Obtaining a CDL Permit and License

License and ID

This section contains information on obtaining a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) and a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

The following chart lists the commercial classes, endorsements, and testing requirements. There are a number of endorsements which require a written exam but not a road test.

CDL Class Tests Required Possible Endorsements and Required Tests
Class A
(Combination vehicle endorsement required)

General Knowledge Written Exam

Combination Endorsement Written Exam

Road Exam

H - Hazardous Materials Written Exam
N - Tank Vehicles Written Exam
P - Passenger Transport Written and Road Exam
T - Doubles/Triples Written Exam
X - HazMat and Tank Vehicles Written Exam
L - Air Brakes Written and Road Exam
S - School Bus Written and Road Exam
Class B

General Knowledge Written Exam

Road Exam

H - Hazardous Materials Written Exam
N - Tank Vehicles Written Exam
P - Passenger Transport Written and Road Exam
X - HazMat and Tank Vehicles Written Exam
L - Air Brakes Written and Road Exam
S - School Bus Written and Road Exam
Class C

General Knowledge Written Exam

Road Exam

Note: If upgrading to a Class C from a Class D, no road test is required UNLESS the endorsement requires one.
H - Hazardous Materials Written Exam
N - Tank Vehicles Written Exam
P - Passenger Transport Written and Road Exam
X - HazMat and Tank Vehicles Written Exam
L - Air Brakes Written and Road Exam
S - School Bus Written and Road Exam

Eligibility Requirements for CLPs and CDLs

If you are at least 21 years of age and have not had your driver's license or right to operate taken away by the Registrar, you may apply for an interstate (all states) transport CLP at any RMV full-service office. If you are at least 18 years of age and have not had your driver's license or right to operate taken away by the Registrar, you may apply for an intrastate (Massachusetts only) transport CLP at any RMV Full Service Center.

To obtain and keep a Massachusetts CLP, you must possess a Massachusetts Class D license which will be valid for the entire length of the CLP. If you do not have a Class D license, you must obtain one before applying for a CLP.

Disqualifications for Major Offenses

For any combination of the following, you will be disqualified from holding a CDL for at least one year for a first offense and life for a second offense:

  • Driving any vehicle under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance (illegal drugs)
  • Driving a CMV with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .04% or more
  • Refusing to take an alcohol test as required by law while driving any vehicle
  • Leaving the scene of an accident while driving any vehicle
  • Using any vehicle to commit a felony
  • Causing a fatality through negligent operation while operating a CMV
  • Driving a CMV when, as a result of a prior violation committed in a CMV, your CDL was suspended, revoked, or cancelled

If any of the above offenses occur while you are operating a CMV that is placarded for hazardous materials, you will lose your CDL for at least three years.

You will also lose your CDL for life if you use any vehicle to commit a felony involving the manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing of controlled substances.

D.O.T. Medical Certificate

Drivers of commercial vehicles over 10,000 lbs. must carry a valid US Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) approved medical certificate. Also, drivers transporting 15 or more passengers or carrying placarded hazardous materials, regardless of vehicle size, are required to carry a D.O.T. medical certificate. The only exception from this certification is state or municipal employees using a state or municipal vehicle. Contact the D.O.T. for information on this medical certificate.

To Obtain Your CLP

Complete the Initial CDL Application. This form is also available at any RMV Full Service Center. You must show proof of legal presence or citizenship for:

  • Initial issuance of a CLP or CDL
  • Transfer of a CDL from another state
  • Drivers renewing for the first time since July 8, 2011

You must present the application, the required identification documentation, your Class D license, and the $30.00 written test fee, and the fee for any endorsements, in person, to any RMV Full Service Center to take the written test. The test is given on an automated testing system on a walk-in basis up to two (2) hours before the Service Center's closing time.

Holders of CLPs are subject to the same disqualifying offenses in a CMV or a non-CMV.

If a state receives credible information that a CDL or CLP holder is suspected, but has not been convicted, of fraud related to the issuance of his/her CLP or CDL, the state must require the driver to re-take the skills and/or the knowledge tests.

New federally mandated one year commercial revocations will be issued for drivers who are found guilty, or convicted of, falsifying, misrepresenting, or fraud in connection with:

  • An application for, or testing for, a CLP/CDL
  • Self-certification driving type
  • Medical Examiner's Certificate

Operation of a Vehicle with a CLP

You may only operate a vehicle for the same class permit that you hold. You must be accompanied by a licensed operator who holds a valid license with the correct class and endorsements for the vehicle you are operating. Your permit MUST be with you while you are operating the vehicle.

