Applying for a New CDL in Pennsylvania

If you've ever driven on the highway, you've no doubt shared the road with the impressive—and sometimes imposing—semi-trucks and large commercial vehicles. If you would also like to drive one, you will have to get a commercial driver's license (CDL). The process is a bit more involved than getting a regular license, since commercial vehicles are bigger and more difficult to drive than average cars and trucks.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is in charge of regulating that process nationally, and in PA, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) oversees the licensing procedure.

Who Can Get a Pennsylvania CDL?

To be eligible for a Pennsylvania commercial driver's license, you must already have a non-CDL driver's license. If your driver's license was not issued in PA, you will need to go through some additional steps to receive your Pennsylvania CDL (see below).

If you're under 21 years old, you will be restricted to driving commercial vehicles within PA (intrastate), per FMCSA regulations.

No matter your age, you will also need to prove your:

  • U.S. citizenship/lawful permanent status. Common acceptable documents include:
    • Birth certificate.
    • Valid U.S. passport.
    • Certificate of Naturalization.
  • Pennsylvania residency. For proof, you may bring:
    • A lease agreement.
    • Tax records.
    • Mortgage documents.

PennDOT has created pages with full lists of acceptable documents to prove residency and lawful status for both U.S. citizens and non-citizens.

Commercial Learner's Permits in PA

Before you can get your commercial driver license in PA, you'll have to get your commercial learner's permit (CLP).

You may want to first look into taking a CDL training course. While it's not required by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, it is recommended to help you with all of the exams you will need to take.

Once you feel ready to apply, you will need to schedule an appointment with your local PennDOT office. Bring with you to your appointment:

While at the PennDOT office, you will have to take the proper written exams for the type of CDL you want. You will also need to submit to a driving record check, where the past 10 years of your driving record will be examined in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.

Once you pass the test and pay the fees, you will be issued your CLP.

Pennsylvania CLP Regulations

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation requires all commercial learner's permit holders to have their CLP for at least 15 days before they can take any CDL skills tests. This is a good time to consider taking a behind-the-wheel training course to hone your skills before your PA CDL road skills test.

In the meantime, FMCSA rules state that you will only be able to practice driving with your commercial learner's permit on public roads, and only while accompanied by a full CDL holder.

Obtaining a Pennsylvania CDL

After waiting at least 15 days, you will be eligible to take the skills portion of your CDL test. Schedule another appointment with PennDOT, and be prepared to:

  • Complete the following exams:
    • A pre-trip vehicle inspection test.
    • A basic vehicle control exam.
    • An on-road driving test.
  • Pay the appropriate fee (see below for a fee list).

Arrange to take the tests in the same type of vehicle you plan on driving with your commercial driver's license. If you can't, you may have a restriction placed on your CDL.

After successfully passing the tests and paying the fee, you will be issued your PA commercial driver license driving document (camera card or photo license).

Take the camera card to a local photo license center to have your CDL picture taken. That is where you will receive your final and full commercial driver's license.

NOTE: You will need to bring proof of identification with you to the photo license center. Commercial driver license photos require an additional fee.

Transferring Out-of-State CDLs to PA

If you have a CDL from another state OR a regular out-of-state driver's license and wish to apply for a PA commercial driver license, you will have to first surrender your current license and apply for a new commercial driver's license in Pennsylvania.

Schedule an appointment with your local Pennsylvania Department of Transportation office and bring with you:

  • A completed Application for Pennsylvania Commercial Driver's License By Out-of-State CDL Driver (Form DL-180RCD).
  • A completed Self-Certification Form (Form DL-11CD).
  • Your valid, out-of-state driver's license or CDL.
  • Your Social Security card.*
  • Proof of identity. Examples include:
    • Birth certificate with a raised seal.
    • Certificate of U.S. citizenship.
    • Valid U.S. passport.
    • Certificate of Naturalization.
  • 2 documents proving PA residency.** Examples include:
    • Current utility bills.
    • Lease agreements.
    • Tax records.
  • Additional documents to prove any legal name change caused by marriage, divorce, or other reasons.
  • The appropriate fee (see below).

*NOTE: Non-U.S. citizens must provide different types of identification. PennDOT provides a full list of acceptable documents.

