Applying for a New CDL in Arkansas
What's better than cruising down the open road? How about getting paid to do so? It's possible, if you wish to do it in a large commercial vehicle and get your Arkansas commercial driver's license (CDL).
The process is regulated nationally by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and in Arkansas, the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) Driver Services (ODS) is in charge of giving out licenses.
IMPORTANT FEDERAL TRAINING REQUIREMENTS UPDATE
Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the AR Driver Services now mandates new CDL applicants complete an entry-level driver training course through an authorized provider. You’ll need to complete this training prior to applying for your first commercial driver’s license, upgrading your existing CDL class, or applying for a HAZMAT, school bus, or passenger endorsement.
Who Can Get an Arkansas CDL?
To be eligible for an Arkansas commercial driver's license, you'll need to:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Have a valid regular driver's license.
If you're under 21 years old, you will only be allowed to drive a commercial vehicle within Arkansas—referred to as intrastate driving.
If you're transferring your CDL from another state to Arkansas, you'll have to do so within 30 days of establishing your AR residency. Follow the instructions below to transfer your out-of-state commercial driver's license.
Arkansas Commercial Learner's Permits
There's one step you'll have to take before you can drive commercial vehicles on your own in Arkansas and beyond: getting your commercial learner's permit (CLP).
While it's not required by either the ODS or the FMCSA, both agencies recommend getting some CDL education before you begin the licensing process.
Once you feel ready, schedule an appointment to take your CDL written exams. All commercial driver license testing in AR is overseen by the Arkansas State Police.
- Provide proof of U.S. citizenship/lawful permanent residency. Acceptable documents include:
- Valid, unexpired U.S. passport.
- Certified copy of your birth certificate.
- Certificate of naturalization or citizenship.
- Bring the proper medical paperwork.
- Show them proof of your AR address. Documents must also include your full name.
- Submit to a driving record check.
- You'll need to name any state(s) where you held a license in the last 10 years.
- Pay the $50 CDL testing fee.
To get your commercial learner's permit, you'll also have to take the proper written tests for the class of commercial driver license you want. When you pass, the ODS will issue your Arkansas CLP.
CLP Restrictions in Arkansas
Just like with a regular learner's permit, your CLP comes with a couple of rules and restrictions, written by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. While you have your CLP, you will only be allowed to drive on public roads, while accompanied by a full CDL holder.
You will also have to practice on your commercial learner's permit for a certain period of time before the Driver Services will let you take your skills test to earn your commercial driver's license. While the federal law mandates a waiting period of 14 days, this could be different for you.
Make sure to check with your local ODS office about the specific waiting period in Arkansas.
Getting an AR Commercial Driver License
To turn your CLP into a CDL, you'll have to return to an Arkansas State Police testing facility or a third-party tester to take your commercial driver's license skills exam. This consists of several parts, including a:
- Pre-trip vehicle inspection.
- Basic vehicle control test.
- On-road driving exam.
Make sure you can take this part of your test in the same type of vehicle you want to operate with your commercial driver license. If you can't, there might be a restriction placed on your CDL.
After you pass your tests, pay the $42 CDL fee and celebrate, because you're a commercial motor vehicle driver!
CDL Fees in Arkansas
The Arkansas Driver Services charges the following for commercial driver's licenses and other related services:
- Commercial driver's licenses test fee: $50.
- Commercial driver's license: $42.
Many states also require additional fees for each endorsement you have. If you're interested in getting an endorsement, ask the ODS if there's an extra charge.
CDL Medical Requirements
Before you can get your commercial learner's permit, you'll need to have the proper medical paperwork to hand into the Arkansas ODS office.
All CDL holders in AR are required to fill out a Self-Certification Affidavit. You'll need to indicate the type of driving you expect to be doing with your commercial driver's license. The AR Driver Services has created a guide to help you certify.
You’ll must submit a Medical Examiner’s Certificate* (Form MCSA-5876) along with your self-certification ONLY if you are certify as a:
- Non-excepted interstate driver.
- Non-excepted intrastate driver.
Your medical certificate must be completed by a certified medical examiner.
If you have more questions, check out the FAQ page put together by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
*Your medical certificate typically expires every 2 years, but the examiner can choose to set the expiration date sooner based on certain medical conditions. Repeat the self-certification process before your certificate expires.
Arkansas Military CDL Waivers
The FMCSA has created a program to help current service members and recent veterans earn their CDLs by waiving the commercial driver's license skills exam.
You may qualify if you have some military experience driving a commercial motor vehicle or Armed Forces equivalent, and:
- Are currently in the military.
- Have been employed full-time by the military within a certain window of applying for the waiver.
Most states require you to file some additional paperwork at the time of applying for your commercial learner's permit. Check with your local ODS office to ask about their implementation of this waiver system, and to see if they need you to bring any extra forms.
For more information, you can consult our guide to the military skills test waiver.
AR CDL Classes, Endorsements & Restrictions
CDL Classifications in Arkansas
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has established several categories of CDL, each of which allowing you to drive different types of vehicles. The license classifications include:
- Class A CDL—Allows you to drive a combination of vehicles over a certain gross weight, such as a tractor-trailer.
- Class B CDL—Lets you drive a single vehicle over a certain gross weight, like a straight truck.
- Class C CDL—Permits you to drive all other types of vehicles over a certain weight not covered by Class A or Class B commercial driver's licenses.
Your application process may look a bit different depending on the class of CDL you want. Be prepared to take slightly different knowledge or skills exams. License fees may also be affected by the type of CDL you get.
For more information, check out our page on CDL classifications.
Arkansas CDL Endorsements & Restrictions
An endorsement is an extra certification you can add to your commercial driver's license that will allow you to operate a larger number of vehicles. You can earn an endorsement by taking extra written or skills exams and paying additional fees to the Driver Services.
The FMCSA will allow CDL holders to get endorsements for driving:
- HAZMAT vehicles.
- School buses or other passenger vehicles.
- Double or triple trailers.
- Tank vehicles.
A restriction is essentially the opposite of an endorsement; it limits the number of vehicles you're permitted to drive. You could have a restriction placed on your CDL for a number of reasons, including:
- Taking your CDL skills test in the wrong type of vehicle.
- Not being able to operate full air brakes.
- Not being able to drive a manual transmission.
Restrictions can usually be removed from your license, however, as long as you can pass extra tests and pay some additional fees.
To read up on more general information on how endorsements and restrictions work, check out our CDL Endorsements & Restrictions page.