CLP Expiration

Permits expire 180 days from the date of issue and can be renewed one time for an additional 180 days for no fee. If your permit expires after the one renewal period and you want to get a new permit, you need to present the required sources of identification, take and pass the written tests, and pay the $30 written test fee plus the fee for any endorsements.

Self-Certification

All CDL drivers are required under federal regulation to inform the RMV of the type of commerce they plan to operate within (interstate or intrastate) and whether or not they are required to hold a medical certificate. This notification is called self-certification. It is called self-certification because the driver alone needs to determine the self-certification category he/she falls into based on his/her driving information.

Customers who wish to obtain, or who currently hold a CDL that is being renewed, upgraded, or transferred from another state, will be required to complete their CDL Self-Certification. The CDL Self-Certification Form and a copy of the medical certificate, if applicable, must be presented at the time of the transaction.

If a driver's medical examiner's certificate is only valid with a vision, diabetes, or skills performance evaluation variance granted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the driver will also need to provide this documentation to the RMV.

Written Exam Information

Exam Time Allowed (Minutes) # of Questions on Exam # of Correct Answers Needed to Pass
General Knowledge 60 50 40
Air Brakes 25 25 20
HazMat 30 30 24
Tank 20 20 16
Passenger 20 20 16
Doubles/Triples 20 20 16
Combination Vehicles 20 20 16
School Bus 20 20 16


Commercial Driver's License Manuals are available at RMV Branch offices or on this website. You should study the manual before applying for a CLP. If you are applying for a school bus license, you must also study the 2004 Model Commercial Driver's License Section 10 School Bus Manual. This document is also available at branch offices.

At the time of your written test, you must also pass an eye screening for field vision and basic colors.

If you pass the written test, you will receive a 180 day permit. Practice driving your commercial vehicle during this time.

If you fail the written test and you do not currently have a Massachusetts license in another class, you must present the required sources of identification documentation and take the required tests again the next time you apply for a permit. Please refer to the list of identification requirements to ensure that you bring the necessary documents with you.

Fees

The fee for the CDL general knowledge written test is $30.00. The fee for each CDL endorsement test you take at the same time as the general knowledge test is $10.00

If you take a CDL endorsement test after the CDL permit or license has been issued, the fee will be $30.00. Each additional endorsement test you take during this same transaction will be an additional $10.00

The fee for a road test is $35.00

Applying for a CDL

A road test is usually required when applying for a CDL. If you already have a Class D license and are applying for a Class C license, a road test is required only if you are also applying for passenger, school bus, and/or air brakes endorsements.

Once you have passed the written permit test, you should practice driving in a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). When you are ready to take a road test, you must call the RMV Contact Center to schedule your road test. All road tests must be scheduled by the Contact Center. You may NOT make a road test appointment in person.

The use of interpreters for knowledge and skills tests is prohibited.

Banking of skills tests scores is permitted for passed skills tests. They are valid during the initial issuance of the CLP only. They cannot be transferred to another permit.

You cannot schedule an appointment for CDL skills tests within the first 14 days from the issuance of the CLP.

If the vehicle used for your skills test has:

  • An automatic transmission, and this is your first road test in a CMV, you will be given an E restriction.
  • No form of airbrakes, and this is your first road test in a CMV, you will be given an L restriction.
  • Air over hydraulic brakes, and this is your first road test in a CMV, you will be given a Z restriction. - If you have a CDL with an L restriction and you test in a vehicle with air over hydraulic brakes, you will be upgraded from an L to a Z restriction.

Also, please note that:

  • CLPs will no longer be issued with the Double / Triple Trailer (T) endorsement. The T endorsement can be issued only to a driver holding a CDL
  • CLPs issued with a Passenger (P) or School Bus (S) endorsement will automatically get a new federally mandated "No Passengers in CMV Bus" (P) restriction
  • CLPs issued with a Tank Vehicles (N) endorsement will automatically get a federally mandated "No Cargo in CMV Tank Vehicle" (X) restriction
  • The P and X restrictions are issued for the CLP only. The CDL that is issued after all required tests have been passed will not have the P or X restrictions

A CLP holder with an N endorsement is prohibited from operating a tanker unless it is empty and purged if it contained hazardous material. The X restriction must be imposed on all CLPs issued with an N endorsement.

A CLP holder with a P or S endorsement is prohibited from operating a CMV with passengers.

All other endorsements are prohibited on a CLP.

