Commercial Driver FAQs in California
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For current or potential commercial drivers in California, there are quite a few questions you may have about trucking in the Golden State. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about CDLs in California.
What's the minimum age requirement for a commercial driver's license (CDL)?
To be eligible for application, you must be at least 18 years old. However, in order to drive certain types of vehicles requiring endorsements (such as HAZMAT, for example), OR to drive a commercial motor vehicle between states (as opposed to within California exclusively), you must be at least 21 years old.
What are the different classes of CDLs?
There are 3 different CDL classifications that distinguish the type of vehicle you are allowed to operate. They are:
- Class A: Required to operate any gross combination of vehicles weighing at least 26,001 lbs. that includes a towed vehicle of over 10,000 lbs.
- Class B: Required to operate any single vehicle weighing 26,001 lbs. or more, OR this type of vehicle also towing another with a GVWR of up to 10,000 lbs.
- Class C: Required to operate any commercial vehicle not defined by class A or B definitions, AND EITHER carries at least 16 passengers OR transports hazardous materials.
For more, visit our page on CDL Classifications.
What kind of vehicles can I operate with a Class A, B, or C commercial driver's license?
A few of the vehicles you may be able to drive (with the right endorsement) include:
- Tractor trailers.
- Truck and trailer combinations, including:
- Double trailers.
- Triple trailers.
- City buses.
- Delivery trucks.
- Construction vehicles.
- HAZMAT vehicles.
- Passenger vans.
- School buses.
Visit our guide to CDL Classifications for more information.
How do I apply for a CDL in California?
You will need to perform a number of actions, including:
- Completing a California CDL Application (Form DL 44C).
- Having an authorized physician complete a Medical Examination Report (Form MCSA-5876).
- Passing a written knowledge and signs test.
- Passing a road skills test.
For full details, visit our step-by-step guide to Applying for a CDL in California.
Do I have to submit a 10-Year History Record Check to get a CDL?
Yes, if you have been issued a driver's license in the past 10 years in another state or under a different name.
Do I have to get a medical examination for a CDL license application?
Yes, all CDL applicants must submit a Medical Examination Report (Form MCSA-5876) from a qualifying physician. This step is needed in order to ensure you will be physically able to operate a commercial vehicle.
The certificate you receive if you pass the medical examination will be valid for 2 years. However, if you are a school bus driver 65 years old or older, you will be required to get your certificate renewed annually.
Are there any special requirements for a HAZMAT endorsement?
In addition to being 21 years old or older and passing a written knowledge test, you must also complete a TSA security threat assessment. For further details, visit our CDL HAZMAT Endorsement page.
What do I need to do to drive a school bus?
To drive a school bus, you will need to have a P endorsement on your CDL license. To obtain these endorsements, a written knowledge test and a road skills driving test will be required.
Visit our guide to CDL Endorsements & Restrictions for details.
Will my employer be notified if I receive a traffic violation?
Probably. In California, the Employee Pull Notice (EPN) program notifies the employers of CDL holders of violations:
- During enrollment.
- Annually from your date of enrollment.
- If any of the following are added to your driving record:
- Driving offenses resulting in a conviction.
- An accident.
- Failure to appear in court.
- Suspensions placed on your license.
Is it easier to get a CDL if I was in the military?
Possibly. In California, the Troops to Trucks program helps military veterans who have operated similar vehicles during their service to obtain a commercial driver's license. This includes waiving qualified veterans from the road skill test.
For more information about veterans and CDLs, see our CDL Veterans Waiver page.
I have a commercial learner's permit (CLP) and took a road test through my employer. Do I still need to take the California road skills test to receive my CDL?
If your employer is certified to test as a third party through California's Employer Testing Program (ETP), you may not need to complete the road skills test to receive your CDL.
Upon completion of your road test, your employer must issue a Certificate of Driving Skill (Form DL 170 ETP ). Once you submit this certificate to the DMV, you will be issued a CDL for the classification you tested on.
I'm a farmer and use a 1-ton pickup truck to pull a large trailer. Do I need a CDL?
No, IF the following conditions are true:
- Your truck and trailer weight is between 10,000 lbs. and 15,000 lbs.
- Your vehicle is being used for agricultural purposes only (not for hire).
- You are driving no further than 150 miles from your farm.
If I fail the written knowledge test or the road skills test, am I allowed to retest?
Yes. For the examinations, you are allowed up to 3 attempts on the written exam and 3 attempts on the skills test to achieve a passing score.
Certificate of Driving Skill - DL 170 ETP
Form is filed with the DMV to certify your commercial vehicle driving skills as evaluated by an examiner. Only for those in ETP.
Medical Examination Report - MCSA-5876
You must submit this medical form when applying for a CDL OR other special vehicle classes (e.g. school buses or farm vehicles) in CA.