Commercial Driver License (CDL)
A commercial driver license (CDL) is a type of driver license an individual can apply for to transport interstate or intrastate commerce.
With the exception of motorcycles and mopeds, individuals who hold a valid CDL may drive all vehicles in the class for which that license is issued, including their personal vehicle.
Any vehicle that requires an endorsement (i.e. school bus, hazardous material, etc.) may not be driven unless the proper endorsement appears on the CDL.
Individuals are required to have a CDL if they operate a motor vehicle:
- With a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds,
- Which transports quantities of hazardous materials that requires warning placards (signs), or
- Designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver.
Any individual whose driver license is currently suspended, cancelled or revoked in Texas or in any other state is not eligible for a CDL.
Notice: Effective July 1, 2016 all CDL skills tests will be administered at 25 designated locations within Texas. Beginning October 2016, new federal regulations will impact the Texas CDL Program.
- A Commercial Learner Permit (CLP) will be issued to drivers who are applying to drive a commercial vehicle. A CLP must be held for a minimum of 14 days prior to being allowed to take a CDL skills test. This applies to original applicants, modifications in grade and adding endorsements which require a skills test.
- Sequence of administered exams: The pre-trip and basic skills test must be completed prior to the execution of a road skills test.
- Skills tests are now in three phases and applicants must pass the previous phase prior to moving to the next phase.
- Pre-trip walk around
- Backing skills maneuvers
- Road test
- Pre-trip skills test: The current pre-trip written test will convert to a randomized pre-trip walk around test.
- Revised scoring criteria: The scoring of the basic maneuvers and road-test will change. Points will be deducted for encroachments and excessive pull-ups during the execution of the basic skills test.
- Basic skills testing area: The basic skills testing maneuver area must be marked utilizing cones to properly score the basic skills exam.
- Additional basic skills test maneuver: In addition to the current straight-line backing and parallel parking maneuvers, an off-set backing maneuver is added.
- Road Test change: Increase in the number of maneuvers performed during the road test.
For more information Notice For All CDL Applicants.
Individuals who operate any of the following vehicles are not required to obtain a CDL but must have the correct class of driver license for the vehicle they are operating. Individuals must also certify to the Texas Class A or B Driver License Application - Non-CDL Exempt Vehicles (CDL-2)
- Military or commercial vehicles when operated for military purposes by military personnel,
- A vehicle controlled and operated by a farmer, used to transport agricultural products, machinery or supplies within 150 miles of the individualís farm,
- 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, and
- Recreational vehicles driven for personal use (although a CDL is not required, individuals may need to obtain a Class A driver license), and
- A vehicle used exclusively to transport seed cotton modules or cotton burrs.
Interstate versus Intrastate
Individuals may apply for a CDL that allows the transportation of either interstate or intrastate commerce. At the driver license office, individuals must specify if they are applying for interstate or intrastate commerce.
- Interstate commerce means 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 of the U.S.
- 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
- International boundary is not crossed.
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.
For information on the requirements needed to apply for an intrastate or interstate CDL please see the Texas Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook.
Apply for a CDL
To apply for a Texas CDL, an individual must:
- Apply in-person at any driver license office and complete the appropriate application.
- Present documents to verify identity.
- Different documents are required if an individual is a U.S. citizen or has lawful presence.
- Individuals may be required to present more than one document to verify identity, and the information on all documents must match each other.
- Additional documentation may be required to verify conflicting information such as incomplete names or date of birth.
- Present documents to verify Texas residency.
- Present evidence of a Social Security Number (a CDL cannot be issued to individuals who do not have a Social Security Number).
- Meet the self-certification of medical status Depending on the type of certification, an individual may need to present a medical examiners certificate.
- Meet the nonresident commercial requirements (in some states this is also referred to as “non-domicile commercial resident”) if they are from a foreign jurisdiction other than Canada or Mexico.
- Present proof of Texas vehicle registration and liability insurance on all vehicles registered in the individual’s name.
- Complete the Supplement Application Texas Commercial Driver License Certifications and Record of CDL Examination. (CDL-1)
- Consent to be photographed, fingerprinted and provide your signature.
- Pass the vision test.
- Pass the knowledge and skills tests for the appropriate driver license including endorsements.
- Pay the required fee with a credit card, cash, money order or a non-temporary check.
- Provide a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for the driving test. The CMV must be representative of the type of license in which the individual is applying for.
- Driving tests may be scheduled online
- Not every driver license office is able to accommodate a CDL road test
Farm-Related Service Industry Waiver
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.
- Farm retail outlets and suppliers
- Agri-chemical businesses
- Customer harvesters including cotton modular operators
- Livestock feeders
NOTE: A CDL with a Farm-Related Service Industry waiver is only issued for Class B and Class C vehicles.
Texas Intrastate Vision and Limb Waivers
Individuals who do not meet the physical requirements necessary to obtain a CDL may be eligible to apply for a Texas Intrastate Vision Waiver or a Texas Intrastate Limb Waiver. If the waiver is approved, individuals will be restricted to intrastate driving. The driver 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.
Only original vision or limb waiver documents will be accepted. The original application packet must be fully completed then returned to DPS within 45 days of the physical examination date.
Texas Department of Public Safety
Enforcement and Compliance Service
P.O. Box 4087
Austin, TX 78773-0320
NOTE: An individual must have a valid Texas driver license to obtain a Texas Intrastate Vision and Limb Waiver. Individuals must surrender their out-of-state license, obtain a Texas Class C driver license then apply for the waiver. If the waiver is approved, the individual must retest for a Texas CDL and obtain a CDL with the appropriate restrictions within 60 days of the approval.
Skills Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certification Program
The 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 Diabetes Exemption Program, please visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Federal Diabetes and Vision Exemption Programs
The Federal Diabetes and Vision Exemption Programs have specific requirements for each application. For more information on these programs please visit the FMCSA Driver Exemption Programs.
Endorsements and Restrictions
For more information on how to apply for an endorsement or to have a restriction code removed, please visit the Driver License Endorsements and Restrictions web page.