Commercial Driver FAQs in Michigan

Who needs a commercial driver's license (CDL)?

You need to earn your CDL if you intend to:

  • Operate any single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 lbs. or more.
  • Tow another vehicle with a GVWR of 10,001 lbs. or more with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of all vehicles of 26,001 lbs. or heavier.
  • Operate any vehicle designed to transport 16 passengers or more people.
  • Operate any vehicle carrying hazardous materials in amounts requiring placards.

How do I apply for an original CDL?

Appear at a Secretary of State branch office to apply for a CDL. Bring along either your Social Security card, a W-2 income tax form, an employee paycheck stub showing your name and Social Security number, or a military identification card to prove your Social Security number. You also need to prove your Michigan residency.

You'll need to take a written test to obtain any commercial license. To earn an endorsement for hazardous materials, tank trucks, passenger vehicles, school buses, and double or triple trailers, you'll also need to take a written test specifically for each endorsement. If you'll be driving a vehicle with air brakes, you'll also need to pass a written test for that.

Hazardous materials endorsements additionally require you to present a Federal Security Threat Assessment.

After passing your written test, you will receive a temporary instruction permit (TIP) authorizing you to embark on behind-the-wheel training supervised by someone with a CDL for the type of vehicle you want to be licensed for.

Finally, you must pass an on-road driving test, also known as a skills test. You are required to first have a TIP before you are eligible to take the skills test.

What are the driving record eligibility requirements?

Your driving record will be checked before you can even apply for a CDL. You can be denied a CDL for:

  • Having a license from more than one state.
  • Having a suspended, cancelled, or revoked license within the 36 months before applying.
  • Conviction of any violation worth 6 points within 24 months before applying.
  • Conviction for DUI within 24 months before applying.

How old must I be to obtain a CDL?

You can drive a commercial vehicle in Michigan when you are 18 years old, but to cross state lines in such a vehicle you'll need to be at least 21 years old. If you transport hazardous materials, you'll also need to be 21 years old or older.

What are the driver qualification requirements for the CDL?

Even if you intend to operate only in Michigan, you must meet and comply with the federal commercial driver qualification requirements.

Are there CDL exemptions?

Yes. You won't need a Michigan CDL if:

  • You're on active duty in the military―or in the National Guard―and are operating military vehicles with military licenses.
  • You're a police officer or firefighter and are operating emergency vehicles.
  • You're a farm worker operating a farm vehicle within 150 miles of your farm. (You will need an "F" endorsement on your regular operator license if you're driving a combination vehicle whose towing vehicle weighs 26,001 lbs. or more.)
  • You are driving your own motor home.

What license fees do I pay?

  • CDL vehicle group designation: $25
  • CDL endorsements (if any): $5 each
  • Renewal: $38
  • Correction fee (if applicable): $9
  • Base Chauffeur: $35

What is required to convert my out-of-state CDL to a Michigan CDL?

Start with a visit to a Secretary of State branch office, where you'll have to turn in your out-of-state CDL. The office will check your driving record and perform a vision test.

You'll only need to take a written or road test if you are upgrading your group designation, adding endorsements, or removing an air brake restriction.

You will need to pass a written test to keep your hazardous materials endorsement.

I only drive a commercial vehicle occasionally. Do I need a CDL?

Yes. If you operate a commercial vehicle on public roadways, you need to be properly licensed at all times.

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