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Commercial Driver's License (CDL) and Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP)

Effective July 1, 2015, the new FMCSA CLP/CDL/Proof of Legal Presence Rules will take effect. Read More.

Requirements to Obtain an Original Illinois CLP or Transfer a CDL From Another State

Requirements For Existing Illinois CDL Holders

Vehicles Requiring a CDL

Drivers Exempt From Obtaining a CDL

Under state and federal law, certain drivers are not subject to the requirements of the CDL program. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has determined these exemptions will not diminish the safe operation of commercial vehicles on the highways. Although the following vehicle operators are not required to obtain CDLs, they are required to hold the proper driver's license classification for the type of vehicles they are operating.

A holder of a Non-CDL class A and B license is permitted to operate vehicles for the above purposes and other non-commercial vehicles at their class level or below.

A holder of a Non-CDL class A for farming purposes cannot operate a semi-tractor and trailer without the J-50 restriction.

CDL and Non-CDL Classifications

Upgrades, Endorsements and Air Brake Restrictions

Farm-Related Services Restricted CDL

A seasonal restricted CDL may be issued for 90 to 180 days during any 12-month period and is renewable. The license is valid only within 150 miles of the employer's place of business. The license holder must follow the restrictions as listed on the Restricted Class B CDL application and pay the appropriate fees.

To qualify the driver must meet the following requirements:


CDL Medical

Persons who drive commercial motor vehicles (CMV) are subject to minimum physical qualifications. Unless excepted (exempted) by Federal or State law, these physical qualifications require a medical examination. This physical examination is required to help ensure that a person is medically qualified to safely operate a CMV. In the interest of public safety, CMV drivers are held to higher physical, mental and emotional standards than passenger car drivers.

In general, drivers of commercial motor vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) in excess of 10,001 pounds and who are driving in commerce within the United States, Canada and Mexico must obtain medical certification from a Medical Examiner. Currently, a Medical Examiner is a person who is licensed, certified and/or registered in accordance with applicable State laws and regulations to perform physical examinations. The term includes but is not limited to doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathy, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses and doctors of chiropractic.

Any CMV driver must pass a medical examination conducted by a licensed medical examiner. A copy of the medical examination report can be obtained through the following link —

A CMV driver must be issued a Medical Examiner’s Certificate, which must be carried at all times and must be renewed every two years unless the medical examiner specifies a date of less than two years on the certificate. A copy of the required medical examination certificate can be obtained from the medical provider performing the medical examination, or through the following link —

Beginning May 21, 2014, all interstate CMV drivers seeking a medical certificate must use a Medical Examiner on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME). Medical certificates issued prior to this date are valid until the expiration date listed on the medical examination certificate. More information for CMV drivers concerning the NRCME can be obtained through the following link —

Print Medical Forms
Print Medical Examiner’s Certificate

All CDL holders must self-certify their medical status in order to renew or upgrade a CDL. All CLP applicants must self-certify along with conducting their initial knowledge testing. All initial medical self-certifications must be provided at a CDL facility.

All Non-excepted interstate (NI) CDL holders must provide a current and acceptable medical examiner's certificate, performed by a National Registry Medical Examiner, during this initial self-certification process. These CDL holders must continue to keep the medical certificate valid or change their medical category to one other than NI. These updates can be accomplished by providing the updated medical certificate in-person at a CDL facility, by mailing the certificate to: Illinois Secretary of State c/o CDL Medical Unit 2701 S. Dirksen Parkway Springfield, IL 62723 or by emailing a copy of the certificate to:

Further information in reference to the medical program may be obtained by: visiting, contacting IDOT at 217-785-1181 or the Secretary of State's CDL Medical Unit at 217-785-3002.


Knowledge/Written Tests — CDL knowledge/written tests are conducted utilizing a computerized system of random questions. These tests are administered in English only. The test(s) can be read by the applicant or the audio format (computer reads test) nay be requested. After attempting the testing utilizing the audio format, if the applicant desires to have the test read in person by SOS personnel, the applicant will need to request the appropriate information information from facility management to apply for an oral test.

