Commercial Driver's License (CDL) and Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP) Driver Services

Requirements to Obtain an Original Illinois CLP or Transfer a CDL From Another State

Requirements For Existing Illinois CDL Holders

Vehicles Requiring a CDL

Drivers Exempt From Obtaining a CDL

Under state and federal law, certain drivers are not subject to the requirements of the CDL program. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has determined these exemptions will not diminish the safe operation of commercial vehicles on the highways. 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 vehicles they are operating.

A holder of a Non-CDL class A and B license is permitted to operate the appropriate vehicles within the exempted uses above and other non-commercial vehicles at their class level or below.

CDL and Non-CDL Classifications

Upgrades, Endorsements and Permits

Air Brake and other CDL associated Restrictions

Farm-Related Services Restricted CDL

A seasonal restricted CDL may be issued for 90 to 180 days during any 12-month period and is renewable. The license is valid only within 150 miles of the employer's place of business. The license holder must follow the restrictions as listed on the Restricted Class B CDL application and pay the appropriate fees.

To qualify the driver must meet the following requirements:


CDL Medical

Persons who drive commercial motor vehicles (CMV) are subject to minimum physical qualifications. Unless excepted (exempted) by Federal or State law, these physical qualifications require a medical examination. This physical examination is required to help ensure that a person is medically qualified to safely operate a CMV. In the interest of public safety, CMV drivers are held to higher physical, mental and emotional standards than passenger car drivers. The medical rules and requirements are governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

All Non-excepted Interstate and Intrastate CMV drivers, driving a CMV with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) in excess of 10,001 pounds and who are driving in commerce within the United States, Canada and Mexico must pass a medical examination conducted by a Medical Examiner on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME) using the official FMCSA Medical Examination Report Form (MCSA-5875).

All examined CMV drivers must be issued a Medical Examiner's Certificate, which must be carried at all times and must be renewed every two years unless the medical examiner specifies a date of less than two years on the certificate. Effective April 20, 2016, all medical examiners must issue the official FMCSA Medical Examiner's Certificate (MCSA-5876) to all drivers examined.

Print Medical Examination Report Form
Print Medical Examiner's Certificate

All CDL holders must self-certify their medical status in order to renew or upgrade a CDL. All CLP applicants must self-certify when conducting their knowledge and skills testing. All initial medical self-certifications must be provided at a CDL facility.

The four categories of self-certification are:

  1. Non-excepted interstate driver (NI)
  2. Excepted interstate driver (EI)
  3. Non-excepted intrastate driver (NA)
  4. Excepted intrastate driver (EA)

If you choose Non-excepted interstate (NI) you must provide (or have on file with our office) a current and acceptable medical examiner's certificate, performed by a National Registry Medical Examiner. All pertinent medical information which we need from your medical certificate will be/is posted to your driving record.

If you choose 2, 3, or 4 you will not be required to provide your medical certificate during your facility visit but in most cases you are required to possess a current and acceptable medical examiner's certificate, performed by a National Registry Medical Examiner, in order to operate a CMV.

If you are unsure which category to choose, check with your employer to receive assistance to determine your medical category or visit FMCSA FAQs.

This is a self certification of your medical driving status and your self-certification category is based solely on where you drive and what you transport. The Secretary of State Facility employees do not have the appropriate information to assist you in selecting your medical certification category.

All NI declared CDL holders must keep a valid FMCSA Medical Examiner's Certificate on file with the Secretary of State's office or change their medical category to one other than NI. These updates can be accomplished by providing the updated medical certificate in-person at a CDL facility, by mailing the certificate to: Illinois Secretary of State c/o CDL Medical Unit 2701 S. Dirksen Parkway Springfield, IL 62723 or by emailing a copy of the certificate to:

Further information in reference to the medical program may be obtained by: visiting, contacting IDOT at 217-785-1181 (ask for a Compliance Officer), FMCSA Call Center at 202-366-4001 or the Secretary of State's CDL Medical Unit at 217-785-3002.


Knowledge/Written Tests — CDL knowledge/written tests are conducted utilizing a computerized system of random questions. These tests are administered in English only. The test(s) can be read by the applicant or the audio format (computer reads test) may be requested. After attempting the testing utilizing the audio format, if the applicant desires to have the test read in person by SOS personnel, the applicant will need to request the appropriate information from facility management to apply for an oral test.

The computerized General (Core) Knowledge written test is a general CDL test required of all applicants to obtain a CLP or transfer a CDL. This test consists of 30 standardized, random multiple-choice questions that cover a wide range of areas concerning the CDL laws, the CDL program and CDL vehicles.

In addition to the General Knowledge test, there are Classification (combination), Air Brake and Specialized Endorsement Knowledge test depending on the type/size of vehicle and its equipment and purposes.

