Applying for a New CDL in Kentucky

If you've ever traveled on a highway, you've seen them: the thundering, powerful semi-trucks hauling our country's freight from coast to coast. If you've ever been interested in getting behind the wheel of one yourself, you'll first need to get your Kentucky commercial driver's license (CDL).

That process includes following all of the national regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and getting your license through the KY Division of Driver Licensing (DDL), which is part of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC).

Who Can Get a Kentucky CDL?

To be eligible for a Kentucky commercial driver's license, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
    • Per federal regulations, drivers under 21 years old will only be able to operate commercial vehicles within the state of Kentucky—called intrastate driving.
  • Already have a valid, non-CDL Kentucky driver's license.

Kentucky CDL Medical Requirements

The first step toward getting a commercial driver's license in Kentucky is ensuring your medical paperwork and application are in order.

You'll need to fill out a:

Before you can begin the CDL application process, you'll need to forward the above information (including a copy of both the front and back of your medical card) to the Division of Driver Licensing.

You can either:

  • E-mail a scanned version of the information to:
  • Fax it to: (502) 564-3250.
  • Mail it to:
    • Division of Driver Licensing
    • 200 Mero St.
    • Frankfort, KY 40622

You should hear back from the DDL within 7 business days after they receive your information.

Commercial Learner's Permits in KY

Once your paperwork has been sorted and you've heard back from the Kentucky DDL, you can continue on your way toward getting a commercial driver's license. Before you can receive a CDL, however, you'll need to get a commercial learner's permit (CLP).

The first step toward a CLP is taking all of the written tests required for the CDL class you're applying for, and any endorsements, if needed. These tests are administered by Kentucky circuit court clerks. You're encouraged to take a CDL education course to fully prepare you for the information you'll need to know in order to pass your exams.

Once you're ready, schedule an appointment at your county circuit court office and:

  • Complete all written exams.
  • Take and pass a vision test.
  • Fill out the “Ten Year History Survey Request" provided by the circuit court office.
    • You'll have to list all states where you've held a license for any type of motor vehicle in the last 10 years.
  • Pay the required fees:

If you don't pass your exams right away, don't panic. You'll be able to retake them—you just have to wait at least 24 hours before retesting.

When you do ace all of your exams, the clerk should then issue your commercial learner's permit. Congratulations!

Kentucky CLP Restrictions

You've officially made it halfway through the process at this point! There are just a few things to keep in mind while you're driving with your commercial learner's permit.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires all CLP holders to practice on public roads only, and only while accompanied by a full CDL holder licensed to drive the same class of commercial vehicle.

After receiving your CLP, you'll have to wait:

  • At least 10 days to schedule your skills test.
  • At least 14 days to take your skills test.

If you're not ready after that short waiting period, that's okay. Your permit will be valid for 6 months, and you'll be able to renew it once within 2 years after you obtain it.

Obtaining Your Kentucky CDL

There's one last step to turn that CLP into a CDL: the skills test.

In Kentucky, these exams are handled by the KY State Police.

After you've had your commercial learner's permit for at least 10 days, you'll be able to schedule an appointment at the closest police headquarters. Remember, you'll have to wait at least 14 days after receiving your CLP to take the test.

Before you arrive at your appointment, you'll have to arrange to take the exams in the same class of commercial vehicle you want to drive with your commercial driver's license.

At the police station, be prepared to take the following parts of the skills exam:

  • The pre-trip inspection.
  • The basic control skills test.
  • The road test.

Once you've passed the skills exam, you'll be issued your commercial driver's license.

CDL Fees in Kentucky

You'll have to pay several fees on your journey toward getting a KY commercial driver's license, including:

  • CDL application: $24.
  • Commercial learner's permit: $11.
  • Skills testing fees—Vary based on how long you've had your KY driver's license:
    • Held for MORE than 30 days: $50.
    • Held for 30 days or less: $150.
  • Commercial driver's license: Up to $40.
    • Fee will be prorated according to when your current non-commercial license will expire.

Military CDL Testing Waivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet have developed a program to help more service members and veterans attain their commercial driver licenses more easily by having the behind-the-wheel skills test waived.*

You may be eligible for the waiver if:

  • You're currently enlisted in the military.
  • You left the service within 1 year of applying for your CDL.

You'll also need to have operated a commercial vehicle for the military in the 2 years before applying.

To apply, complete the Military Certification for Skills Test Exemption (Form TC 94-167) and submit the form to the DDL at the same time as your medical forms and CDL application.

If you're accepted, you will be informed when the Department of Driver Licensing confirms that they've received your information.

* NOTE: Accepted applicants will still have to pass all written exams and pay any applicable fees.

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