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Applying for a New CDL in Iowa

If you'd like to make a living by traveling all throughout Iowa— and even through the United States—consider applying for an Iowa commercial driver's license (CDL).

All CDL applicants must abide by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) regulations as well as the licensing laws set out by the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT). Keep reading for more information on how to apply for a brand new Iowa CDL.

Who Can Get an Iowa CDL?

To apply for an Iowa commercial driver license, you are required to:

  • Be at least 18 years old*.
  • Give proof of your:
    • Full name.
    • Date of birth.
    • Social Security number.
    • Iowa residency (your IA driver's license with your home address is sufficient).
  • Provide proper documentation to prove your citizenship, lawful permanent residency, OR status as a temporary foreign national.
  • Pass a vision test.

*NOTE: You must be at least 21 years old to operate a commercial vehicle on an interstate basis.

IA Commercial Learner's Permits

Prior to getting your official Iowa commercial driver's license, you'll have to get your commercial learner's permit (CLP). To get your Iowa CLP, first schedule an appointment at your local DOT driver's license office.

Before leaving the house for your CLP appointment, make sure you have:

  • Proof of identity, residency, and SSN (see above for details).
  • A medical self-certification and certificate.
  • Payment for the $12 CLP fee.

Once there, you'll be required to:

  • Complete an application for your CDL.
  • Agree to a driving record check.
  • Pass all of the written tests applicable to your particular CDL's classification and endorsement(s).

Once you've passed all of your required written exams you'll receive an Iowa commercial learner's permit—congrats! You're halfway to getting your full IA commercial driver's license.

Iowa CLP Restrictions

You probably can't wait to get out on the road now that you have your Iowa commercial learner permit. Before you get behind that big rig's wheel, though, make sure you're familiar with the rules and restrictions surrounding your CLP.

You must hold your IA commercial learner's permit for at least 14 days before going to take your behind-the-wheel CDL exam. During that time, your IA CLP allows you to legally practice driving a commercial vehicle, as long as:

  • The vehicle is specific to the type of CLP you have.
  • You're always accompanied by a commercial driver who holds a valid CDL for the specific type of vehicle you're driving.

In Iowa, commercial learner's permits are valid for 180 days and can be renewed for another 180 days as long as you pay the $12 CLP fee.

Obtaining Your Iowa CDL

Once you've held your CLP for at least 14 days and you feel absolutely ready to take your behind-the-wheel skills exam, schedule a testing appointment at your local Department of Transportation driver's license office.

You'll need to provide and drive the specific vehicle that applies to the particular commercial driver's license you're testing for. Oftentimes, if you enroll in a CDL education program you'll have access to the vehicle you need on testing day.

When you leave for your appointment make sure to bring:

  • Your Iowa commercial learner's permit (CLP).
  • Medical certification.
  • Your non-commercial IA driver's license.
  • Payment for the required fees.

The DOT's behind-the-wheel skills test will consist of the following:

  • Pre-trip vehicle inspection.
    • Pointing out and explaining the function of different vehicle parts.
  • Skills test.
    • Backing maneuvers and navigating a cones course.
  • Driving test.
    • Driving on public roads with the examiner.

If you don't pass the initial pre-trip vehicle inspection, it's alright. You won't be able to continue testing on that day, but you can make another appointment to come back and retest another time.

When you've successfully passed the DOT's behind-the-wheel skills exam, you'll be the proud owner of an Iowa commercial driver's license.

NOTE: Depending on your commercial driver license's classification, endorsement(s), and restriction(s), you may have to perform additional behind-the-wheel tasks in order to get the appropriate CDL.

CDL Fees in Iowa

Below you'll find all of the fees associated with the IA Department of Transportation's CDL application process.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Commercial driver's license fees are charged for every 1 year your license is issued as valid. Licenses in Iowa are currently issued for 5 years to 8 years.

EXAMPLE: Your license fee is $8. It's issued with an expiration date of 6 years. Your total charged upon licensing will be $48.

  • Commercial learner's permit (after testing): $12.
  • Commercial driver's license fee:
    • Class A—$8.
    • Class B—$8.
    • Class C—$8.
  • Endorsements:
    • Passenger—$10.
    • School bus—$10.
    • Double/triple trailer—$5.
    • Tankers—$5.
    • Hazardous materials—$5.
  • Restriction removal:
    • Air brakes—$10.
    • Full air brakes—$10.
    • Manual transmission—$10.
    • Tractor-trailer—$10.

Self-Certification & Medical Requirements

Before receiving your commercial learner's permit, you'll be required to provide the Department of Transportation with self-certification and medical certification, if applicable.

Self-Certification

Put simply, when you self-certify you're letting the state know how you intend to operate your commercial vehicle. All Iowa commercial driver's license applicants are required to self-certify.

The Iowa DOT provides a self-certification flow chart that's quite helpful in navigating this subject. Once you've determined which category you fall into, you can self-certify yourself using the DOT's online system.

Medical Certification

If you've self-certified as non-excepted interstate, you are state-required to submit medical certification to the Department of Transportation at the time of your CDL skills testing. All other self-certification categories are not required to submit medical certification to the DOT, though non-excepted intrastate drivers must carry medical certification while operating a commercial vehicle.

If you're in need of medical certification, you'll have to go through an FMCSA-approved provider. The examiner will determine if your health is up to federal standards for driving a commercial vehicle, and fill out the appropriate Medical Examiner's Certificate (Form MCSA-5876). You can then submit the completed form to the Department of Transportation.

If you have more questions, take a look at the Iowa DOT's medical-certification FAQ page.

Military CDL Skills Test Waivers

If you drove commercial vehicles while in the military, you may be able to waive the behind-the-wheel CDL skills test. You will, however, still be required to pass the DOT's written CDL exams.

In order qualify for the Iowa military CDL skills test waiver, you must:

  • Be a resident of Iowa.
  • Possess a valid Iowa driver's license.
  • Have driven a commercial vehicle of the same type you wish to currently drive for at least 2 years prior to applying for your CDL.

If you meet all of the qualifications above, bring the following to your local DOT driver's license office:

  • A completed Application for Military Skills Test Waiver (Form CDL-SK TST WVR).
  • Either of the following licensing documents:
    • Valid military commercial driver's license that specifies the kind of vehicle you're authorized to operate.
    • Military CDL that's been expired no longer than 6 months, and states what type of commercial vehicle you drove.
  • Either of the following military service records:
    • Active Duty Uniformed Services ID Card.
    • Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.

In some cases, you may also be required to bring written verification from your commanding officer. If you'd like more information about the military skills test waiver, call the DOT at (515) 244-1052.

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