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Texas Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) FAQ’s

By Megan Breckenridge, Staff Writer



HOUSTON — A Commercial Driver’s License, or CDL, is required for the operation of any type of commercial vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 26,000 lbs; transports hazardous materials that require warning placards under Department of Transportation regulations; or that is designed to carry 16 or more passengers, including the driver. Some examples of vehicles that require a CDL to operate are tow trucks, tractor trailers and buses.

         In accordance with the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, all states are required to comply with certain standards in regards to the licensing of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. Texas driver licensing standards comply with the law, requiring CMV drivers to obtain a Texas CDL when driving applicable vehicles. A CDL license can only be issued in the driver’s state of legal residence, and any driver possessing a CDL cannot have a driver’s license in any other state. Read on for the answers to the most commonly asked about obtaining a Texas CDL.


1. What are the eligibility requirements to obtain a Texas CDL?

You must be 21 years old. (18 years if all commercial driving is done within Texas, no hazardous materials requiring placarding are transported, and no double- or triple-trailer rigs are employed.)

You must be physically capable of obtaining a valid medical examiner’s card before taking any CDL skills test.

You must qualify for the license based on their driving record. Any of the following will disqualify you from obtaining a Texas CDL:

Possession of a license from any state other than Texas

Current disqualification of commercial driving privileges in Texas or any other state.

Suspension, revocation, denial or cancellation of current driver’s license.

Any conviction of impaired operation of a commercial motor vehicle within the 24 months immediately preceding your application.



2. What steps must be taken to apply for a Texas CDL?

 Present sufficient proof of identity. This consists of either one piece of primary identification, two pieces of secondary identification, or multiple pieces of supporting identification. The first two categories are clear-cut, but supporting identification will be accepted only at the discretion of the license examiner. (See question 7 for further details on documentation.)

Provide proof of your Social Security number.

If you own your own commercial vehicle, proof of registration and liability insurance must be provided.

You must complete the necessary application forms at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. These forms may vary depending on the types of endorsements you seek.

Pay the required fee. Each special endorsement and any related testing may require its own fee. (See question 4 for more information on endorsements.)

Pass the vision exam.

Pass the written tests, including any special testing for the various available endorsements.

Pass the skills test (driving test) in the vehicle of the type for which you will be licensed. You must provide this vehicle.

Have your photograph and fingerprints taken at the DMV office.



3. What do the terms “Class A”, “Class B”, and “Class C” denote on a Texas CDL?

“Class A” licensing allows you to operate vehicles that tow trailers, or other vehicles with a GVWR over 10,000 lbs. This license also allows you to operate “Class B” and “Class C” vehicles.

“Class B” licensing allows you to operate single vehicles with a GVWR over 26,000 lbs, or towing trailers/vehicles rated at 10,000 lbs GVWR or less. This license also allows you to operate “Class C” vehicles.

“Class C” licensing allows you to operate vehicles with a GVWR under 26,000 lbs that would normally not require a CDL, except when they are designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver; carry 15 or fewer people, including the driver, and transport children to or from school and home regularly for compensation; or carry hazardous materials in amounts requiring placarding. Applicable endorsements are required.



4. What are Endorsement Codes and when are they required on a Texas CDL?

Endorsements are necessary for certain commercial driving requirements as follows:

(T) Double or Triple Trailers. For vehicles pulling more than one trailer.

(P) Passenger. For vehicles that are designed to carry 16 or more people including the driver; or those that carry 15 or fewer people, including the driver, and transport children to or from school and home regularly for compensation.

(N) Tank Vehicles. For vehicles designed to haul liquids or liquefied gases in bulk in permanently mounted tanks or portable tans rated at 1,000 gallons or more.

(H) Hazardous Materials. For vehicles carrying hazardous materials in amounts requiring placards.

(X) Tank Vehicles (N) carrying Hazardous Materials (H).



5. What is the difference between an interstate CDL and an intrastate CDL?

An intrastate CDL is one that is valid in Texas only. The requirements for these licenses are less strict than the federally controlled interstate licenses. Intrastate drivers are not required to speak English; not held to the same medical standards; and can obtain a license at the age of 18. Drivers with disabilities may also qualify at the intrastate level, as there are some exemptions available for those missing limbs or whose vision is impaired.

Interstate drivers are permitted to drive across state lines, but must be at least 21 to obtain a license.


6. What vehicles are exempt from requiring a Texas CDL to operate?

Vehicles that are controlled and operated by a farmer; used to transport agricultural products, farm machinery, or farm supplies to or from a farm; not used in the operations of a common or contract motor carrier; and used within 150 air miles of the person’s farm.

Fire-fighting or emergency vehicles necessary to the preservation of life or property or the execution of emergency governmental functions, whether operated by an employee of a political subdivision or by a volunteer fire-fighter.

Recreational vehicles that are driven for personal use.

Military vehicles, when operated for military purposes by military personnel.

Vehicles that are owned, leased, or controlled by an air carrier, as defined by Texas Transportation Code (TRC) section 21.155.

Vehicles used exclusively to transport cotton modules or cotton burrs.


7. What constitutes “sufficient proof of identity” when applying for a Texas CDL?

Primary identification documents include a Texas driver’s license or identification card. These must be either current or within two years of the indicated expiration date. A valid (unexpired) U.S. passport is also considered primary identification, as are naturalization certificates showing verifiable data and a photograph, any other type of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) documents with verifiable data and a photograph, or an unexpired U.S. military identification card. Older INS documents might not include current information or a photograph, and these will not be accepted as primary identification in Texas.

Secondary identification documents include original or certified copies of a birth certificate, unexpired driver’s license, or ID card from other U.S. states or Canadian provinces. Also acceptable is any official court order showing full birth information.

Supporting identification is a vague category, and the acceptance of these documents is at the discretion of the licensing employee examining them. Supporting documents include, but are not limited to: School records, insurance policies issued at least two years prior to the time of application, vehicle titles, military records, a current military dependent identification card, original or certified marriage licenses or divorce papers, voter registration cards, Social Security cards, pilot’s or concealed handgun licenses, or a Texas driver license temporary receipt. Consideration may also be given to expired driver’s licenses or identification cards from the U.S. or Canada, as long as they are within two years of the expiration date, foreign passports, and any other consular documents.   

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