Commercial Driver Education in Illinois

Third-Party Certification

Obtaining your Illinois commercial driver's license (CDL) is an involved process, and first-time applicants generally receive instruction from an approved commercial driving school.

Illinois allows third-party CDL certification. This is administered by companies and organizations whose employees use commercial vehicles routinely in their everyday jobs; the employer is allowed to train its drivers and administer the written and skills tests. Where offered, these training programs are certified and are accepted by the State of Illinois.

In addition, for a fee you can enroll in a commercial driving school. Because the term "commercial driving school" can refer to any driving school, including one for regular licenses, be sure you contact one that is CDL certified. Only CDL-certified schools can offer instruction for the Illinois CDL.

What Commercial Driver Education Entails

The State of Illinois sets strict standards for what is required for a CDL training program. At least 160 hours of instruction over a period of at least four weeks is necessary. The instructional hours must cover the following:

  • Classroom instruction.
  • Behind-the-wheel instruction in a training area (not on the road).
  • Behind-the-wheel instruction on roads, streets, and highways.
  • Observation experience watching from outside the vehicle or riding along.
  • Instruction combining the various modes above, tailored to the student's specific needs.

All schools must train students to cover interstate routes, so the training routes will reflect this. This type of route will also be used during the official road testing when you apply for an Illinois CDL.

To get a good idea of what your CDL road test route will be like, read the Federal Criteria for Road Test Routes guidelines, which describe in detail what the route must contain for testing purposes. While every route will be different, this can help you know what to expect.

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