How to get an Illinois CDL (Commercial Drivers License)

Published: 31st January 2007
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Do I need a Commercial Driver License?

If you live in Illinois and drive a Class A, B or C commercial vehicle, you must have a Illinois Commercial Driver License (CDL).

CDL Endorsements are required for double/triple trailers, tanker vehicles, passenger vehicles and vehicles placarded for hazardous materials.

If you drive a commercial vehicle that falls into one of the following classifications, you must have an Illinois Commercial Driver License (CDL).

CLASS A - This classification applies only to "combination" vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) exceeding 26,000 pounds, provided the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed exceeds 10,000 pounds.

CLASS B - This class includes single or combination vehicles where the GVWR of the single vehicle exceeds 26,000 pounds. The vehicle in tow must not exceed 10,000 pounds.

CLASS C - Vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, and vehicles placarded for hazardous materials, that do not meet the criteria for Class A or B above fall under this classification.

Farm-Related Services Restricted CDL:

This is a seasonal restricted CDL that can be issued for a period between 90 and 180 days in any 12-month period and is valid only within 150 miles of the employer's place of business. The holder must meet certain requirements.

Drivers Exempt (Waived) From CDL Requirements:

Under state and federal law, certain drivers are not subject to the requirements of the CDL program. Although the following vehicle operators are not required to obtain CDLs, they are required to hold the proper driver's license classification for the type of vehicle that they are operating. See the Illinois DMV website for details.

  • Farm Operators

  • Fire Fighting Equipment Operators

  • Recreational Vehicle Operators

  • Military Vehicle Operators

  • Township Employees

About the CDL Knowledge Tests

You will have to take one or more knowledge tests depending on what class of license and what endorsements you need. There are seven different CDL written tests. An applicant is required to correctly answer 80% of the questions to pass the written CDL tests. CDL applicants who fail any CDL examination three times will be required to wait 30 days from the date of the 3rd failure to retake the test. Three additional failures (a total of 6 failures) of the same test will result in a 90 day waiting period. Three additional failures (a total of 9 failures) of the same test after the 90 day waiting period will result in a one year waiting period from date of last fail. The waiting periods only apply to the test(s) failed three times. Out of state applicants must take all CDL written tests to secure an Illinois CDL.

All truck drivers are encouraged to study for the written tests so you won't take a chance on standing in line at the DMV office only to go home empty-handed. Online CDL practice tests are available that provide real sample questions from the Illinois CDL exams for all endorsement types.

The CDL knowledge tests include:

  • The 30-question general knowledge test is required for all applicants wishing to obtain a CDL.

  • The Air brakes test is required if the vehicle is equipped with air brakes. There are 25 questions.

  • The 20-question combination vehicle test is required if you wish to drive combination vehicles.

  • The passenger endorsement test is required if you will drive a vehicle designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver). There are 20 questions.

  • The hazardous materials test is required if you wish to operate a vehicle transporting hazardous material that requires placarding. There are 30 questions. NOTE: The hazardous materials endorsement written test must be successfully completed each time you renew your CDL.

  • The tank endorsement test is required to operate a vehicle designed to carry any liquid or gaseous material within a tank that is permanently or temporarily attached to the vehicle or the chassis. There are 20 questions.

  • The 20-question doubles/triple endorsement test is required if you will operate double or triple trailers.

Skills Tests

After passing the required written tests, an applicant may be required to complete the CDL skills tests which consist of a vehicle pre-trip inspection test, basic controls skills test and a road test.

  • The pre-trip inspection is a walk-around inspection to make sure the vehicle is safe to operate. You will not be required to crawl under the vehicle or reach into the engine.

  • The basic control skills test contains four maneuvers: straight line backing, stop at line, measured right turn and angled backing/simulated docking.

  • The road test is administered on an established drive route. The examiner scores you on specific driving maneuvers, use of mirrors, blinkers, clutch (if applicable), and your handling of the vehicle in traffic.

Each portion of the skills tests must be taken in a vehicle representative of the license classification you wish to obtain. Proof of insurance is required for every vehicle before the performance tests may be administered.

What Are The Other Requirements For A CDL?

You must be 18 years of age to apply for a CDL license to drive in-state and age 21 to cross state lines.

The main physical requirements include good hearing, 20/40 vision with or without glasses or corrective lenses, and a 70-degree field of vision in each eye. Drivers must not be colorblind.

What Fees Will I Have To Pay?

CDL fees are as follows:

New Applicants (Applicants not possessing a Class A, B, or C Illinois CDL): $60.00

(An additional $5.00 fee will be added for applicants renewing an L or M license)

Applicants possessing a non-CDL license upgrading to a CDL: $50.00

School Bus CDL: $20.00

Add/Change endorsement or restriction on existing CDL: $5.00

Where Can I Get More Information?

To download the Illinois CDL Manual:

For federal requirements for a CDL:

Illinois Department of Transportation:

Test Questions and Answers provides online CDL practice tests approved by The National Safety Commission in all 50 states. Prepare online for your Commercial Drivers License today!

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