Endorsement Knowledge/written tests include: double/triple trailers, vehicles carrying hazardous materials, passenger vehicles (16+ people), school and charter buses or tank vehicles. Applicants must score a minimum of 80% to pass each applicable test, with the exception of the School Bus test which is 90%.

Knowledge/written tests are valid for the maximum of one year, but can be valid for less depending on the circumstances.

Skills and Drive Testing — After passing the applicable knowledge/written testing, all CLP holders or transferring CDL holders are required to pass the skills/drive testing. All CLP holders, whether initial, renewal or upgrading existing CDL, will be required to hold their CLP for a minimum of 14 calendar days from the CLP issue date, prior to conducting their skills/drive testing.

Drive/Road Tests — All CDL applicants must drive an approved predetermined route for a CDL Road Test. The CDL Road Test route is determined by the requirements of federal and state law along with the roadways in the surrounding area of the CDL facility in which the test is being conducted.

Each portion of the skills/drive test must be taken in a vehicle representative of the license classification and type of vehicle you wish to drive, with the proper air brake system if so desired. You must have a CLP for all skills/drive testing, with the exception of the E, O or Z restriction removals. You must have a CLP for all skills/drive testing, with the exception of the E, O or Z restriction removals. You must schedule CDL skills/drive testing at Schedule a CDL Appointment or by calling 217-785-3013, option #4. Proof of vehicle insurance, valid license plates and current vehicle safety inspection(s) are required for every vehicle prior to the test. The testing is divided into three parts, Pre-trip Inspection test, Basic Control Skills test and Driving/Road test. The CDL Skills and Drive Information Sheet provides key information about your CLP and what is required for your testing appointment.

Special Testing Requirements/Rules

Third-time Fail Rule — CDL applicants who fail any CDL exam(s) three times are required to wait 30 days from the date of the third failed exam. Three additional failures (six total failures) of the same exam(s) will result in a 90-day waiting period. Three additional failures (nine total failures) of the same exam(s) after the 90-day waiting period will result in a one-year waiting period from the date of the last failed exam. The waiting periods apply only to the exam(s) failed three times. There will be additional fees charged after each three time fail waiting period to allow the applicant to continue testing.

CDL Transfers — Out-of-state CDL Holders (transfers in) who wish to obtain an Illinois CDL must take all applicable CDL knowledge/written testing and the skills/drive testing in a representative vehicle(s).

CLP Renewal — An original CLP expires one year from the date of initial issuance. If an additional CLP is desired beyond the one year renewal CLP cycle, then the applicant will be required to conduct all applicable written/knowledge and skills/drive testing and pay the appropriate fee.

Adding/Renewing Hazardous Material Endorsement -- A CDL holder or applicant wishing to obtain or renew a Hazardous Materials (H) or a Combined Tank/Hazardous Materials (X) Endorsement must complete a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) threat assessment. See Hazardous Materials Endorsement for more information.

Downgrading CDL class, endorsements or dropping a CDL—If a CDL holder downgrades their class of CDL or drops an endorsement they will be required to conduct all applicable knowledge/written and skills/drive testing in a representative vehicle to regain the classification or endorsement. If a CDL holder drops their CDL to a non-CDL, they will be required to take all knowledge/written and skills/drive testing in a representative vehicle to re-establish the CDL.

H2A Temporary Agricultural Workers

The H2A program allows U.S.employers who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs. Applicants may be issued a Non-CDL Class A license with J51 restriction (Covered Farm Vehicle). The expiration date of the driver’s license will be equal to the applicant’s authorized length of stay/departure date as indicated on immigration documents.

To qualify, applicants must meet the following requirements:

Military CDL Waiver Programs

Qualified, eligible active military service members and those who have been discharged within the past 12 months who wish to obtain an Illinois Commercial Driver's License (CDL) and can fulfill the necessary requirements will have the opportunity to have some or all of their CDL testing waived, due to their extensive training and experience. This program is only available to those service members who are obtaining their initial CDL and not for upgrades or restriction changes to an existing CDL. There are two options under the Military CDL Waiver program, the Even Exchange and the Skills Test waiver. For either option, the applicant and their Commanding Officer must provide a fully completed and acceptable application for the appropriate option. The Commanding Officer must submit the application with required documentation, via email to the CDL Division at The CDL Division will review and verify the application then contact the Officer and the applicant in reference to the applications approval. Once approved, the applicant will be required to present the approval notice (from the CDL Section), and all other necessary documentation to a CDL Facility. Each applicant will be required to pay the appropriate CDL fee and satisfy all the CDL and other licensing requirements.

For further information, please contact the CDL Division at 217-524-5971.

The above information is provided to assist CLP applicants and CDL holders with the necessary requirements but it is not meant to be all inclusive. For additional information, please refer to the Illinois Commercial Driver's web page, CDL Study Guide or the Federal FMCSA website.