Applying for a New CDL in Illinois
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If you plan on driving a school bus, semi-truck, or other type of commercial vehicle, you will first need to get your commercial driver's license (CDL). Since these types of vehicles are larger and more complicated to drive than regular cars and trucks, the government requires you to take additional tests to obtain a CDL.
While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) dictates most of the rules regarding commercial driver's licenses, in Illinois, the Office of the Secretary of State (SOS) also designates some requirements.
Who Can Get an IL CDL?
To qualify for a commercial driver license in Illinois, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old.*
- Already possess a valid non-CDL driver's license.
- Be able to provide proof of legal presence in the United States.
*NOTE: IL commercial driver license holders under 21 years old may only drive within the state. Those 21 years old or over may drive out-of-state and commercial motor vehicles that transport passengers.
If you got your CDL from another state and wish to transfer it to Illinois, you must follow the same process as a first-time CDL applicant in IL.
The Illinois SOS will NOT issue commercial driver licenses to Canadian or Mexican citizens. If you are a resident of either of these countries and wish to obtain a CDL in Illinois, you will first need to obtain U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency.
Illinois Commercial Learner's Permit
Before you apply for a full CDL in Illinois, you must first obtain your commercial learner's permit (CLP).
Acquiring a commercial learner's permit in Illinois involves:
- Passing the appropriate knowledge exams.
- Submitting to a review of your driving record.
- The FMCSA requires the past 10 years of your driving record to be checked.
- Your record will be checked for all 50 states and the District of Colombia.
You will need to bring to the appointment:
- 1 document proving legal presence in the United States.
- The document must be appropriate to your category of application: U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or non-domiciled resident.
- The SOS provides a list of acceptable documents.
- Proof that you are medically qualified to apply for a commercial driver's license.
- The $50 CLP processing fee.
After successfully passing the knowledge tests, you will receive your commercial learner's permit from the IL Secretary of State.
Your CLP will be valid for 180 days. You may renew it up to 30 days before and 5 days after its expiration date without having to retake the knowledge exams for an additional $50.
Behind-the-Wheel Driving Practice
IL commercial learner's permits will only allow you to drive on public roads with a CDL holder. You must hold your CLP for a minimum of 14 days before you can apply for your full Illinois commercial driver's license.
Obtaining Your Illinois CDL
After you've had your commercial learner's permit for at least 14 days, you will be eligible to apply for your Illinois commercial driver's license.
Schedule another appointment with the IL Secretary of State, and be prepared to:
- Take the skills/driving tests necessary for the class of CDL you're applying for.
- Bring in a vehicle of the same type you plan to drive.
- Pay the $60 commercial driver's license processing fee.
Once you've acquired your commercial driver license in Illinois, you will have to renew it every 4 years. See our guide to renewing your CDL in IL for more information.
Illinois Military CDL Holders
Current or recently discharged service members with military CDL experience may be eligible to have the skills/driving portion of the CDL process waived in Illinois.
To qualify, you must:
- Apply for your IL CDL within 12 months of your military discharge.
- Provide a completed Application for Military Skills Test Waiver (Form CDL-SK TST WVR).
- Form must include the signature of your commanding officer.
To receive your Illinois commercial driver license, you will still have to pass the appropriate knowledge exams and pay all applicable fees.
For more information, visit our page on the Veterans Skills Test Waiver.
Types of Commercial Driver Licenses
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has designated several different types of commercial driver licenses, including:
- Class A CDLs—Necessary for driving multiple vehicles over a certain combined weight, such as a tractor-trailer.
- Class B CDLs—Applicable to single vehicles over a certain weight, such as a school bus.
- Class C CDLs—Needed for driving all other vehicle types over a certain weight that aren't covered by Class A or Class B CDLs.
Check out our guide to the different classes of commercial driver's licenses for more detailed information.
Endorsements & Restrictions
The FMCSA requires additional certifications, called endorsements, for driving specific types of commercial vehicles. To get an endorsement, you must take and pass further exams.
You may apply for an endorsement for:
Our guide to endorsements and restrictions has more information on how these may apply to your commercial licensing experience.
CDL Testing Requirements in IL
The knowledge and skills exams you will be asked to complete vary slightly, depending on the class of commercial driver's license you're applying for in Illinois and whether you're applying for an endorsement.
However, the following tests are generally included in the application process for every class of CDL:
- General knowledge written test.
- Combination knowledge written test.
- Air brake knowledge written test, if applicable.
Contact your local IL Secretary of State office for more details on the exact tests you will be asked to take.
Illinois CDL Medical Exams
To get your commercial learner's permit, you will have to prove that you're medically fit to drive a commercial vehicle.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires all CDL applicants to pass a medical examination and complete a Medical Examination Report (Form 649-F), to be filled out by both you and your doctor.
You will also have to self-certify to the Illinois SOS that you are medically able to operate a commercial vehicle.
Once you've established your health, you will be issued a Medical Examiner's Certificate. It must always be valid and on your person while you're operating a commercial vehicle in order for you to maintain your CDL.
For more information on how to self-certify and receive a Medical Examiner's Certificate, see the FMCSA's page on commercial driver license medical requirements.
CDL Fees in Illinois
The Illinois Office of the Secretary of State currently charges the following fees for CDLs and related products:
- Original or renewal commercial learner's permit: $50.
- Adding/removing an endorsement/restriction: $5.
- Original, renewal, or transferred commercial driver license: $60.
- Adding/removing an endorsement/restriction: $5.
- School bus permits: $4.