Applying for a New CDL in Washington

Driving a semi-truck or other powerful, big machine across the country can be a great way to make a living, but in order to do it, you'll need a commercial driver's license (CDL).

Getting one in Washington requires following the licensing process overseen by the WA Department of Licensing (DOL), as well as meeting all national regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

CDL Eligibility Requirements in WA

To be eligible for a Washington commercial driver's license, you need to:

  • Have a valid, non-commercial Washington driver's license.
  • Be at least:
    • 18 years old to drive within WA only (called intrastate driving).
    • 21 years old to drive cross-country (called interstate driving).
  • Complete an appropriate commercial driver training course for your class of license.

You'll also need to be able to prove your:

  • Social Security number (SSN).
  • U.S. citizenship OR permanent residency. Examples of acceptable documents include:
    • Your valid birth certificate.
    • An unexpired U.S. passport.
    • A permanent resident card.

WA Commercial License Permit

Before you can get a CDL, you'll have to get your Washington CLP—that is, commercial license permit.

When you're ready to kick the process off, schedule an appointment a Department of Licensing office that offers knowledge testing. Call ahead to your preferred location to determine if they are a testing office.

To apply, submit the following:

You'll then take all written knowledge exams for the CDL classification you are applying for, plus those for any endorsements you hope to add to your commercial driver license.

Once all of the above has been completed, you'll officially have your commercial license permit! Your CLP will be valid for 180 days, and you'll be able to renew it once within 1 year.

CLP Restrictions in Washington

Getting a commercial license permit is a great first step, but you'll have to follow a slightly different set of rules while practicing with it.

You'll have to practice with your commercial license permit for at least 14 days before you can take the skills test to earn your full commercial driver license. If you don't feel ready at that point, it's okay! Your permit will be valid for 180 days, and you'll be able to renew it once within 1 year of receiving it.

Per Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations, you must also:

  • Stick to public roads only.
  • Only drive while accompanied by a licensed commercial driver.

Commercial Driver Training Requirements

The Washington Department of Licensing requires all CDL applicants to take a training course before you can earn your first full commercial driver license.

The amount of training hours you'll need depends on the class of CDL you're applying for. Once you've completed the course, you'll receive a training certificate. You must bring this certificate with you when you apply for your commercial driver's license.

For more information on the specific types of courses you'll need to take and where to sign up, check out the DOL's commercial driver training page.

Getting Your Washington CDL

Only one step remains before you can claim your WA commercial driver license: the skills exam.

To schedule your test, you'll need to get a skills test form from your local DOL office. After filling it out, the Department of Licensing will assign you a tester and exam date. You will pay your exam fee at this time.*

Keep in mind that you will have to arrange to take the test in the same class of vehicle you hope to operate with your commercial driver's license.

At your appointment, submit your:

  • Washington driver's license.
  • Commercial license permit.
  • CDL Skills Test Results form.
  • Medical Examiner's Certificate, if applicable (see below for details).
  • Commercial driver training course certificate.
  • Documents for your testing vehicleEITHER:
    • Its proof of insurance.
    • A permission letter from the vehicle's owner.
  • Payment for the $250 testing fee.
    • School bus exams are $100.

The exam itself consists of several parts, including the:

  • Pre-trip inspection.
  • Basic controls test.
  • On-road test.

Once you ace your test, you'll have to revisit the DOL office, and bring your:

At this point, you'll be issued your very own Washington State CDL—congratulations!

* NOTE: You can also opt to take the skills exam with a third-party testing company. You will need to pay your exam fee to your chosen tester.

What If I Fail My CDL Exam?

If you don't pass your WA commercial driving skills exam the first time around, it's okay! You'll be able to take the skills exam up to 2 times with the same tester.

You will have to wait a bit to get your second chance, however. Depending on which section you failed, you'll have to wait:

  • 3 days, if you failed the pre-trip inspection.
  • 3 days, if you failed the basic controls test.
  • 7 days, if you failed the on-road test.

CDL Fees in Washington

The Washington Department of Licensing currently charges the following for CDLs and related services:

  • Commercial driver license tests:
    • Knowledge test: $35.
    • Skills test: $250.
      • Skills test for school buses: $100.
      • Reduced skills test: $225.
  • Commercial license permit: $40.
  • Endorsements: $10, PLUS $17 for each year remaining on your license.

CDL Medical Requirements

To get a commercial driver license from WA, you'll first need to be deemed physically fit for the job.

The first step toward medical qualification is a process called self-certification, which you will do at the DOL office before you get your commercial license permit. This involves stating whether you will:

  • Be driving interstate or intrastate.
  • Are excepted or non-excepted from carrying a medical form.

How you self-certify will determine the next step you need to take.

You may need to visit a FMCSA-approved physician to help you complete a Medical Examiner's Certificate (Form MCSA-5876).

If you need a certificate, you'll have to bring it with you when you:

  • Take your skills test.
  • Return to the Department of Licensing to receive your commercial driver license.

Check out the DOL's guide to the WA medical program for more information.

Military CDL Testing Waivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Washington Department of Licensing have teamed up to help military members with commercial driving experience earn their CDL more easily by waiving the skills test.

To qualify, you'll need to:

  • Be currently active duty OR have been honorably discharged within the past 12 months.
  • Have at least 2 years of experience operating military commercial vehicles.

To apply, you'll need the following:

Bring all of the above with you when applying for your CLP, and ask about the next steps in the process.

NOTE: Eligible applicants will still need to pass all written exams and pay all applicable fees.

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