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Applying for a New CDL in Washington DC

Do you have a knack for driving? Do you like to travel, or like always having somewhere new to go? You might enjoy a career driving commercial vehicles, but in order to do so, you'll need your commercial driver's license (CDL).

Getting one requires not only following the licensing process overseen by the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), but abiding by all of the national regulations created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Eligibility Requirements for WA D.C. CDLs

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

  • Have a valid, non-commercial D.C. license.
  • Be at least:
    • 18 years old to drive within D.C. only—called intrastate driving.
    • 21 years old to drive outside of D.C.—called interstate driving.
  • Have at least 2 years of driving experience.

You'll also need to bring in the proper paperwork to prove to the DMV your:

  • Social Security number (SSN).
  • District of Columbia residency.
  • U.S. citizenship/permanent residency.

The D.C. DMV provides guides to acceptable identity documents as well as proof of residency and SSN.

D.C. Commercial Learner's Permit

Before you can get your CDL, you'll have to get your CLP—that is, commercial learner's permit.

The process is a bit complex, so consider taking a commercial driver license education course first, to help ensure you're as successful as possible. This step, however, is not required by either the FMCSA or the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

When you feel ready to begin, visit the DMV CDL office located in Brentwood and:

  • Provide your:
  • Submit to a driving record check:
    • Over the past 10 years.
    • In all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.
  • Pay the permit and testing fees:
    • CLP: $78.
      • Endorsements: $20 each.
    • Testing: $10 per knowledge test.

At this appointment, you'll also have to pass all written exams for your chosen license classification, as well as any endorsements you hope to add.

Keep in mind, you'll have to schedule your test for no later than 2 hours before the DMV closes.

After all of the above is complete, you'll earn your WA D.C. commercial learner's permit!

The District of Columbia will issue you a temporary permit for 45 days, and mail your official document to you.

Your CLP will be valid for 180 days, and you'll be able to renew it oncewithin 30 days of its expiration date—keeping it valid for an additional 180 days.

What Happens If I Fail?

If you don't ace all of your exams the first time around, it's okay!

The D.C. DMV will allow you to retest, but you'll have to wait 3 days in order to do so.

However, if you fail the test 6 times within 12 months, you'll have to wait an entire 12 months from the date of your first failed test to try again—so make sure to study your CDL manual, or even better yet, take a CDL education course or some practice tests!

CLP Restrictions in D.C.

After completing the initial commercial learner's permit process, the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles will issue you a temporary paper permit valid for 45 days. You'll receive your official CLP from the agency in the mail.

In the meantime, while practicing with your commercial learner's permit, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations will restrict you to driving:

  • On public roads only.
  • Only while accompanied by a full CDL holder.
    • Must be licensed to drive the same class of vehicle.

You'll have to wait at least 30 days after receiving your CLP to schedule the skills test where you'll earn your full commercial driver's license.

If you're not ready at that point, it's okay. Your commercial learner's permit will be valid for 180 days.

If you're still not ready at that point, you can renew it once—as long as it's 30 days before its expiration date. This will keep your CLP valid for an additional 180 days.

Getting Your D.C. Commercial Driver License

One final step remains between you and your WA D.C. CDL: the skills exam.

When at least 30 days have passed and you feel ready, make a skills exam appointment directly through the DMV's online portal. You'll need the driver's license number that appears on your commercial learner's permit to do so.

Keep in mind while scheduling that:

  • The test takes about 2 hours to complete.
  • You're asked to show up to your appointment 15 minutes early.

Print the confirmation page for your appointment and bring it with you to the exam, along with your:

  • Commercial learner's permit.
  • Non-commercial Washington, D.C. driver's license.
  • Medical paperwork (see below for details).
  • Payment for your fees:
    • $10 skills test fee charged for each section of the test.
    • $117 commercial licensing fee.

You'll also need to arrange to take the test in the same class of vehicle you intend to operate with your commercial driver license, and bring its:

  • Registration.
  • Proof of insurance.

Since you'll technically still be a CLP holder, you'll need to be accompanied by a full CDL-holder who is:

  • At least 21 years old.
  • Licensed to drive the same class of commercial vehicle.
  • Has the same endorsements as you, if applicable.

The test itself consists of several parts, including the:

  • Pre-trip inspection.
  • Basic vehicle control.
  • On-road test.

Once you've successfully completed each part, you'll be able to claim your full commercial driver's license!

You'll have to return to the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles office, where your CDL will be issued. Congratulations!

What Happens If I Fail?

If you can't make it through the skills exam on your first try, it's okay! The D.C. DMV will let you retake the test, but you'll have to wait 60 calendar days.

If you fail again, you'll have to wait 90 calendar days before another retest will be available to you.

Can I Cancel My Exam?

You can, but you'll have to do so at least 48 hours in advance, or else you'll:

  • Automatically fail.
  • Be charged a cancellation fee.
    • Payable upon your next DMV interaction.

To cancel your commercial driver license skills test, you'll need to call the Washington, D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles at (202) 737-4404.

CDL Fees in WA D.C.

The District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles currently charges the following for CDLs and related services:

  • Knowledge (written) exam: $10 per test.
  • Endorsements: $20 each.
  • Commercial learner's permit: $78.
  • Skills exam: $10.
  • Commercial driver's license: $117.

CDL Medical Certification Requirements

To be eligible for a District of Columbia commercial driver's license, you'll need to be considered physically fit.

You'll have to get medically certified before you apply for your commercial learner's permit.

To do so, you'll need to complete a:

You'll also have to go through a process called self-certification, where you declare to the district the type of driving you intend on doing.

You can self-certify online, directly through the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

The DMV has also created an FAQ page for the self-certification process.

D.C. CDL Military Test Waivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles have created a program to help certain veterans and service members receive a CDL more easily by waiving the skills test.*

To qualify, you'll need to:

  • Be EITHER:
    • Currently enlisted in a military position requiring you to drive a military vehicle equivalent to a commercial vehicle;
      OR
    • Have been discharged from such a position within 90 days of applying.
    AND
  • Be at least 21 years old and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Have a valid, non-commercial D.C. driver's license.
  • Have 2 years of experience driving commercial vehicles for the military.
  • Show at least 2 years of good driving on your driver history immediately prior to application.

To apply, you will need:

Bring the above with you when applying for a commercial learner's permit.

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

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