Applying for a New CDL in Montana
Barreling down the highway behind the wheel of a powerful machine—and getting paid to do it? It's possible, if you get your commercial driver's license (CDL).
The process involves following the national protocols set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and earning your license through the Montana Motor Vehicle Division (MVD), which is a branch of the MT Department of Justice (DOJ).
IMPORTANT FEDERAL TRAINING REQUIREMENTS UPDATE
Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the MT Motor Vehicle Division 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 a Montana CDL?
To be eligible for a Montana commercial driver's license, you'll need to be:
- 18 years old, to operate commercial vehicles within Montana only (called intrastate driving).
- 21 years old, to drive commercially outside of Montana (called interstate driving).
You'll also be able to apply whether or not you currently have a Montana driver's license, but it will make a difference in the type of identification you'll need to bring to the MVD office:
- For drivers WITH a non-commercial MT driver's license—You'll need to provide your:
- Social Security number (SSN).
- Proof of authorized presence in the United States. Examples include your:
- Original birth certificate.
- Valid U.S. passport.
- Valid permanent residency card.
- For drivers without a standard Montana driver's license—You'll need to supply your:
- Social Security number (SSN).
- Proof of:
- Legal presence in the U.S. (see examples above).
- Identity (2 documents)—examples include:
- Out-of-state driver's license.
- Military ID card.
- Montana residency—examples include:
- MT voter registration card.
- Rental or mortgage agreement.
You can check out the Motor Vehicle Division's guide to identification documents for the full list of acceptable identification paperwork.
MT Commercial Learner's Permit
Before you can get your commercial driver's license, you'll have to get your commercial learner's permit (CLP).
To help make sure you're as successful as possible, it may be a good idea to take a CDL education course first. While this step is not required by either the FMCSA or the MT Motor Vehicle Division, it can often be the difference between passing your exams on your first try or needing to re-take them later!
When you feel ready to dive in, schedule an appointment with your local MVD office, and be prepared to:
- Bring all proper forms of identification (see above for details.)
- Have your medical paperwork with you (see below).
- Submit to a driving record check.
- If you have been licensed anywhere else within the last 10 years, you must disclose which states you were licensed in.
- Pass a vision test.
- Pay any testing fees.
- Call ahead to inquire about exam fees.
Once you've completed all of the above, it's time to celebrate, because you'll be issued your commercial learner's permit!
CLP Restrictions in Montana
Getting your commercial learner's permit is an important first step toward your CDL, but while you have it, you'll have to follow a few additional rules:
- You must hold your CLP for at least 14 days before you're allowed to take your behind-the-wheel skills exam.
- You can practice driving on public roads only.
- While practicing, you must always be accompanied by a full CDL holder licensed to drive the same class of vehicle.
If, after 14 days, you're not quite ready to take your skills test, it's okay! Your permit will be valid for 180 days and you may renew it once before it expires.
Obtaining Your MT CDL
When at least 14 days have passed and you feel ready to continue, it's time to take on the final step in this process: the skills exam.
You'll need to arrange to take the test in the same type of vehicle you want to operate with your commercial driver's license. Since you'll technically still be a commercial learner's permit holder, you'll also need to be accompanied by a full CDL holder.
Schedule another appointment with your local Montana CDL testing office, and make sure to bring:
- Your commercial learner's permit (CLP).
- Your regular, non-CDL Montana license.
- Information for the vehicle you'll be taking the test in, including its:
- Registration card.
- Proof of insurance.
- Registration card for the trailer, if applicable.
The MT Motor Vehicle Division recommends arriving early for your appointment. Once everything is ready, the test is administered in several parts, including the:
- Pre-trip inspection.
- Basic vehicle control skills test.
- On-road driving exam.
If you fail any part of the test, you'll have to reschedule and start from the beginning. If you can't make it to your appointment, but do not call to cancel it, you may be charged an additional fee.
After you ace the exam, you'll just have to pay the appropriate fee, and then you'll officially be a commercial driver's license holder!
Fees for CDLs in Montana
Commercial driver license fees issued by the Montana Motor Vehicle Division are based largely on:
- Your age.
- The type of license you're getting.
Fees for applicants between 21 and 70 years old include:
- Intrastate CDL (driving only within Montana): $35.54.
- Interstate CDL (driving anywhere in the country): $41.72.
There may also be additional fees for obtaining your commercial learner's permit. Make sure to check with your local MVD office for any other costs they may charge.
If you don't see the fee for your age here, check out the full fee chart compiled by the Motor Vehicle Division.
CDL Medical Requirements
Everyone applying for a commercial driver's license in Montana must first be deemed physically fit for the job.
Make sure to get all of your medical paperwork in order before scheduling your initial MVD appointment. Don't forget to take them with you when applying for your commercial learner's permit.
You'll need to fill out the following documents:
- CDL Self-Certification Classification and Medical Documentation (Form 21-1201DG).
- Must be completed by a FMCSA-approved physician.
- Medical Examiner's Certificate (Form MCSA-5876).
If you have any questions about how to self-certify, you can check out the additional information on the process provided by the MT Motor Vehicle Division.
Montana CDL Military Testing Waivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Montana Motor Vehicle Division have created a program making it easier for veterans and current military members to obtain a CDL by waiving the skills test portion of the process.
To qualify, you'll need to:
- Be either currently enrolled in the military OR have left the service within 12 months of applying.
- Have some experience driving commercial vehicles or the military equivalent while in the service.
To apply, you and your commanding officer will need to fill out the Application for Military Skills Test Waiver (Form CDL Military Even Exchange).
Make sure to bring the form with you during your initial MT MVD visit.
NOTE: Eligible candidates will still need to pass all written tests and pay all applicable fees.
- CDL Military Even Exchange