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10 Steps to Getting Your Commercial License in Texas

Are you a Texas professional with a job that requires you to drive a commercial vehicle? Whether you’re hauling heavy gear, hazardous materials, or any other type of equipment, it’s important to make sure you’re legally cleared to do so.

If you’re interested in getting your commercial drivers license (CDL), there are a few important steps you’ll need to follow. Today, we’re sharing exactly what to do, where to go, and who to talk to. Read on to discover the step-by-step process to get a commercial license in Texas!

1. Meet Commercial Leaner Permit Requirements 

If you are applying for a Texas CDL for the first time, then you will need to hold a Commercial Learner Permit (CLP) first. You’ll also need to obtain your CLP if you’re upgrading your existing CDL to a higher class, such as:

  • Class C to Class B or Class A
  • Class B to Class A

In addition, you’ll also need to complete a designated CLP period if you’re adding a passenger or bus endorsement to a current CDL. Note that you’ll need to have a valid and up-to-date Texas driver’s license before you can apply for a Texas CLP. 

2. Gather Your CLP Documents

To move on to the next phase of this process, you’ll need to hold an active CLP for at least 14 days. This way, you can have two weeks to understand how it feels to be behind the wheel of a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) before you sit for your official exam.

You will need to provide proof of the following to apply for your CLP through the state of Texas:

  • Your U.S. citizenship
  • Your Texas residency
  • Your personal identification
  • Your medical status self-certification
  • Your social security number
  • A medical examiner’s certificate (as applicable)
  • Insurance information for every vehicle you own
  • Texas DMV registration information for your current vehicle

There are three different self-certifying medical forms that you can complete. These include CDL-4, CDL-5, or CDL-10. While some forms will require an accompanying medical examiner’s certificate, not all do. 

3. Apply For Your CLP

Once you have all of the right forms in place, you’re ready to submit your official CLP application. To save time at the driver’s license office, it helps to complete the application before you come in. 

Once you have filled out all of the required fields, you can make an appointment at your local driver’s license office. In addition to your application, remember to bring all of the aforementioned documents to prove your identity and driver status. 

4. Pay the CLP Application Fee

If you’re applying for a new CLP, then the application fee is $25. Likewise, a renewal permit will also cost $25. If the driver’s license office accepts your application and documents, your next step is to pay this fee.

5. Complete CLP Self-Identification Steps

Next, the driver’s license office will need to take your thumbprints to serve as further proof of your identity. Previously, all 10 fingerprints were required, but this condition changed in 2015. You’ll also get your picture taken for your official CLP. 

6. Pass CLP Tests and Exams

As with any driver’s license or permit, you’ll also need to pass a Vision Exam before you can receive your CLP. In addition, there are specific types of Knowledge Tests that you’ll need for your CLP. These include:

  • Texas Commercial Driving Rules
  • General Driver Knowledge
  • Combination (if applying for Class A license)
  • Air Brakes (only applicable for some drivers)

If you plan to add any special endorsements to your commercial license (such as a Hazardous Material Endorsement), then you will need to take Knowledge Tests for those topics, too. 

Once those written tests are complete, it’s time to take your Skills Test. Before the test, be sure to carefully review the Texas Commercial Driver License Handbook. This test will asses your ability to perform a variety of on-road maneuvers, from parallel parking to railroad crossings.

6. Complete Your Permit Period

With your valid CLP, you can practice driving the CMV on public roads. The only caveat? You can’t drive alone.

You’ll need to have a qualified CDL license operator sitting next to you. This operator must be at least 21 years old and their CDL classification should align with the type of CMV that you’re driving. 

Once you receive it, your CLP will remain valid for up to 180 days, or the date that your base driver’s license expires (whichever date comes first). If you need to renew your CLP, then you can do so one time, but the renewal must occur no more than 30 days before the license is set to expire. As long as you complete your renewal within the required timeframe, you will not be required to retake the knowledge exam to maintain your CLP. 

7. Apply For Your Commercial License in Texas

Once you’ve completed the mandatory CLP period, you are then eligible to apply for your Commercial Driver’s License. As with the CLP application, you can also download and complete this form prior to going in for your exam. 

You can find the CDL application online through the Texas Department of Public Safety. Then, you can schedule a visit to your local driver’s license office. 

As with your CLP, you’ll need to show proof of the following to the license and permit specialist:

  • Your CDL application
  • Your personal identification
  • Your social security number

As long as all of those documents are in place and deemed valid, you should be good to go. 

8. Pay the CDL Application Fee

Your next step is to pay the fee to receive your CDL license. This fee will vary depending on your age. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Age 18 to 84, new or renewal CDL license: $97
  • Age 18 to 84 new or renewal CDL license with Hazardous Material Endorsement: $61
  • Age 85 and older new or renewal CDL license: $26

These age brackets also come with their own sets of timelines for your CDL license. If you’re between the ages of 18 and 84, then your new CDL license will expire in eight years. If you receive a renewal, then that license will expire eight years after your last license expiration date. 

If you add a Hazardous Material Endorsement onto a new or renewal CDL, then that license will expire in five years. Likewise, if you are age 85 or older at the time of your new or renewed license, then that license will expire in two years, on your birthday.

As long as you completed and received your CDL in an official Texas driver’s license office and you do not have a Hazardous Material Endorsement, then you can renew your CDL online when that time comes. 

9. Complete CDL Self-Identification Steps

As you did for your CLP, you’ll also need to provide your thumbprints for your CDL license. In addition, you also will need to have your picture taken for your license. 

10. Pass CDL Tests and Exams

Finally, it’s time to put your CDL knowledge to the test! Once you’ve passed another Vision Exam, you can take the Driver’s Test. This consists of three individual parts:

  • A pre-trip vehicle inspection
  • A general Vehicle Control Test
  • A Road Test

The inspection is in place to make sure your vehicle is safe and capable of being legally operated on the road. Similar to a DOT inspection, it checks for a range of features, from a working horn to working brake lights.  

If you perform even a single dangerous or illegal maneuver during your test, then it will end immediately and you will receive an automatic failure. That’s why it’s so important to study the handbook and only schedule your test when you’re sure that you can pass it.

Remember: Even though you can technically apply for your CDL after only two weeks with your CLP, you can have it for up to 180 days! Take your time and don’t rush the process. It’s critical to stay safe on the road, and you’ll need time to prepare. 

Understanding CDL Waivers and Exemptions

Did your employer require you to obtain your CDL, even though you do not meet the physical requirements necessary to do so? There are a few conditions that can render you unable to receive this full license, including vision problem and limb-related issues.

If that is the case, then you may be able to apply for what’s known as a Texas Intrastate Vision Waiver, or a Texas Intrastate Limb Waiver. If you’re approved, then you will be able to use your CDL but only on the intrastate. Note that you’ll need to provide a valid medical examiner’s certificate if you want to go this route. 

Work Toward Your Commercial License in Texas

Having a commercial driver’s license can open new doors in your personal and professional life. This is an addition that can make you a more attractive candidate for future job offers, especially those in the transportation industry. 

If you’re ready to take the next step, then follow the process above to pursue your commercial license in Texas. If you approach this journey strategically and carefully, then you’ll be ready to hit the open road in no time!

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