California CDL License Requirements. What You Need to Know.California-ADOT-Logo

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A commercial driver license is a license issued in accordance with Federal Regulations that allows an individual to operate a commercial vehicle. Federal regulations require that an applicant be 18 years or older to apply for a commercial driver license (CDL) and be issued a commercial instruction permit.

You must be at least 21 years old to drive a commercial vehicle across state lines (interstate commerce) or hazardous materials or wastes (intrastate or interstate commerce). You may drive for hire within California if you are 18 years of age or older and do not engage in interstate commerce activities. (VC §12515) (VC §12516)

10 Year History Record Check

The Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, and applicable Federal Regulations requires all commercial driver license applicants including renewal applications to disclose whether he or she has been issued a driver license in the same or different name to operate any type of motor vehicle in another state or other jurisdiction within the previous ten years. If the answer is "Yes" to the ten year history record question, a 10 Year History Record Check form (DL 939) complete and submitted with the Commercial Driver License Application (DL 44C).


Starting May 31, 2005, new federal regulations require a person who is applying for a California commercial driver license with an original or renewal Hazardous Materials (HazMat) endorsement to undergo a security threat assessment. The USA Patriot Act requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to complete a security threat assessment (background records check) before the Department of Motor Vehicles issues a HazMat endorsement.

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TSA's Process

You start the TSA background records check after you apply for your CDL at DMV, successfully complete all appropriate law tests, and submit a valid Medical Examination Report form (DL 51). Go online www.hazprints.com or call 1-877-429-7746 to make an appointment with a TSA agent. You must submit a $94 federal fee and any additional required information to the designated TSA agent. The TSA agent will advise you of the fingerprint requirement. You must also provide the TSA agent with a DMV Commercial Instruction Permit and one of the following identification documents:


  • A California driver license and/or California identification card
  • An out-of-state driver license

There are certain limitations of the people who cannot be issued the California license. These are:


  • People who are under the age 16 years.
  • Anyone whose driving rights or privileges have been suspended or revoked in any state for any reason.
  • Anyone who is a habitual drunkard or a drug addict.
  • Terrorism
  • Murder
  • Assault with intent to murder
  • Espionage
  • Sedition
  • Kidnapping or hostage-taking
  • Treason
  • Rape or aggravated sexual abuse
  • Extortion
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Bribery
  • Smuggling
  • Immigration violations
  • RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violations
  • Unlawful possession, use, sale, distribution, or manufacture of an explosive device, firearm, or other weapon
  • Distribution of, intent to distribute, possession, or importation of a controlled substance
  • Dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation, including identity fraud
  • Crimes involving a severe transportation security incident
  • Improper transportation of a hazardous material
  • Conspiracy or attempt to commit any of these crimes

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Applying for Your CDL

Before you begin the process of applying for a commercial driver's license (CDL) from the California Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Division (DMV), use the information below to see if you truly need a Commercial Drivers License. You'll only need a CDL if you're driving a large vehicle for commercial use, either for you or your employer, or as a volunteer.. Many large vehicles, such as mobile homes and vehicles that haul a boat, don't require you to obtain a CDL.

The California CDL is based on weight to drive it, you will need to know the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and check the list:


  • If you will drive (truck and trailer) also known as a combination vehicle whose trailer has a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds and whose total GVWR with the truck is 26,001 lbs or more, you will need a Class A Commercial Drivers License.
  • If you will drive a vehicle whose GVWR is 26,001 pounds or more, you will need a Class B CDL. With the Class B license, you can also tow a trailer whose weight does not exceed 10,000 pounds.
  • If you will transport hazardous materials or 16 or more people (including the driver) and your vehicle does not otherwise meet the definitions of a Class A or B vehicle you will need to acquire a Class C license.

How to apply for a noncommercial driver license?

You may be eligible to renew your license by mail if you can answer No to all of the following questions:


  • Does your driver license expire more than 60 days from today's date?
  • Will you be 70 years of age or older when your current driver license expires?
  • Are you currently on any type of driving probation or suspension?
  • Did you violate a written promise to appear in court within the last two years?
  • Have you already received two consecutive four year extensions by mail?
  • Do you have a driver license from more than one state or jurisdiction?

The Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, and applicable Federal Regulations requires all commercial driver license applicants including renewal applications to disclose whether he or she has been issued a driver license in the same or different name to operate any type of motor vehicle in another state or other jurisdiction within the previous ten years

If you have a commercial driver license with a Hazmat Endorsement you are not eligible for renewal by mail.


If you qualify and have not received a renewal by mail, complete a California Driver License Renewal By Mail Eligibility Information form (DL 410 FO). If you have a commercial driver license you must complete Section 3A and 3B. If you check "Yes" to 3B because you have been issued a driver license in the same or different name to operate any type of motor vehicle in another state or other jurisdiction within the previous ten years, you must complete a 10 Year History Record Check form (DL 939), mail it in with your completed California Driver License Renewal By Mail Eligibility Information form (DL 410 FO) and enclose a check for the renewal fee to:


Department of Motor Vehicles
ATTN: Renewal By Mail Unit
PO Box 942890
Sacramento, CA 94290-0001

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