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Applying for a New CDL in Michigan

Impressive and imposing, commercial vehicles always stand out on a highway trip. But if you want to sit behind the wheel of one, you'll need your Michigan commercial driver's license (CDL).

Getting it requires following all the national regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and abiding by the licensing process in Michigan overseen by the Secretary of State (SOS).

Who Can Get a Michigan CDL?

To qualify for a Michigan commercial driver's license, you will need to:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
    • Drivers under 21 years old will be restricted to operating commercial vehicles within MI only.
  • Provide proof of legal presence in the United States.
    • Acceptable documents include:
      • Valid, unexpired U.S. passports.
      • Original or certified birth certificates.
      • Valid, unexpired Permanent Resident Cards.
      • Foreign passports with immigrant visa.
    • For more examples, see the list prepared by the MI Secretary of State.

MI Commercial Learner's Permits

Before you can get a Michigan commercial driver license, you'll need to obtain your commercial learner's permit (CLP). It's not required by the MI SOS or the FMCSA, but it's recommended by both agencies to take a CDL education course before applying.

When you feel ready, schedule an appointment with your local Secretary of State office location, where you'll need to pass all written exams for your particular CDL class and endorsement, if applicable. You'll also need to:

  • Pass a vision exam.
  • Bring the following documents:
    • Your MI driver's license.
    • The proper medical documents.
    • Proof of legal U.S. residency (see above).
    • Proof of a valid Social Security number. You can use:
      • Your Social Security card.
      • A tax form or pay stub.
      • A valid U.S. military ID.
  • Submit to a driving record check.
  • Pay the applicable licensing fee for your license type.

When you've completed all of the above successfully, it's time to celebrate, because the Secretary of State will issue your commercial learner's permit!

MI Enhanced Commercial Driver's License

The MI Secretary of State also offers enhanced CDLs, which will allow you to re-enter the country by land or sea from:

  • Canada.
  • Mexico.
  • Bermuda.
  • The Caribbean.

The enhanced CDL is part passport, part license, and it will be the only document you'll need to cross the border.

To apply, you'll need to meet all of the qualifications for a standard CDL and CLP, plus prove your:

  • Social Security number. See above for specific examples.
  • U.S. citizenship. See above for acceptable documents.
  • Identity.* You can bring in:
    • Your current MI photo license.
    • A Michigan state ID card.
  • Residency. The SOS has created a full list of acceptable documents.

You will also need to have a clean driving record to be accepted.

Enhanced CDLs require a different fee. Ask your local Secretary of State office for more details.

*NOTE: If your name has changed due to marriage, divorce, or for other reasons, and it appears differently on your citizenship and identity documents, you must bring in a marriage license, divorce decree, or legal document from the court proving the change.

CLP Restrictions in Michigan

Just like a permit to drive a regular car, your CLP comes with some restrictions.

You'll need to keep it for at least 14 days before you can take the skills test to obtain your commercial driver's license. When you feel ready to test, the SOS requires that you schedule your skills exam at least 2 days in advance—including prior to the end of your waiting period, should you choose to test immediately. Keep in mind, you can always wait longer than 14 days to get more practice.

While driving with your commercial learner's permit, you will also be restricted to public roads only, and must be accompanied in the vehicle be a full CDL holder, per Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.

If you're applying for an enhanced CDL, your CLP will not permit you to cross the border. You will still need to bring your passport until you have your full commercial driver's license.

Michigan Commercial Driver's License

Whether you're applying for a standard or enhanced CDL, the next step in the process is to take your skills tests.

In Michigan, all skills exams are conducted by third-party testers.

After your CLP waiting period of 14 days is over, and when you feel ready, schedule an appointment with your local skills test provider.

Aside from being prepared to take the tests, you must bring:

  • Your commercial learner's permit (CLP).
  • Any medical paperwork you need to operate a commercial vehicle.

When you've passed the tests, your facility will give you a testing certificate that's valid for 1 year. Return to your local Secretary of State office and:

  • Submit your testing certificate.
  • Pay the correction fee (see below for detailed fees).

You'll receive a temporary CDL that allows you to operate your class of CMV while you're waiting for your photo CDL. It should arrive within approximately 14 days.

Fees for MI Commercial Driver Licenses

The Michigan Secretary of State charges the following fees for commercial driver's licenses and related services:

  • CDL licensing fee (paid at your initial SOS appointment):
    • Standard: $25.
    • Enhanced: $45.
  • Chauffer CDL licensing fee:
    • Standard: $35.
    • Enhanced: $50.
  • Group designation additional fee: $25.
  • Endorsements: $5 each.
    • “X" endorsement: $10.
  • CDL correction fee (upgrades your CLP to a CDL):
    • General operator CDL:
      • Standard: $18.
      • Enhanced: $38.
    • Chauffeur license:
      • Standard: $18.
      • Enhanced: $43.

The MI SOS does not handle commercial driver license skills exams. Third-party testers may charge additional fees. Call the company you plan on taking the test with to ask about the cost.

CDL Medical Requirements in MI

All commercial vehicle drivers in Michigan must be considered physically fit before they can earn their licenses.

To follow that process, you must schedule an appointment with a FMCSA-approved physician and have him or her help you fill out a Medical Examiner's Certificate (Form MCSA-5876). You can access this form from the Secretary of State CDL Medical Certification page.

You will also need to submit a CDL Self-Certification (Form BFS-103), where you declare to the state the type of driving you intend to do with your CDL. The MI Secretary of State has created an FAQ page for any issues with self-certification. You may wish to contact the SOS to confirm the correct paperwork you need to bring with you.

You can turn in your documents:

  • In person at your local SOS office.
  • By fax to (517) 636-4359.
  • By mail to:
    • Michigan Department of State
    • CDL Help Desk
    • 7064 Crowner Drive
    • Lansing, MI 48918

You can view your CDL medical certification's current status and expiration date on the SOS' online review portal. For full details, visit the MI SOS CDL Certification page.

NOTE: You must get all of your medical paperwork in line before beginning the CDL application process.

Michigan Military CDL Waivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sponsors a national program to help service members or veterans gain their CDLs by waiving their skills exams.

To qualify, you must have some military experience driving a commercial vehicle or military equivalent, and EITHER:

  • Be currently enlisted in the service.
    OR
  • Have been employed by the military within 1 year of your application.

To get the waiver, you and your commanding officer will have to fill out the Application for Military Skills Test Waiver (Form CDL-SK TST WVR), and bring it with you when you apply for your commercial driver's license.

For more information, check out our guide to the military skills test waiver.

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