Commercial Driver FAQs in Illinois

Who needs a commercial driver license?

Anyone who wants to drive commercial vehicles in the state of Illinois needs a commercial driver license, or CDL.

While we usually think of commercial drivers as truckers driving big rigs transporting goods, you need a CDL to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of at least 26,001 lbs. or more, as long as the GVWR of the vehicle being towed is heavier than 10,000 lbs.
  • A single vehicle with a weight rating of 26,001 lbs. or more, or any vehicle towing another that's less than or equal to 10,000 lbs.
  • All vehicles designed to transport 16 passengers or more, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

How old do I have to be to apply for a CDL?

Like most states, Illinois offers both an interstate CDL, available to drivers over 21 years old, and an intrastate CDL, which can be obtained by drivers 18 years old and older. This means that while you may drive commercially within Illinois once you turn 18 years old, you won't be allowed to drive a commercial vehicle across state lines until you're 21 years old.

What about out-of-state CDLs?

First off, federal guidelines dictate that you're only allowed to carry one driver's license. So when you move to Illinois, you'll need to give up your out-of-state license to get a CDL in Illinois. Applicants must do the following to change their out-of-state CDL for an Illinois CDL:

  • Turn in your out-of-state commercial driver's license.
  • Pass the vision and written tests for the license and any additional endorsements. The road test may be waived if your out-of-state CDL is equivalent to the one you are applying for in Illinois (i.e. the same license class and endorsements).
  • Verifiable proof of your full name, date of birth, Social Security number, current Illinois residency, and written signature.

Who doesn't need a commercial driver's license?

Drivers of farm vehicles may be exempt, or they may instead require a special type of CDL called a Farm-Related Service Vehicle CDL. This is a seasonal distance-restricted license.

Similar restrictions apply to exempt drivers of farm vehicles; the exemption is designed to cover only family members or farm employees operating family-owned vehicles used expressly for farming-related purposes.

Are there any other CDL waivers or exemptions?

There are some other Illinois CDL waivers and exemptions, including those for people helping operate snowplows and other civic vehicles.

You can drive your RV, motor home, or travel trailer without a commercial license. Firefighters can drive fire trucks, and those in the military may drive military vehicles without an Illinois CDL

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