Applying for a New CDL in Nevada

Do You Need a CDL?

To legally drive commercial vehicles in Nevada, you must have a commercial driver license (CDL). Obtaining the license isn't for the not-fully-committed, because there are multiple tests and forms and an overall lengthy process to achieve success. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, however, has provided a number of valuable resources and training documents, along with information on how to complete all requirements satisfactorily.

But first, who needs a commercial driver's license? Licenses are divided into classes, which regulate what types of vehicles can be legally driven by the license holder. These classes are set at the federal level. You must obtain a CDL if you want to drive any vehicles within those classes.

Furthermore, even if you obtain a commercial license, sometimes you'll need to qualify for additional specialized endorsements. These can include hazardous materials or school bus allowances. Most endorsements, described below, require further specific testing.

Qualifications for a CDL

In the state of Nevada, the qualifications to obtain a CDL are:

  • You must show proof of Nevada residency and identity.
  • You must be 21 years old to operate a commercial motor vehicle between states, to carry passengers, or to transport hazardous materials. You can obtain a CDL as early as 18 years old, but your license will have a Restriction R (no passengers or hazardous materials) and Restriction 2 (in-state travel only). You must be at least 25 years old to operate oversize combination vehicles over 70 feet.
  • You must be physically examined by a doctor every 3 years and provide the DMV with a Medical Examiner's Certificate.
  • When applying for a CDL, you'll need to verify that you don't have a driver license from another state (or if you do, you'll need to surrender it), and provide a list of the states you've held licenses in for the past 10 years. The DMV will run a nationwide driver record check on you before approving your application.

Applying for the License

First of all, fill out the Commercial Driver's License Application (Form CDL 02) and submit it to your local DMV office. The medical certificate from your examiner and proof of residency and identity will also be required at this time.

NOTE: First-time CDL applicants should apply at a designated CDL office (scroll down to see listings for commercial driver license offices). You'll be able to ask all your questions and get the most complete information there. An appointment is not necessary to fill out an application, but you'll need to make one to take the driving portion of your test.

Next, you'll need to take the written knowledge tests. The required tests depend on the type of license and endorsements you want.

Once you pass all the required knowledge tests, you'll move on to the skills (driving) tests. These tests are the same for all CDL applicants; what differs is that you'll take the tests in the class of vehicle you're going to be licensed for. Again, you'll need to make an appointment at the CDL office to take this test. The tests are:

  • Pre-trip inspection: Demonstrate the ability to tell if your vehicle is safe to drive.
  • Basic vehicle control: Demonstrate your control of the vehicle, including going forward, backing up, and turning.
  • On-road test: Demonstrate your ability to drive the vehicle in a variety of traffic situations, including intersections, freeway driving, hills, railway crossings, and single-lane roads.

Training Resources

You'll find almost all the information you need to know to pass your knowledge tests in the Commercial Drivers License Handbook, available online in PDF format or in print at your local DMV office. The manual covers all the general information as well as training for various endorsements. It also highlights the skills you'll be tested on when driving, and the rules of the road.

Actual driving experience can be obtained through a number of third-party course providers. These driving schools are approved by the Nevada DMV to train commercial drivers. You can also check your local yellow pages for "truck driving school" or "commercial driving" to find other providers.

We cover this topic in detail in our article on commercial driver education.

Instruction Permit

You must obtain an instruction permit before driving a commercial vehicle on the road, even for training purposes. Fill out the Application for Commercial Driving Privileges (Form CDL-002) and turn it in at your local DMV office.

Transferring Your CDL from Another State

If you already have a CDL from another state but have moved to Nevada, complete the following within 30 days of becoming a new resident:

  • Fill out a Nevada Application for Commercial Driving Privileges (Form CDL-002).
  • Provide a copy of your latest medical certificate.
  • Certify that you have just one license and that it's not currently subject to suspension or revocation.
  • Provide the following: proof of your Social Security number, current driver license, certified birth certificate, or passport. (If you were born outside the United States, show a passport or immigration card.)

NOTE: If you have a hazardous materials endorsement, bring your out-of-state TSA approval letter with you when you apply. It might be necessary to take the required knowledge test again.

CDL Application Fees

Fees will be charged at the time of your application:

  • Original application or transfer requiring knowledge and skills tests: $142.25.
  • Original application or transfer requiring knowledge tests only or no test: $112.25.
  • Instruction permit: $58.25.

Note that in 2014, CDL fees will increase significantly. Please refer to the Nevada DMV Fees page for details.

Federal Guidelines

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 was designed to improve highway safety and ensure commercial vehicle drivers are qualified. There is no federal driver licensing―states still individually license commercial drivers―but there are minimum standards that states must meet when issuing commercial licenses.

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 2 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 higher.
  • Class C: Any single vehicle, or combination thereof, 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 physical exam and carry a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) medical certificate if you operate a motor vehicle with a weight over 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.

The Nevada 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.

Some states may specify minimum training guidelines. Check with the Nevada DMV to see if there are minimum training requirements to get your CDL.

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 the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

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. Be prepared to pay separate fees for fingerprinting, background checks, and other security measures.

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