Commercial Driver Education in Washington

Getting a CDL Learner's Permit

If you've never had a commercial driver's license (CDL), you will have to first obtain a commercial driver's instruction permit, or CDIP.

Before you can apply for a CDIP, you must have a valid Washington driver's license. When you are operating a commercial vehicle with a CDIP, you will have to have someone with you who has a current Washington CDL for the same type of vehicle you are driving. This supervisor must have at least 2 years of experience driving commercial vehicles and must have had a driver's license for at least 5 years. When you are driving, your co-pilot must be seated in the front passenger seat to provide instruction.

After 180 days, you'll have to renew your CDIP if you're not ready to apply for a CDL by taking the on-road skills test. Remember that you can only renew your CDIP once in 1 year. If you still need more time, then you'll need to go through all the procedures of applying for a new instruction permit, which will require you to pay the application fees again and take another knowledge test.

You will not be allowed to operate vehicles placarded for hazardous materials under the CDIP.

Everyone applying for a commercial driver's license ideally should get formal training from a professional trucking school. While you might be able to pass the knowledge test by merely studying the Commercial Driver Guide, passing the skills test will require training and experience. Furthermore, driving commercially demands a level of professionalism, specialized knowledge, and understanding of unique safety considerations that don't come naturally. They need to be taught to you by a professional.

Community colleges and private truck driving schools can teach you what you need to know. These courses usually run a few weeks. Sometimes your employer will train you, in which case they might even pick up the cost.

Knowledge (Written) Test

For extensive information about obtaining a CDL, download the Commercial Driver Guide. This free manual contains all the information you need to pass the written knowledge test for your CDIP. Each endorsement has its own quiz in addition to the general exam. You'll be required to pass all knowledge tests with a minimum score of 80% in order to proceed with your CDL application.

Bring the following items when you are ready to take the knowledge tests:

  • Washington driver's license.
  • Social Security card.
  • Applicable testing fees ($10 per test).
  • Processing and license fees.

Skills (Driving) Test

The skills test has three components: the pre-trip vehicle inspection, the basic control test, and the on-road driving test. If you aren't successful the first time you take the skills test, you have to fulfill the following waiting periods before you may retake the portion you failed:

  • Pre-trip inspection retest: 3 days.
  • On-road retest: 7 days.
  • Basic control retest: 3 days.

You will be taking the skills tests with a third-party contractor who is approved by the Washington Department of Licensing. The fee for the skills test is no more than $100 per test; an additional $100 will be charged for each retest.

Questions? Call the CDL Program at (360) 902- 3619 Ext. 1.

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