Applying for a New CDL in North Dakota

Get the CDL Guide First

Obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL) all begins with the North Dakota Department of Transportation's (NDDOT) Commercial Driver's License Guide. This manual provides all the information you need to know for securing a North Dakota CDL.

If you cannot download it, you can pick this manual up for free from any Motor Vehicle location.

  • If you're younger than 18 years old, the state will not issue you a Class A, B or C license (see license classifications below), except if you're 16 years old and you need to drive for custom harvesting purposes.
  • To drive a commercial vehicle across the state line you must be 21 years old.

North Dakota CDL Requirements

  • Must speak, read and write English.
  • Must pass the written test that applies to the class and type of rig you'll be driving.
  • Must pass a road test.
  • Must guarantee that you do not hold another driver's license from another state.
  • Must forfeit your current driver's license and certify that it has not been revoked or suspended.
  • Must provide proof that you passed a physical and own a valid medical examiner's card (see below under Requirements for Medical Certification).
  • Must own a clean driving record. You will be denied if your current license is suspended, canceled or revoked.
  • Must have a Social Security number.
  • Must provide proof of identification.


Identification cannot be photocopied. NDDOT will accept the following:

  • U.S. birth certificate
  • Valid U.S. passport
  • Valid foreign passport with an I-94 card or an I-551 stamp
  • U.S. government-issued consular report of birth abroad
  • Military identification card or common access card
  • U.S. court order―with court seal―displaying legal name and date of birth

Securing a North Dakota Permit

Before you can obtain a CDL you first need a permit. To get one, visit any automated Driver's License and Testing office and pass an eye exam and a written test. No appointment is necessary but make sure you arrive at least an hour before noon and closing in order to provide enough time for testing.

If you do not own a Class D license (a regular driver's license) you must first pass a Rules of the Road written test before you'll be allowed to take the CDL written exam.

When you arrive you will need to provide proof of identification and pay a $5 test fee.

If you pass you'll be issued a permit for $15. Endorsements are an additional $3 each. During this time you'll be allowed to drive a commercial vehicle provided you are accompanied by another driver who is licensed to be operating the same type of vehicle.

Securing a North Dakota CDL

Passing a road (skills) test is all that stands between you and a license. North Dakota does not require any driving school qualifications or classes, so you can test whenever you feel ready.

To take a skills test you must contact any automated Driver's License and Testing office and set an appointment. Walk-ins will be turned away so be sure to call. If you make an appointment and then must cancel, notify the Driver's License and Testing office you made the test appointment with.

When you arrive to test make sure:

  • You are carrying your permit.
  • Your vehicle corresponds with the license you are pursuing. Don't, for example, arrive to the test driving a school bus if you are applying for a Class A license.
  • The vehicle you are testing in can pass a pre-test inspection. If you or the vehicle fail the inspection, the road exam will be canceled. NDDOT's Commercial Driver's License Guide manual provides plenty of detailed information on what to expect during the pre-test inspection.
  • You have a check to pay a $5 test fee.

If you fail the test you cannot take it again that same day. You must set another appointment for another day. If you pass, however, you will need to pay a $15 license fee as well as, if applicable, any endorsement fees which are $3 each.

New Federal Requirements

You must self-certify your type of vehicle operation with the NDDOT by January 2014. This means you must self-certify one of the following driving categories:

  • Non-Excepted Interstate
  • Excepted Interstate
  • Non-Excepted Intrastate
  • Excepted Intrastate

If you choose Non-Excepted Interstate, you must, in addition to a completed self-certification application, provide the NDDOT with a federal medical certificate.

Questions? Call (701) 328-2600.

North Dakota Fingerprinting for Hazmat

If you are applying for a hazardous material endorsement you will need to submit to an extensive background check that includes fingerprinting. To comply, you must call one of the fingerprint collection sites listed on the ND DOT's hazmat information page.

Federal CDL Requirements

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 was designed to improve highway safety. Its purpose was to ensure that drivers of commercial vehicles are qualified to drive them, and to remove unsafe drivers from the highways.

The Act didn't require federal driver licensing―states still license commercial drivers―but it established minimum standards that states must meet when issuing commercial driver's licenses (CDLs). It required states to upgrade their existing programs to follow the new federal standards.

Before the Act was passed, many commercial vehicle drivers operated vehicles they were not properly trained on or qualified to drive. Even in states that had separate license classes, drivers were not necessarily tested in the types of vehicles they would be driving. States must now test commercial drivers according to federal standards, to ensure that drivers know how to operate the trucks or buses they intend to drive.

The Act also made it illegal to have more than one driver's license. You can hold a regular or commercial driver's license, but not both. You can have one license from the state you reside in, but not from any other states. In the past, bad drivers could more easily hide their driving histories by getting several licenses. Today, all the states are connected to a national database to check driver histories.

