Commercial Driver FAQs in Idaho

Who needs a CDL?

There are four stipulations that determine whether or not you need a CDL. It is possible, however, that you could be exempt even if your vehicle falls under the following categories:

  1. A vehicle and trailer with a combined gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 lbs. or more, provided that the weight of the vehicle being towed is over 10,000 lbs.
  2. A single commercial vehicle (CMV) that weighs 26,001 lbs. or more.
  3. Any vehicle meant to transport 16 passengers or more (including the driver).
  4. Any vehicle with a placard for hazardous materials.

Where can I find my vehicle's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)?

The GVWR is a weight rating assigned by the manufacturer for a truck, bus, or trailer, not to be confused with the vehicle's registered weight. Trucks typically bear the GVWR on a metal identification plate inside the driver's door. For trailers, you might have to look all over. Usually the front of the trailer on the driver's side is a good start. In Idaho, if a vehicle lacks such a rating, the GVWR will be measured by adding two values: the vehicle itself plus its heaviest load.

When am I exempt from needing a CDL?

Recreational vehicle exemption: for the non-business or recreational transport of personal possessions or family members.

Military vehicle exemption: for those considered active duty military personnel who are operating military vehicles or for civilians required to wear uniforms and who are subject to the Code of Military Justice.

Emergency vehicle exemption: for those operating firefighting or other emergency equipment in response to emergencies that involve the preservation of life or property.

Farm vehicle exemption: for those (including family members and farm hands) driving farm vehicles that are controlled and operated by the farmer, used in the transportation of agricultural products, supplies, and machinery to or from a farm, not used in common or contract carrier operations, and not driven more than 150 miles from the farm (as the crow flies).

This exemption applies only to farm-to-market operations taking place within Idaho. It does not cover farmers who are paid, in any way, to transport the products of fellow farmers.

Where do I apply for an Idaho CDL?

Your county driver's license office, where you will also take the written exams, is your last stop before obtaining a CDL. Once you gather all the necessary requirements and documentation, you can apply at the nearest facility. It's a good idea to call ahead first to see if you'll need an appointment to apply. Your county driver's license office is also a great resource for study material and any questions you might have regarding additional skills training.

How do I prepare for the tests?

To best prepare for the knowledge (written) tests and skills (road) test, study the state's Commercial Driver's License Manual as well as the Idaho Driver's Manual. Pick up both at your county driver's license office or download a PDF version of the Commercial Driver's License Manual, and familiarize yourself with all material associated with the written tests. The manual includes everything you will be tested on during the knowledge tests as well as information you will come across during the skills test.

You should also consider taking written practice tests for these exams. Check with your CDL school, the Idaho DMV, or online driver's education schools for these multiple-choice tests.

Can I get a learner's permit?

Once you have passed the written tests, you can obtain a CDL instruction permit (valid for up to 180 days) to get behind-the-wheel training on public roads and highways.

While using this permit, you must either hold a valid driver's license or have passed the appropriate vision, sign/symbol, and knowledge tests required to obtain one. You must also be accompanied by a CDL holder who is licensed to drive the vehicle that you are driving and who occupies the seat right beside you. However, permit holders cannot drive vehicles transporting hazardous materials.

What is a seasonal CDL?

A driver for certain farm-related service industries (such as custom harvesters, farm retail outlets and suppliers, agri-chemical businesses, and livestock feeders) only needs a seasonal CDL. It's only valid (with a Class D license) within 150 miles of the farm or place of business, for 180 days during a period of 12 months, and you can only obtain a seasonal CDL twice in your lifetime.

A seasonal CDL is not valid for driving every type of vehicle a traditional CDL allows. For example, you cannot drive Class A (combination) vehicles, passenger vehicles designed to carry 16 or more people (including the driver), or any vehicles that require placards for carrying hazardous materials. Contact your county driver's license office for additional information on obtaining a seasonal CDL, and its restrictions.

Can I have more than one driver's license?

No. You can only have one license, and it must be issued from the state where you reside. If you have recently moved to a new state, you have 30 days to get a CDL from that state. In Idaho, you must keep a current address on file with the Idaho Transportation Department. That means that every time you move, you have 30 days to notify the department (in writing) of your new address.

You can also drive a car or light truck when you hold a CDL, so you don't need a separate Class D license.

How much does it cost to obtain an Idaho CDL?

  • Initial CDL (4 years): $40
  • CDL instruction permit: $29
  • Replacement (duplicate) CDL or permit: $15
  • License upgrade: $25
  • Additional endorsements (after issuance of the CDL): $15 each
  • Knowledge (written) tests: $3 each
  • Skills test: $70 ($10 to the driver's license office and $60 to the skills tester

How long are my tests valid?

Your results will be valid for 1 year. The results are no longer valid after that time. If you have not yet met all the requirements for a CDL after 1 year, and you still want to apply for one, you must retake all exams.

What is the DOT medical certificate and how do I get one?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires each CDL applicant to take a physical exam to make sure they are medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle safely. You can receive this exam through any medical examiner who is licensed, certified, and/or registered with the state to perform such exams. This includes doctors of medicine and osteopathy, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, and chiropractors.

Once you pass the physical exam, you'll receive a certificate. Bring this certificate with you to the county driver's license office when you apply for a CDL.

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