Commercial Driver's License (CDL)
You must be age 18 to apply for a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) to drive in Illinois and age 21 to drive outside Illinois. You must obtain a CDL if you operate:
- Any combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, providing the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
- Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
- Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
- A vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
- By law, drivers who hold a valid CDL must notify the Secretary of State's office of an address change or name change within 10 days and must obtain a corrected driver's license within 30 days.
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.
- Farm Operators — The farm operators' exemption is intended to cover legitimate farm-to-market operations by farmers, not commercial grain haulers. If the farmer, his spouse and their children, parents on both sides, brothers and sisters on both sides and their spouses are operating a truck-tractor semi-trailer combination or combinations and meet the below criteria, they are also exempt from the CDL Program. However, these drivers must be age 21 and the vehicle must have Farm plates. CDLs are not required to operate vehicles that are:
- Controlled and operated by a farmer, a member of the farmer's family or an employee;
- Used to transport farm products, equipment, supplies or a combination thereof to or from a farm (including nurseries and aquacultures);
- Used within 150 air miles of the person's farm;
- Not used in the operations of a common or contract motor carrier; and
- Used in nursery or agricultural operations.
- Firefighting Equipment Operators — Because firefighting organizations have extensive initial training and re-training requirements for their equipment operators, Illinois waives CDL requirements for operators of firefighting equipment owned or operated by or for a government agency. The firefighting and other emergency equipment must have audible and visual signals. The equipment must either be necessary for the preservation of life or property or used in the execution of emergency governmental functions that are normally not subject to general traffic rules and regulations.
- Recreational Vehicle Operators — Illinois waives CDL requirements for drivers of a recreational vehicle primarily operated as family/personal conveyance for recreational purposes. This includes motor homes and travel trailers.
- Military Vehicle Operators — U.S. Department of Defense military vehicles being driven by non-civilian personnel for military purposes are exempt from CDL requirements. This includes any driver on active military duty, members of the Reserves, National Guard, personnel on part-time training and National Guard military technicians.
- Township Employees — An employee of a township or road district with a population of less than 3,000, driving a vehicle within the boundaries of the township or road district for the purpose of removing snow or ice from a roadway by plowing, sanding or salting, is waived from CDL requirements. This exemption is allowed providing that the employee who ordinarily operates the vehicle and holds a properly classified CDL is unable to operate the vehicle or is in need of additional assistance due to a snow emergency.
- Class A — Combination of vehicles with a GCWR* of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the GVWR of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
- Class B — Single vehicle with a GVWR* of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
- Class C — Single vehicle with a GVWR* of at least 16,001 pounds but less than 26,001 pounds.
- Class D — Single vehicle with a GVWR* of less than 16,001 pounds.
- *GCWR — Gross Combination Weight Rating
- *GVWR — Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
- Air Brakes — Further testing is required is required if the vehicle is equipped with air brakes. An "L" restriction is placed on a CDL if an individual is not able to operate a vehicle that is equipped with air brakes. To qualify to operate a vehicle equipped with air brakes, an applicant must successfully pass the written air brake test and take the CDL skills test in a vehicle equipped with air brakes. To remove an "L" restriction from a CDL, an air brake written test and a drive test in a vehicle equipped with air brakes are required.
- Combination Vehicle (X) — Further testing is required to drive combination vehicles.
- Passenger Endorsement (P) — Further testing is required to drive a vehicle designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
- Charter Bus Endorsement (C) — Further testing is required to drive a bus transporting students involved in school sponsored activities.
- Doubles/triple Endorsement (T) — Further testing is required to drive double or triple trailers.
- Hazardous Materials Endorsement (H) — Further testing is required to drive a vehicle transporting hazardous material that requires placarding. The hazardous materials endorsement written test must be successfully completed each time your CDL is renewed.
- School Bus Endorsement (S) — Further testing is required to drive a yellow school bus transporting students to and from school and/or school-related functions.