The computerized General (Core) Knowledge written test is a general CDL test required of all applicants to obtain a CLP or transfer a CDL. This test consists of 30 standardized, random multiple-choice questions that cover a wide range of areas concerning the CDL laws, the CDL program and CDL vehicles.

In addition to the General Knowledge test, there are Classification (combination), Air Brake and Specialized Endorsement Knowledge test depending on the type/size of vehicle and its equipment and purposes.

Endorsement Knowledge/written tests include: double/triple trailers, vehicles carrying hazardous materials, passenger vehicles (16+ people), school and charter buses or tank vehicles. Applicants must score a minimum of 80% to pass each applicable test, with the exception of the School Bus test which is 90%.

Skills and Drive Testing — After passing the applicable knowledge/written testing, all CLP holders or transferring CDL holders are required to pass the skills/drive testing. All CLP holders, whether initial, renewal or upgrading existing CDL, will be required to hold their CLP for a minimum of 14 calendar days from the CLP issue date, prior to conducting their skills/drive testing.

Drive/Road Tests — All CDL applicants must drive an approved predetermined route for a CDL Road Test. The CDL Road Test route is determined by the requirements of federal and state law along with the roadways in the surrounding area of the CDL facility in which the test is being conducted.

Each portion of the skills/drive test must be taken in a vehicle representative of the license classification and type of vehicle you wish to drive, with the proper air brake system if so desired. You must schedule CDL skills/drive testing at Schedule a CDL Appointment or by calling 217-785-3013, option #4. Proof of vehicle insurance, valid license plates and current vehicle safety inspection(s) are required for every vehicle prior to the test. The testing is divided into three parts, Pre-trip Inspection test, Basic Control Skills test and Driving/Road test.

Special Testing Requirements/Rules

Third-time Fail Rule — CDL applicants who fail any CDL exam(s) three times are required to wait 30 days from the date of the third failed exam. Three additional failures (six total failures) of the same exam(s) will result in a 90-day waiting period. Three additional failures (nine total failures) of the same exam(s) after the 90-day waiting period will result in a one-year waiting period from the date of the last failed exam. The waiting periods apply only to the exam(s) failed three times. There will be additional fees charged after each three time fail waiting period to allow the applicant to continue testing.

CDL Transfers — Out-of-state CDL Holders (transfers in) who wish to obtain an Illinois CDL must take all applicable CDL knowledge/written testing and the skills/drive testing in a representative vehicle(s).

CLP Renewal — An original CLP expires 180 days from the date of initial issuance. The original CLP can be renewed one time for an additional 180 days. This renewal is permitted up to 30 days prior to expiration and up to 5 days after expiration without written/knowledge testing for the appropriate fee. All skills/drive testing that was passed under the original CLP will be forfeited. If an additional CLP is desired beyond the 180 day renewal CLP cycle, then the applicant will be required to conduct all applicable written/knowledge and skills/drive testing and pay the appropriate fee.

Adding/Renewing Hazardous Material Endorsement -- A CDL holder or applicant wishing to obtain or renew a Hazardous Materials (H) or a Combined Tank/Hazardous Materials (X) Endorsement must complete a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) threat assessment. See Hazardous Materials Endorsement for more information.

Military Skills Test Waiver Program

Through this program, current or recently discharged military personnel who wish to obtain an Illinois Commercial Driver's License (CDL) and can fulfill the necessary requirements will have the opportunity to have their skills/drive testing (pre-trip, skills and road) waived. To qualify the applicant must apply within 12 months of discharge and provide a fully completed and acceptable Application for Military Skills Test Waiver form signed by their Commanding Officer. After submitting the acceptable application form, plus successful completion of all the applicable written testing and payment of applicable fees, the skills/drive testing will be waived. For further information, please contact your local CDL Secretary of State Facility.

The above information is provided to assist CLP applicants and CDL holders with the necessary requirements but it is not meant to be all inclusive. For additional information, please refer to the Illinois Commercial Driver's web page, CDL Study Guide or the Federal FMCSA website.