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Applying for a New CDL in Texas

If you plan to drive a commercial motor vehicle, you'll first need to get a commercial driver's license. Federal law requires all commercial drivers to obtain a commercial learner's permit and then a commercial driver's license to drive certain types of vehicles for commerce or transport.

In addition, the state of Texas has specific requirements for drivers who plan to drive a commercial vehicle within or across state lines. Read on for details about CDLs in Texas, and reference the Texas Commercial Driver Handbook at any time.

TX CDL Requirements & Exemptions

Age & Vehicle Requirements

There are different age requirements for CDLs in Texas based on whether you plan to drive intrastate (within state lines only) or interstate (across state and international borders).

  • Intrastate CDL: At least 18 years old.
  • Interstate CDL: 21 years old or older.

If you have a suspended license, in any state, you will not be eligible to apply for a commercial license.

Similarly, you MUST apply for a commercial driver's license if you drive a vehicle that:

  • Has a GVWR of 26,001 lbs.
  • Transports hazardous materials.
  • Carries at least 16 passengers (to include the driver).

Driving History

To ensure all applicants have a clean driving record nationwide, the Texas Department of Public Safety will search national driving record databases dating back 10 years. All states are required to search the following national records:

Exemptions from CDL Requirements

You are exempt from needing a commercial driver's license if you are:

  • A farmer transporting products, machinery, supplies, etc. to and from your farm within 150 air miles.
  • Driving an emergency or firefighting vehicle.
  • Operating a military vehicle.
  • Driving a personal recreational vehicle.
  • Operating a vehicle owned/leased by an air carrier.

Additionally, you can apply for certain waivers for things like vision impairment, agricultural industry membership, and prior military service. These waivers allow you to skip certain exams, and may give you a restricted version of a CDL.

Visit the TX DPS website for details, and visit our page on Veteran Skills Test Waivers if you're a military veteran.

Commercial Learner's Permits

When you apply for a commercial driver's license in Texas, the first thing you'll receive BEFORE your full CDL is a commercial learner's permit (CLP). This permit allows you the opportunity to practice driving a commercial vehicle when accompanied by a licensed commercial driver.

You must hold this permit for at least 14 days before you take your CDL skills exam to receive your full commercial driver's license.

Applying for a Texas CDL

When you're ready to apply for your commercial driver's license, you will need to visit your local DMV licensing office in person.

Once there:

At this point, you will receive your commercial learner permit, which will allow you to practice before taking your CDL skills exam. You can make an appointment online for your commercial driving test.

You can take your on-road skills test after possessing your CLP for the required 14 days.

Commercial Driver Skills Test

Once you've practiced with your CLP, you'll need to take the on-road skills exam. You'll need to provide the proper commercial motor vehicle for the class of license you need; otherwise, you risk a restriction being placed on your license.

Your CDL driving skills exam consists of three parts:

  • Vehicle inspection: Consists of a physical inspect the vehicle you're testing in, as well as test your ability to assess whether a vehicle is in safe driving condition.
  • Air brake inspection test: Shows your ability to conduct an air brake safety inspection, including:
    • Warning signals.
    • System leaks.
    • Emergency brakes.
  • On-road exam: Tests your skills in a variety of situations, including:
    • Basic maneuvers, such as:
      • Shifting.
      • Braking.
      • Backing up.
      • Turning.
      • Changing lanes.
    • Various driving environments, such as:
      • Intersections.
      • Railroad crossings.
      • Highways.
      • Curved and narrow roads.

Once you've passed your exam, the DPS will issue your full commercial driver's license in the proper class.

If you need a specific endorsement on your CDL in order to perform certain tasks or operate certain vehicles, you will likely need to complete additional knowledge and/or skills exams. For details, please visit the following pages:

Nonresident CDL in Texas

If you are not a resident of the United States, Canada, or Mexico and you wish you drive a commercial vehicle in Texas, you will need to apply for a nonresident commercial driver's license.

There are two scenarios in which this CDL applies:

  • You are a nonresident WITHOUT a Social Security number (SSN):
    • You will first receive a temporary nonresident CDL.
  • You are a nonresident who HAS been issued a Social Security number:
    • You can apply for a permanent nonresident CDL.

Temporary Nonresident CDL

If you do not yet have a SSN, you can apply for a temporary nonresident CDL valid for 60 days. This CDL is not renewable. If your documents listed below expire BEFORE the 60 days is up, the temporary CDL also expires with them.

To apply, you must meet all CDL requirements listed above. Visit a driver license office and:

  • Provide all of the following:
    • Valid passport from your country of residence.
    • Temporary worker visa, Form I-766, or Employment Authorization Document.
    • Valid I-94 or I-797 authorization document.
  • Submit payment for the $21 fee.

Once you have been issued a Social Security number, you must then apply for the permanent nonresident CDL.

Permanent Nonresident CDL

If you hold a Social Security number as a nonresident, you can bypass the temporary CDL and apply for a full nonresident CDL. You must first meet all requirements for a commercial driver's license in Texas.

Visit a licensing office and present:

  • Proof of your Social Security number.
  • Your valid passport from your home country.
  • Your Form I-766, temporary worker visa, or Employment Authorization Document.
  • A valid arrival/departure document (Form I-94, I-797).
  • Payment for the $121 licensing fee.

Your nonresident CDL is valid until either your visa expires, or your I-94 form expires—whichever happens first.

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