actual California Commercial Driver License (CDL). Make another appointment with the closest DMV office that offers commercial driving tests. Appointments cannot be made online, you must call the office.

On the day of your appointment, bring the type of vehicle for the class you want to drive and you will be tested on pre-trip inspection and a skills test unless you have a Certificate of Driving Skill (DL 170) from your school or employer that authorizes you to skip the road test.

Afterwards, you will be issued an interim license that is valid for 90 days until you receive your photo license in the mail. Double check the new license to make sure all information is correct.

After you receive your new CDL, you are finished! You are now able to go out and start a new career as a truck driver! If you have any other questions about getting your CDL or related to the California Commercial Driver License (CDL), call 1-800-TRUCKER (1-800-878-2537).

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