**NOTE: If you have no bills in your name and you currently reside with someone else in Pennsylvania, you may bring that person with you to the PennDOT office as 1 document showing proof of residency. He or she will have to bring their license or a photo ID. The other proof of residency can be a piece of official mail sent to you if that address matches the one listed by the person you bring with you.

If the license you surrendered was a valid out-of-state CDL, you will also need to:

  • Undergo a vision screening.
  • Take additional tests to transfer your HAZMAT or school bus endorsements, if applicable.

If the license you surrendered was a valid, regular out-of-state driver's license, you will be given a non-commercial driver license for Pennsylvania, and then have to apply for your PA commercial learner's permit.

CDL Fees in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation currently charges the following for CDLs or services related to commercial driver licenses:

  • CDL (valid 4 years): $90.50.
    • With HAZMAT endorsement: $105.50.
  • HAZMAT endorsement: $29.50.
  • Upgrading commercial class or adding endorsement: $14.50.
  • Removing restrictions: $14.50.
  • Revised (for change of address, etc.) or replacement CDL: $28.50.
  • Duplicate camera card: $5.

The PennDOT also offers specific CDLs for older drivers. Fees include:

  • CDL for drivers 65 years old and up (valid 2 years): $50.
    • With HAZMAT endorsement: $65.

An additional federal fee of $60 will also be charged for anyone applying for a HAZMAT endorsement, on top of the regular license and endorsement fees.

If you are upgrading your non-commercial driver license to a CDL, additional fees will apply, based on how many years remain on your current license. You will also have to pay a photo fee.

For a full list of Pennsylvania CDL fees, visit PennDOT's fees schedule. For more information on specific fees, contact your local PennDOT office.

Military CDL Holders in PA

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has established a program to help current or recently discharged service members attain their commercial driver's license more easily by waiving the skills test portion of the CDL process.

To qualify, you must have a specific amount of experience driving military trucks, or the equivalent to commercial motor vehicles, and you'll need to apply soon after discharge.

State and federal requirements for this program may vary. For federal guidelines, visit our page on military veterans skills test waivers. For state-specific requirements, contact your local PennDOT licensing office.

Pennsylvania CDL Medical Requirements

All PA CDL applicants are required to complete a Self-Certification Form (Form DL-11CD) and bring it to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The FMCSA also requires you to be deemed medically fit before you can receive your license. To be certified, schedule an appointment with a qualified CDL physician, and have him or her help you fill out:

After you're certified, you will be issued a Medical Examiner's Certificate, which you will need to keep on you at all times while operating a commercial motor vehicle.

For more information about the self-certification form in Pennsylvania, see the PennDOT FAQ page on the subject, and for further details about the certification process in general, see the state's guide to CDL medical examinations.

Commercial Driver License Types In PA

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has designated several different classes of commercial driver's license, each of which allowing you to drive different types of vehicles. The classifications include:

  • Class A CDLs—Allow you to drive a combination of vehicles over a certain weight, such as a tractor-trailer.
  • Class B CDLs—Lets you drive a single vehicle over a certain weight, such as a straight truck.
  • Class C CDLs—Permits holders to drive any other vehicle over a certain weight not covered by Class A or Class B commercial driver's licenses.

Depending on which class of CDL you're applying for, you may have to take different written or skills tests or pay different fees.

For more general information on the topic, see our guide to CDL classifications.

CDL Endorsements & Restrictions

An endorsement is an extra certification that is added to your CDL which allows you to drive additional types of commercial motor vehicles. To earn one, you will have to take additional written and/or skills tests and often pay extra fees.

The FMCSA allows commercial drives to receive endorsements for:

  • HAZMAT vehicles.
  • Double or triple trailers.
  • Tank vehicles.
  • School buses or other passenger vehicles.

A restriction is handed out to limit the types of vehicles you will be permitted to operate with your commercial driver's license. You may receive a restriction if:

  • You take your skills test in a different vehicle than your CDL allows for.
  • You can't operate an air brakes system.
  • You can't operate a manual transmission.

It's possible to have restrictions removed from your CDL, typically through taking additional tests, filling out additional paperwork, and paying additional fees.

To read more, visit our guide to CDL endorsements and restrictions.

Related Content

Provide Feedback

Looking for Applying for a New CDL in Another State?