Applying for a New CDL in Virginia
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You live for the open road and love nothing more than cruising down the highway, and now you've decided to get paid for the pleasure. But before you can get behind the wheel of a semi-truck, bus, or other commercial vehicle, you'll have to get your commercial driver's license (CDL).
The process is more complex than getting an average driver's license, and involves following national regulations set up by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and going through the licensing procedures of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Who Can Get a Virginia CDL?
To qualify for a Virginia commercial driver's license, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Drivers under 21 years old will be restricted to driving commercial vehicles within VA only.
- Meet all of Virginia's standard licensing requirements.
- Be able to provide 1 document proving your U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency. Acceptable paperwork includes:
- Current, valid U.S. passport.
- Official birth certificate.
- Certificate of naturalization.
- Permanent residency card.
- The VA DMV has compiled a full list of examples.
Applying Without a Regular VA License
It's not required to have a regular Virginia driver's license to apply for a CDL, but if you do not currently hold a regular VA driver's license, you must bring additional documents with you to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Applicants who are under 19 years old must bring:
- 1 document proving identity. You may bring in:
- Your birth certificate.
- Your U.S. passport.
- A certificate of naturalization.
- See the DMV's full list of examples.
- 1 document proving legal presence in the country. See above for examples.
- 1 document proving Virginia residency.* Acceptable documents include:
- Certified school records/enrollment forms.
- Bank statement up to 2 months old.
- Utility bills in your name up to 2 months old.
- See the DMV's document page for more examples.
- Proof of your Social Security number. You can bring with you:
- Your Social Security card.
- A tax form or payroll check stub.
- Your military ID card.
Applicants who are at least 19 years old will need to bring:
- 2 documents proving your identity.
- 1 document showing your legal presence in the country.
- 1 document proving you live in Virginia.
- Proof of your Social Security number.
You may use the same documents listed above for proof.
*NOTE: If you don't have any of the available documents to show you live in Virginia, your parent or guardian must go with you to the DMV to prove your VA residency. The adult who accompanies you will need to bring:
- A photo ID.
- Proof of their own residency in the state.
VA Commercial Learner's Permit
Before you can get your commercial driver license, you'll have to get your commercial learner's permit (CLP). First, schedule an appointment with your local Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles office, and:
- Bring the following documents:
- Complete a Driver's License and Identification Card Application (Form DL 1P).
- Pass the vision test.
- Submit to a driving record check.
- Pay the $3 permit fee, and the $1 (per year) fee for each endorsement, if applicable.
After going through the paperwork, you'll have to pass all of the written exams for the specific class of CDL you want. If you're applying for any endorsements, you'll also need to take those tests at this point.
If you're applying for a HAZMAT endorsement, you'll need to be fingerprinted and have a background check performed.
When all of that's done, the VA DMV will issue your commercial learner's permit.
NOTE: If you fail any of your knowledge exams, you may retest 1 time per business day. You will also have to pay a $2 re-examination fee if you try again within 15 days of your initial test.
If you fail the exam 3 times, you will have to complete the classroom portion at a Virginia CDL driving school and bring the certificate of completion with you when you reapply for your commercial learner's permit.
CLP Restrictions in Virginia
Just like permits for regular driver's licenses, your CLP comes with some rules.
Your commercial learner's permit will be valid for 180 days, but you will need to keep it for at least 30 days before you can take your skills exams to earn your full commercial driver's license. If needed, you can renew your CLP 1 time without needing to retake your exams.
However, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles will let you take your skills test after having your CLP for only 14 days if you:
- Are 18 years old or older.
- Have never had a CDL before.
- Pass a state-approved driver education program.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also restricts all CLP holders to driving on public roads only, and only while accompanied by a full CDL-holder who can drive the same class of vehicle you hope to operate with your commercial driver's license.
Obtaining a VA Commercial Driver's License
To turn that CLP into a CDL, you'll have to go through the last phase of the process: the skills exam.
Call your local VA DMV office to schedule an appointment, and keep in mind that the average testing time for skills exams is 90 minutes.
Make sure to bring:
Arrange to take the test in the same type of vehicle you want to drive with your CDL. If you can't there might be a restriction placed on your commercial driver's license.
The basic test consists of several parts, including:
- Pre-trip inspection.
- Basic vehicle control.
- On-road driving.
You may have to complete additional exams depending on the class of CDL you're applying for and whether you're adding any endorsements to your license.
When you've successfully completed the process, the DMV will mail your CDL to you, with the current address they have on record. In most cases, your CDL will be valid for 8 years. Visit the DMV's guide to CDL application for other circumstances.
NOTE: If you miss your CDL skills exam appointment, the DMV will charge you a $50 fee. If you don't pay the Department of Motor Vehicles within 31 days of your missed appointment, you will be charged with an additional $10 fee and lose the ability to process any DMV-related transactions.
What If I Fail My CDL Skills Exam?
If you fail your skills test 3 times, you'll be required to complete the in-vehicle portion of a VA CDL training course, and you will need to bring your certificate of completion to the DMV when you retest.
Fees for a VA Commercial Driver License
The VA Department of Motor Vehicles currently charges the following for CDLs and related services:
- Commercial learner's permit: $3.
- Commercial driver's license:
- Annual fee: $8.
- Total for 8 years: $64.
- A $20 minimum must be paid.
- Annual fee: $1 each.
- HAZMAT background and fingerprinting fee: $83.
- Missed CDL skills exam fee: $50.
VA CDL Medical Requirements
In order to drive a commercial vehicle in Virginia, you'll need to be deemed medically fit for the job.
The process involves completing a Commercial Driver's License Self-Certification (Form DL 8), when you'll have to declare to the DMV the type of driving you intend on doing.
Make sure you schedule all of your medical appointments BEFORE you apply for your commercial learner's permit. You will need to bring all of the appropriate documentation with you to the VA Department of Motor Vehicles.
Check out the FAQ page put together by the Virginia DMV for more information.
CDL Military Waivers in Virginia
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and VA DMV have partnered to help recent veterans and current service members more easily get a CDL by having their skills test waived.
To qualify, you will need to have at least some experience driving a commercial vehicle or military equivalent while in the service, and either be an active member of the military or recently discharged.
For more information, check out our guide to the military commercial driver license skills test waiver.
Apply for, renew, replace, or change the information on a driver's license, learner's permit, commercial license, or ID card.
Submit or change your CDL self-certification using this form.