California CDL Requirements – How do I get the License?

27 October, 2021

Find out below all about the California CDL requirements. What papers do I need? Where to go? And more…

California CDL requirements

To drive commercial vehicles in California, as it happens throughout the United States, it is necessary to obtain the CDL (Commercial Driver License).

Since 1986, the state’s traffic has been governed by the federal Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which aims to establish common conditions for commercial drivers in the United States.

See: How to be a truck driver for Walmart?

What is the CDL in California?

The CDL is a license to drive commercial vehicles, such as trucks of various sizes with different capacities, vans, or school buses.

This class of driver’s license requires a series of specific knowledge and driving skills that will be measured in different written and practical tests.

See: CDL New York Requirements – How do I get the license?

Types of CDL License in California

Within the fleet there are numerous vehicles or commercial transport machinery. For a better arrangement they are divided into classes or types.

The main variables that are taken into account for its classification are usually the weight of the vehicle alone or with a trailer, the type of materials it transports, or the passenger capacity it can move.

Class A

In this class or category are “combined” vehicles with a gross combined weight (GCWR) of more than 26,000 pounds (ca. 11,793 kg) and with a gross vehicle weight (GVWR) of the towed vehicle of more than 10,000 pounds (ca. 4,536 kg).

A driver with a Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) (plus endorsement endorsements if required) can also maneuver Class B, C and D vehicles.

Ejemplos de vehículos incluidos en la Clase A:

  • Tractor-trailers
  • Livestock carriers
  • Tanker vehicles
  • Double/triple trailers
  • Truck/trailer combinations, and
  • Tractor-trailer buses

Class B

Includes individual or combination vehicles where the GVWR of the individual vehicle is more than 26,000 pounds (ca. 11,793 kg). The vehicle being towed cannot exceed 10,000 pounds (ca. 4,536 kg).

A person with a California-issued Class B Commercial Driver License (CDL) (plus applicable endorsements) can also safely operate the vehicles listed in Class C or D.

Class C

Here are vehicles independently, or combination of vehicles, that do not meet the definition of Class A or Class B. Uses of these vehicles include transporting 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or for transporting hazardous materials.

See: Trucking accident lawyer – Why do you need one, and where could you find it?

California CDL requirements

California CDL Requirements

In order to obtain the commercial license, it is necessary to comply with a series of requirements that we detail below.

  • At least 18 years to drive within the state
  • 21 years to drive from state to state
  • High School Diploma or GED (General Education Development)
  • California regular driver’s license for at least 1 year
  • Good driving record
  • Proof of California residency
  • Social security card (SSN)
  • Be able to show proof of insurance
  • 10-year criminal background check
  • TSA screening
  • Pass a medical examination

Once you have all the documentation, you will need to complete a CDL license application and go to a DMV office in the state of California. Next, you must apply for the provisional driving permit (CLP) to carry out the relevant practices.

To find a California DMV office near your location, click here. At these locations you can find specific information about California CDL requirements.

See: Requisitos para CDL en California – ¿Cómo obtener la licencia?

Medical requirements for CDL

All applicants for a California CDL must schedule a physical exam. The examining doctor must be taken from the list of the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. Upon successful completion of the process, you will be issued a federal medical card.

In the state of California, CDL truckers must complete an annual Medical Self-Certification Affidavit online or in person, NOT doing so is an offense that is liable to disqualification or suspension.

California CDL Requirements – CLP Conditional Permit

In a DMV office, you must make the CLP request that allows you to carry out driving practices with the machine or vehicle that you are going to operate or similar.

  • Visit a DMV office (appointments recommended)
  • Complete a form (DL 939) corresponding to the 10-year history check (DL 939)
  • Provide the completed Medical Examination Report (MER) Form (MCSA 5875) and Medical Examiner Certification Form (MEC) (MCSA 5876)
  • Prove your social security number (SSN)
  • Check identity
  • Proof of address in the state of California
  • Fingerprint scanning
  • Pass an eye exam
  • Take a picture
  • Pass the corresponding theoretical and practical tests
  • If you want a CDL REAL ID, you must provide proof of identity, SSN and residency

CDL testing in California

Applicants to obtain the California CDL will complete a minimum of a knowledge test (general and / or specific) and a driving skills test.

To prepare for the theory tests, you will need to study the Driver’s Manual.

CDL knowledge tests

In the application process, drivers must pass a basic knowledge test on road safety according to the type of class and vehicle.

CDL skills tests

Once the theoretical knowledge tests have been completed and passed, the CDL road skills tests can now be scheduled and completed. It can be freely done by doing it at a CDL office or a licensed private testing center.

Most of the tests are made up of 3 basic parts:

  • Vehicle inspection
  • Basic vehicle control and operation
  • Road test

How much is the CDL in California?

The total cost of each CDL license varies in the first instance depending on the different classes and their corresponding mandatory tests. The number of endorsements required for some categories is also a factor that affects the final cost.

To guide you in calculating a budget for your commercial license, we share the fees for the different instances of the process.

CDL classes A and B

  • Original License for CDL Classes A and B, $83
  • Skills test for A and B $38
  • Renewal for theft or loss, $37
  • Add endorsement other than PV $41
  • Passenger Transportation Endorsement (PV) $70
  • A firefighter endorsement $27
  • Name change $27

CDL class C

  • Original license (with / without driving test) $49
  • Renewal for theft or loss, $41
  • To remove an air brake restriction (DT required) $41
  • Add an endorsement that does not require a driving test, $41
  • Firefighter endorsement $27
  • For a name change $ 27

See: CDL traffic violations points in USA