Applying for a New CDL in Ohio

Do You Need a CDL?

According to the Ohio Revised Code, you will need to have a CDL if you intend to drive any of the following:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a combined gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of at least 26,001 lbs., as long as the towed vehicle(s) have a GVWR of at least 10,000 lbs.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more, or any vehicle towing a vehicle with a GVWR of less than 10,000 lbs.
  • Any single vehicle or combination of vehicles that is designed to transport at least 16 passengers including the driver, or is placarded for hazardous materials.
  • Any school bus with a GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds designed to transport more than 16 passengers including the driver.
  • Any vehicle that is transporting hazardous materials for which placarding is required by federal regulations.
  • Any single vehicle or combination of vehicles that is operated on public roads and is considered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to be a commercial motor vehicle (includes cranes, drilling rigs, etc.).

You should note that you do not need a CDL to drive farm vehicles, snow removal vehicles, recreational vehicles, and fire and emergency vehicles.

Obtaining Your CDL Instruction Permit

To obtain your instruction permit, you will need to be at least 18 years old, and have a valid Ohio driver's license. (You should be aware, however, that some employers may have a higher age requirement, and may have additional standards.)

Bring your driver license and your Social Security card with you to any State Highway Patrol examination station.

While there, you'll need to pass both a vision test and at least one written knowledge test before you may be given a permit package. A general written test must be passed by all applicants. Additional tests will be given to those who are applying to drive the following: passenger vehicles, air brakes vehicles, combination vehicles, hazardous materials vehicles, tankers, and double or triple trailers.

You don't need to make an appointment to take the test. While at the exam station, you'll also have your photo taken as part of your test record.

As long as you don't have any red flags on your driving record (suspensions, revocations, etc.), you will be given your CDL permit at any deputy registrar's office.

  • The permit costs $27 and is valid for 6 months. Once it expires, it cannot be renewed - you'll need to complete the application process again.

The permit gives you the ability to drive a commercial vehicle only when accompanied by a CDL holder sitting in the passenger seat. The CDL holder must have the appropriate license for the type of commercial vehicle you are driving. Also, the CDL holder must be there for the purpose of giving you driving instruction.

Learning the Skills

Once you have your instruction permit, you can sign up for a truck driving instruction course. There are many third-party course providers throughout the state. To make sure a provider is approved by the OH DMV, please call (614) 752-7600 before signing up for a class.

CDL Testing Procedures

After completing your driving course, you will be free to take the driving tests.

Skills Tests

You'll need an appointment with one of the skills testing locations to take these tests. The tests may a couple hours to complete, and you will be required to drive the appropriate vehicle for your license.

Each requirement has its own fee:

  • Pre-trip vehicle inspection - $10.
  • Off-road vehicle control - $10.
  • On-road test - $30.

Note that if you schedule an appointment with the State Highway Patrol, you may also be required to pay a $50 appointment fee.

For the pre-trip test, you will need to demonstrate that you know that your vehicle is safe to drive. You may be asked to inspect vehicle parts and explain the importance of them to the examiner.

For the control test, you will be required to maneuver the vehicle in various ways within a defined area.

For the on-road test, you will be tested on your ability to safely drive in a variety of traffic situations.

The DMV Can Help

You will probably have already seen the Commercial Driver License Manual in your instruction course. This volume contains all the basic rules of the road as well as specialized driving skills you'll need to master to obtain your CDL.

You can also pick up a printed copy of the manual at any deputy registrar's branch.

Also check out Commercial Driver Education on this site for more information.

The Final Step and Final Fee

If you pass all the tests, you will be given your CDL.

  • The cost for a new CDL is $42.

If you later wish to upgrade a class, add a passenger endorsement, or remove an air brake restriction, you'll need to pass the knowledge and skills tests again.

Next of Kin Notification

The BMV now allows drivers to register their emergency contact information with the agency. By doing so, you enable law enforcement officials to more quickly notify a family member, guardian, or friend if you're seriously injured in an accident, or are unable to communicate. Register for this service online or at any license agency location.

New Federal Requirements

You must now self-certify your type of vehicle operation. 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 provide the BMV with a federal medical certificate.

Submit a completed CDL Self-Certification Authorization (Form BMV 2159) by:

  • Faxing to: (614) 308-5181
  • E-mailing to:
  • Delivering to any BMV office
  • Mailing to:
    • Ohio BMV
    • CDL/Out of State Processing
    • P.O. Box 16784
    • Columbus, OH 43216

Federal CDL Guidelines

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 higher, 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 another that weighs 10,000 lbs. or less.
  • 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 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.

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.

The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) is the agency responsible for setting the minimum standards for CDL drivers training. They certify driver training courses that meet the industry and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines.

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 Association.

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