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What A CDL Permit Allows You To Do And How To Get It


A commercial learner’s permit (CLP) is a permit that you receive after passing the general knowledge exam at your local Department of Motor Vehicles. The commercial learner’s permit allows you, by law, to drive a commercial vehicle as long as someone that already has a valid CDL is seated next to you in the vehicle. You need your CLP so that you can begin driving a commercial vehicle during your training.

What Is A CLP?

A CLP is a commercial learner’s permit, it is essentially the first step to getting a valid commercial driver’s license.

The CLP is important to you because without it you cannot do the behind the wheel training that you will need in order to learn how to drive a commercial vehicle. The CLP allows you to drive on public roads with a qualified CDL holder sitting next to you. The CDL holder sitting next to you must have a valid CDL for the specific vehicle you are driving.

For example, if you are training to drive a school bus the qualified person sitting next to you must have a valid CDL and be endorsed to drive a school bus. More information about endorsements you should visit this page here.

The FMSCA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) specifically says “that the CDL holder must at all times be present in the front seat of the vehicle next to the CLP holder.” Source: CLP Law

Who Needs A CLP?

Anyone that is seeking to drive a commercial vehicle by getting a CDL has to have a CLP before they can begin the driving portion of their training.

Whether you are seeking a Class A, Class B, or Class C CDL you will have to first pass the general knowledge test and meet all the eligibility requirements before you are issued a CLP. If you plan on driving everything from a tractor-trailer to a school bus to a hazmat tanker you will have to get you CLP in order to start driving.

Regardless of the type of training you are going to go through you won’t be allowed to practice behind the wheel driving until you have a CLP. Any CDL school or community college you go to for your CDL training will ask you if you have the CLP or ask you to receive it immediately.

Once you figure out the type of vehicle you want to drive then you apply for a CLP. If you need help determining which CDL you need you visit here.

How Do I Get A CLP?

Getting a CLP isn’t very difficult but there are some steps that you need to complete. I will walk you thorough each step so you know exactly what is expected of you. Note: these are the minimum requirements that all states have to follow but some states may have additional requirements. I always recommend you also check with your specific state, the best place to start is to look at your state specific CDL manual or call you local DMV.

Step 1: Eligibility

Determine if you are eligible- In order to get a CLP you have to be at least 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license in the same jurisdiction you are seeking a CDL in. Also, you will have your driving record checked for the last 10 years in all fifty states. Most states will want to see proof of name and residency on multiple documents.

Step 2: DOT Medical Exam

The second step to getting your CLP is to have a physical exam. In most states you are required to bring your proof of DOT medical exam with you when you apply for your CLP (Commercial Learner’s Permit). You can get more specific information about determining whether or not you need the DOT medical exam here.  Note: not everyone that has a CDL is required to pass a DOT physical exam.

Passing a DOT physical exam to get your DOT ME card (Department of Transportation Medical Examiner’s Card/Certificate) may be a requirement depending on the what and where you will be driving.

Step 3:The General Knowledge Exam

The third stop to getting your CLP is to pass the general knowledge test and necessary endorsement written tests. These multiple choice tests are often done on a computer at your DMV.

The general knowledge test is mandatory for all CDL candidates, for more specific information about it and how to prepare for it visit here.

There are only 3 endorsements that you are allowed to get on your CLP; the passenger endorsement, school bus endorsement, and/or the tank vehicle endorsement. For more information about endorsement go here. Below is an overview of the three endorsements you can get with your CLP.

Passenger endorsement: in order to get this endorsement you had to have taken and passed the general knowledge test and the passenger endorsement written test. Even though you have this endorsement you are only allowed to drive a passenger commercial vehicle that has no passengers on it. The passenger endorsement is for people that want to transport passengers of 16 people or more but not including school buses.

School bus endorsement: in order to get the school bus endorsement on your CLP you will have to pass the school bus endorsement written test at your DMV. Don’t worry, it’s only a written test. If you pass the test you are only allowed to practice driving a school bus that has no passengers on it.

Tank vehicle endorsement: getting your tank vehicle endorsement is that same as the other two, you have to study and pass a written test at the DMV. If you pass the written test and get the tank vehicle endorsement you can only drive a tank vehicle that is empty.

Once you have completed the application process, passed the DOT physical exam, and passed the general knowledge test and endorsement tests (if needed) you will be given a CLP and can officially start your CDL training.

Cost Of Getting Your CLP

The price you will have to pay at the DMV to get your CLP is usually between $45.00 and $100.00 depending on the state you are in. Check with your local DMV to get an exact amount.

What Does The CLP Look Like?

Once you get your CLP there is specific information that will be on it so that you can legally start the behind the wheel training of the commercial vehicle you chose.

The CLP will look like a regular state issued driver’s license except it will say “Commercial Learner’s Permit” across the top and will have the following information on it:

1. In some states it may be required to have your photo on the CLP.
2. Your full name, signature, and address.
3. Date of birth, sex, weight, and height.
4. Your state driver’s number.
5. The date the CLP was issued and when it expires.
6. The CDL Class that you are able to drive, Class A, Class B, or Class C.
7. Any endorsements that you qualify for; passenger, school bus, or tanker.
8. Restrictions will be listed if needed. For more information about restrictions you should visit here.

What To Do After You Get Your CLP

After receiving your CLP it’s time to get your training started and take the remaining driving tests. Note: you have to wait at least 14 days to take your remaining tests after receiving your CLP. Now you are able to legally drive a commercial vehicle as long as someone with a CDL is seated next to you. Congratulations, you are on your way to a rewarding career as a truck driver!

How Long Is A CLP Valid For?

The commercial learner’s permit if valid for 180 days from the date of issuance. In some cases the state you are in may renew your CLP for an additional 180 days without needing to retake the written tests. You should check with your state to see if renewing your CLP is an option for you.

I recommend you don’t let it expire, start your CDL training immediately after getting your CLP.



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