Applying for a New CDL in Oregon

CDL Requirements

Applying for a Commercial Driver License (CDL) from the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is a matter of meeting some basic qualifications and completing several steps, including written and driving tests.

First, motorists must be at least 18 years old (21 years old for interstate operation of commercial vehicles) and must possess or obtain a non-commercial, regular driver license by passing the non-commercial C knowledge and drive tests. CDL applicants in Oregon must also indicate on the commercial driver license application they have at least one year of driving experience, but this may be in a non-commercial vehicle.

Other items on the Oregon CDL checklist include: proof of identification, successful completion of the CDL general knowledge test and additional CDL class tests, passing a vision screening, possessing a valid medical card or waiver, passing the CDL drive test, and payment of testing and issuance fees.

Written Test

The knowledge tests are available without an appointment at any full-service DMV in Oregon, but be sure there is time for the test before the office closes (tests cannot be started any less than one hour before closing). The driving tests are available through the Oregon DMV or through third-party testers. Oregon CDL applicants may not have been suspended or otherwise disqualified as a commercial driver in any state, including Oregon.

CDL Instruction Permit

Drivers who need practice or training to obtain an Oregon CDL will meet many of the same qualifications and requirements to get a CDL instruction permit. The basic difference between securing a CDL and getting the instruction permit is that the driving test is not required for the permit. An applicant may take the DMV commercial drive test without a CDL instruction permit, but you need the CDL instruction permit to take the drive test with a CDL third party test, as required by some employers.

A permit holder may operate any vehicle, except a motorcycle or vehicle with hazardous materials, when accompanied by a person at least 21 years old, who has a valid license for the class of vehicle the permit holder is driving. The accompanying party must also be sitting in the front seat next to the permitted driver. CDL instruction permits are valid for one year from the date issued, and are not renewable.

The state requires a commercial-class license for vehicles weighing more than 26,000 lbs., vehicles carrying 16 passengers or more (including the driver), or vehicles carrying hazardous materials. Exceptions include: recreational vehicles for personal use, farm vehicles for limited distances, and emergency and fire vehicles driven by firefighters or emergency service workers.

Applicants who already have a CDL in another state are directed to obtain and study the Oregon Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Manual, provide proof of ID and residence, provide a valid medical card or waiver, and pass the Oregon Class C non-commercial test.

New residents licensed commercially in other states must also pass a vision screening, turn in their valid out-of-state CDL, and pay the testing and issuance fees. The Oregon DMV indicates it may waive the drive tests for out-of-state CDL holders if the driving privileges granted are the same in both states.

Applicants who wish to add or retain a hazardous materials endorsement must pass a TSA Criminal Background Check, and will be required to obtain an Oregon driver license while waiting for results of the background check.

Test fees must be paid for in advance. Knowledge tests are $10 per each type of test. The skills test can be as much as $70 . There is an additional fee of $56 to remove an air brake restriction. Renewal of an Oregon CDL is $61.50 and replacement fees are generally $26.50. The Oregon DMV does not accept debit or credit cards, but does accept checks with proper identification, as well as cash, which is available at ATMs at most Oregon DMV locations.

New Federal Requirements

You must self-certify your type of vehicle operation with the Oregon DMV. This means you must self-certify one of the following driving categories:

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

You'll need to submit a Self-Certification of CMV Driving Type application (Form 735-7369). If you choose Non-Excepted Interstate, you must also provide the DMV with a federal medical certificate.

Visit Oregon's FAQ page for more information.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986

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 weight vehicle(s) being towed is over 10,000 lbs.
  • Class B: Any single vehicle with a weight rating of 26,001 lbs. or higher, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 lbs.
  • 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 (including the driver) or more, or is placarded for hazardous materials.

Many states, including Oregon, 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 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.

The Oregon 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.

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. Since Oregon is a TSA Agent state, 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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