- Tank Endorsement (N) — Further testing is required to drive a vehicle designed to carry any liquid or gaseous material within a tank that is permanently or temporarily attached to the vehicle or the chassis.
Farm-Related Services Restricted CDL
A seasonal restricted CDL may be issued for 90 to 180 days in any 12-month period and is valid only within 150 miles of the employer's place of business. There is a fee for this license and the holder must meet the following requirements:
- Be employed by a farm retail outlet and/or supplier, agri-chemical business, custom harvester or livestock feeder.
- Hold a valid Class B non-CDL.
The holder's driving record must not contain any of the following within the last two years:
- Multiple licenses
- Driver license suspension, cancellation or revocation of any kind
- Conviction for driving any type of motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), leaving the scene of an accident or committing any felony involving a motor vehicle
- Convictions for serious traffic violations (i.e. speeding at 15 mph or more than the posted limit; reckless driving; improper or erratic lane changes; following too closely)
- Conviction for accident-related traffic law violation and record of at-fault accidents If you are convicted of any of the above violations while operating a commercial motor vehicle after receiving a Farm-Related Services Restricted CDL, you will lose your restricted commercial driving privileges through invalidation and/or disqualification action. Periods of disqualification range from two months to life depending on the severity of the offense.
- New applicants not possessing a Class A, B, or C Illinois CDL — $60
- Additional $5 fee for applicants renewing a L or M license.
- Applicants renewing a current Illinois CDL — $60
- Additional $5 fee for applicants renewing a L or M license.
- Applicants renewing a current Illinois Limited School Bus CDL — $20
- Applicants possessing a non-CDL upgrading to a CDL — $50
- Applicants possessing a CDL upgrading to a different class CDL — $5
- Applicants possessing a CDL adding/changing an endorsement/restriction — $5
Persons who drive commercial motor vehicles (CMV) are subject to minimum physical qualifications. 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 interstate 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 — http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/safetyprograms/Medical-Report.pdf.
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 — http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/safetyprograms/Medical-Examiners-Certificate.pdf
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 — https://nationalregistry.fmcsa.dot.gov/NRPublicUI/Drivers.seam
Road Tests — A motorist must drive an approved predetermined route for a CDL Road Test. A map of the route along with a narrative explaining the maneuvers must be submitted with your applications. Once a test route is established and approved, it may be used indefinitely for certification. A CDL test route design must incorporate all the specified maneuvers listed below:
- Four left and four right turns — Include turns at traffic lights, stop signs and uncontrolled intersections. Turns should range from easy to somewhat difficult for a heavy vehicle. A mix of types of intersections should be included.
- Straight section of urban business street — The section should be one to two miles long, contain through intersections and intersections with traffic lights, and have moderate traffic density. Try to get a section where the driver can make lane changes along the route. The section should be one that lets you see how the driver copes with traffic in a typical business area.
- One through intersection and two intersections where a stop has to be made — If possible, these intersections should be included in the urban section.
- One railroad crossing — Try to get an uncontrolled crossing. The crossings should have enough sight distance for you to see if the driver makes search head movements when approaching each crossing. The driver's attempt to look left and right down the track will often be the only way you can tell if the driver noticed the crossing. If you do not have a railroad crossing in your area, do the following:
- For bus and HAZMAT applicants, create a simulated railroad crossing. This will be on a lightly traveled section of the street or road that contains a landmark that you can point out to the driver, and tell the driver to treat as a railroad crossing. The landmark can be an intersection, an entrance to the road, or even a billboard. Instruct the driver to do whatever he or she would do at a real railway crossing.
- For all other applications, simply add one extra through intersection to the route.
- Curve, either to the left or to the right — Try to get a curve that is tight enough to produce noticeable off-tracking on a tractor-trailer.