CDL Classes for Every State

To be eligible for a CDL, you must have a clean driving record. Federal regulations require you to pass a physical exam every 3 years.

The Act established three separate classes of commercial driver's licenses. Every state issues licenses in these categories:

  • Class A: Any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR) of 26,001 lbs. or more, provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 lbs.
  • Class B: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 lbs. GVWR.
  • Class C: Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B, but is either designed to transport 16 passengers or more, including the driver, or is placarded for hazardous materials.

Many states make exceptions for farm vehicles, snow removal vehicles, fire and emergency vehicles, and some military vehicles.


To be licensed for certain types of commercial vehicles, extra testing is required. If you pass, you will receive an endorsement on your CDL.

  • T―Double/Triple Trailers (knowledge test only)
  • P―Passenger (knowledge and skills tests)
  • N―Tank Vehicle (knowledge test only)
  • H―Hazardous Materials (knowledge test only)
  • S―School Buses (knowledge and skills tests)

Requirements for Medical Certification

In the interest of public safety on the highways, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations require interstate commercial drivers to be medically fit to operate their vehicles safely and competently. You are required to have a Medical Examination Report (Form 649-F) and carry a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) medical certificate if you operate a motor vehicle that weighs more than 4,536 kgs. (10,000 lbs.) in interstate commerce.

You must carry a current copy of your medical examination certificate with you when you drive.

Minimum Training Requirements

There are no federal standards in place for on-the-road commercial driver training. The government only requires that you take and pass your CDL knowledge (written) and skills (driving) tests. Longer-combination-vehicle (LCV) drivers must receive training in driver wellness, driver qualifications, hours of service, and whistleblower protection.

Your state's commercial driver's manual is a good place to learn basic information, but you will need to be professionally trained to drive a commercial motor vehicle.

In order to pass your driving skills tests, you will need to learn how to inspect vehicles before driving, learn how to couple and uncouple tractors and trailers, and have plenty of practice driving. This includes driving in different conditions and on different road surfaces, turning, parking, backing up, and braking.

Many motor carriers train their employees, while other drivers take courses at private driving schools, vocational or technical schools, and community colleges. Individual states often approve or certify training courses.

The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) has set minimum standards for training curriculums and certifies driver training courses that meet industry and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines. Many employers require their drivers to take PTDI-approved training.

Hazmat Background Checks

Under the USA PATRIOT Act, commercial drivers transporting hazardous materials (hazmat) must pass a background records check and be fingerprinted. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for conducting the background checks for all commercial drivers with hazmat endorsements or who want to add hazmat endorsements to their licenses. The TSA developed this program to carry out the USA PATRIOT Act mandate and protect citizens from the potential threat of terrorists using hazmat cargo.

If the TSA disqualifies you because of your background, you can appeal their finding or seek a waiver. However, if you are found guilty of a disqualifying crime, you must declare any disqualifying conditions and surrender your hazmat endorsement (if you already have it) to your state's department of motor vehicles or other licensing agency.

Applying for a Hazardous Materials Background Check

After you get a CDL, apply for a background check from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) if you'll be obtaining a hazardous materials endorsement. You may do this online or by contacting a TSA agent. They will ask for:

  • Your CDL or CDL permit number.
  • Proof of legal status.
  • Proof of Identity.

Next, the TSA will ask you to go to a fingerprint office to give your fingerprints. The TSA and the FBI will conduct background investigations. You will pay:

  • $38 for fingerprints.
  • $34 for the TSA background check.
  • $14.50 for the FBI background check.

The TSA attempts to finish background checks within 30 days. You will be notified by mail. If you are approved, you can then go to your state's licensing authority (wherever you got your CDL) to complete your hazmat application process. If you are denied, you can appeal or seek a waiver.

  • Hazmat endorsements must be renewed at least every 5 years.
  • Your state might require renewal more often.
  • Get a new background check each time you renew your hazmat endorsement.

You must arrange for the background check no less than 30 days before the expiration of your current approval, or your CDL may be canceled.

Disqualifying Crimes

Conviction of any of the following crimes will disqualify you from being eligible for a hazmat endorsement:

  • Terrorism
  • Murder
  • Assault with intent to murder
  • Espionage
  • Sedition
  • Kidnapping or hostage-taking
  • Treason
  • Rape or aggravated sexual abuse
  • Extortion
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Bribery
  • Smuggling
  • Immigration violations
  • RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violations
  • Unlawful possession, use, sale, distribution, or manufacture of an explosive device, firearm, or other weapon
  • Distribution of, intent to distribute, possession, or importation of a controlled substance
  • Dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation, including identity fraud
  • Crimes involving a severe transportation security incident
  • Improper transportation of a hazardous material
  • Conspiracy or attempt to commit any of these crimes

Remember that your state also has its own guidelines that may be stricter than the federal ones. For more information, consult your employer, the DMV, or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association.

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