- Section of expressway or two-land rural or semi-rural road — You must have an expressway section if there is an expressway in or close to your testing area. The two-lane rural section may be used when there is no expressway available. The expressway section should be a four-lane controlled access highway such as an interstate. The section should start with a conventional ramp entrance and end with a conventional ramp exit. The section should be long enough for a heavy vehicle to do two lane changes during this section. The rural highway section should be at least two miles. Try to find a road that has at least a section with four lanes where lane changes can be made. In general, when you choose a section of rural road, look for something that gives driving challenges as close as possible to those found on an expressway.
- Downgrade steep that is long enough to require gearing down and braking. A steep short hill is the next best choice if a longer grade cannot be found. Try to find a grade where it should be obvious to a driver approaching the grade that the grade will require proper downgrade driving precautions.
- Simulated downgrade — Flat section of road where you can ask a driver to go through the motions of driving down a steep grade. The section should be about a quarter mile long, have little or no traffic, or have several lanes so a slow vehicle will not interfere with traffic. If the real downgrade on your route is likely to give a poorly prepared driver a problem, it is a good idea to locate the simulated grade so that it comes before the real grade.
- Upgrade steep long enough to require gear changing to maintain speed. A steep, short hill is the next best choice if a long grade cannot be found. You may use the same grade for both the downgrade and the upgrade if it is hard to find steep grades in your area.
- Downgrade for stopping where a vehicle can be safely stopped and parked for short period — The grade needs to be only steep enough to cause a vehicle to roll if the driver does not park properly. Remember that you only need a gentle slope to cause a heavy vehicle to roll.
- Upgrade for stopping where a vehicle can be safely stopped and parked for a short period — Use the same grade as you need to.
- One underpass, or low clearance, or a bridge — An underpass should have a posted clearance height and a bridge should have a posted weight limit. If you cannot find underpasses or bridges with posted limits, use ones that do not have posted limits. If you cannot find any low clearance or bridges, look for places that have signs a heavy vehicle driver should see (e.g., No Commercial Vehicles after 11 p.m. or Bridge with 10 Ton Weight Limit in 5 Miles).
Written Tests — CDL tests are administered only in English. To request an oral CDL computerized test at a facility equipped with automated written testing equipment, please contact the facility manager. In addition to the vision screening required for all drivers, all CDL applicants are required to pass a written exam, and most are required to pass a skills and driving exam.You may schedule CDL exams at Schedule a CDL Appointment or call 217-785-3013.
- Computerized Written Knowledge Exam — The computerized written knowledge exam consists of standardized multiple-choice questions, which all CDL applicants must answer. In addition, specialized exams are added if you wish to operate any of the following vehicles: vehicles with air brakes (also requires a skills and road test), combination vehicles, double or triple trailers, vehicles carrying hazardous materials, passenger-carrying vehicles, school buses or tanker vehicles.
- 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.
- Skills and Driving Exam — After passing the written exam, some drivers are required to pass a skills and driving exam. Each portion of the skills test must be taken in a vehicle representative of the license classification you wish to obtain. Proof of insurance is required for every vehicle prior to the exam. The exam is divided into three parts:
1. Pre-trip inspection of the vehicle.
2. Basic control skills exam.
3. Driving exam.
- Special Testing Requirements:
- Out-of-state applicants must take all CDL written and road exams to obtain an Illinois CDL.
- A CDL instruction permit expires one year from the issuance date. All CDL written exams must be retaken to renew an instruction permit. Written exams are valid for one year.
- A CDL holder requiring a Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) must complete a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) form and submit to a fingerprint background check.
Military Skills Test Waiver Program — Effective January 1, 2014, all CDL Secretary of State Facilities will begin to accept the new the new Application for Military Skills Test Waiver.
With this new 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 testing (pre-trip, skills and road) waived. After successful completion all the applicable written testing and payment of applicable fees, the skills testing will be waived for qualified applicants. To qualify the applicant must submit, within ninety (90) days of discharge, a fully completed and acceptable Application for Military Skills Test Waiver signed by their Commanding Officer. Download the Application For Military Skills Test Waiver. For further information, please contact your local CDL Secretary of State Facility.