Road Test Requirements

Bring the following to the road test:

  • A completed CDL Road Test Application
  • Your valid CLP
  • Your current Class D driver's license
  • A valid D.O.T medical certificate or medical waiver
  • A qualified sponsor
  • A properly equipped vehicle with proof of insurance coverage
  • The vehicle registration

For all road tests, you are required to supply a properly equipped, legally registered and insured vehicle that has a valid inspection sticker. It also must be of the proper type and manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating for the class license you are applying for, and it must pass a safety check by the examiner.

If the vehicle is rented, you must provide the rental agreement and written permission on the rental company's letterhead authorizing use of the vehicle for a road test.

To take the road test, you must bring a sponsor who has a valid CDL with the proper endorsements for the vehicle class you are using. Your sponsor must also have a current D.O.T. Medical Certificate.

Taking the Road Test

The following describes the types of skills that will be tested during a CDL road test.

Pre-trip Vehicle Inspection

During the pre-trip vehicle inspection, you will be asked to do a vehicle inspection and point out to the examiner what you would inspect on the vehicle and why.

Basic Vehicle Control

During the basic vehicle control part of the road test, the examiner will test your ability to control the vehicle. You will be required to navigate the vehicle between cones or barriers and demonstrate control of the vehicle. The Basic Control Skills consist of:

  • Pre-trip Inspection
  • Basic Skills Course
  • Straight Back
  • Offset back left or right
  • Parallel Parking / sight side or conventional
  • Alley dock

On-Road Test

During the on-road test portion of the road exam, you will be tested on your skill to drive the vehicle in a variety of traffic situations.

  • Passed Road Test - The road test examiner will stamp and sign your permit indicating you passed the road test and return it to you.
  • Failed Road Test - The road test examiner will stamp your permit to indicate the parts of the road test that were failed and return it to you.

Driver Training

The following will apply to driver training:

  • Driver training may be taken in another state
  • Road skills testing may be taken in the state where the training occurred
  • The state that conducts training must electronically transmit the test results to the state of domicile
  • The state of domicile must accept the skills test results and issue the CDL

Obtaining a CDL

Pass the road test before the expiration date on your permit. To receive your CDL, you must bring the stamped, signed permit and the appropriate fees to any RMV Full Service Center.

Upgrading to a CDL

Class D to Class C

To upgrade from a Class D license to a Class C license, you need to take and pass the general knowledge written test. You should also obtain at least one of the following endorsements, in addition to any other endorsements requested:

  • The P Endorsement
  • The H Endorsement

You are not required to take a road test for the Class C driver's license. However, if the requested endorsement requires a road test, you must take the road test for that endorsement before obtaining the Class C driver's license. There is not a benefit to obtaining a Class C driver's license without an endorsement because there are no specific commercial motor vehicles that require a Class C license on its own. You will be issued your Class C license after passing the required written test and paying all applicable fees.

Class D to Class A or B

Upgrading from a Class D license to a Class A license requires the general knowledge written test, combination vehicle endorsement written test, and written tests for any other endorsement you select. You will also be required to take a road test in a Class A vehicle. See the Applying for a CDL section above for information about road tests. You will be issued your Class A license after passing the road test and paying all applicable fees.

Upgrading from a Class D license to a Class B license requires the general knowledge written test and written tests for any other endorsements you select. You will also be required to take a road test in a Class B vehicle. See the Applying for a CDL section above for information about road tests. You will be issued your Class B license after passing the road test and paying all applicable fees.

Adding Endorsement(s) to a Massachusetts CDL

Refer to the CDL Class Chart at the beginning of this section to determine what type of test you need to take for a specific endorsement.

A written test is required for all endorsements. A written test and a road test are required for Airbrake, Passenger, and School Bus endorsements.

Obtaining or Renewing a Hazardous Materials Endorsement

There are two requirements you must meet before obtaining or renewing a Hazardous Materials Endorsement.

  • Apply for and successfully pass the Transportation Security Administration's Security Background Check. This is now required for all Hazardous Materials Endorsement applicants. It could take approximately 60 days or more to receive the results.
  • Take and pass the Hazardous Materials Endorsement exam. You can do this at the same time you obtain or renew your CDL

Call 1-877-429-7746 or go to https://universalenroll.dhs.gov/ to begin the process.

View the Hazardous Materials Endorsement brochure for more information.

Note: You can still obtain or renew a CDL without the Hazardous Materials Endorsement if you do not meet the criteria listed above.

Converting an Out-of-State CDL

When converting an out-of-state CDL, the written and road tests may be waived if the CMV operator is currently licensed at the time of his/her application, and the following criteria are met:

An applicant must certify that, during the two-year period immediately prior to applying for a CDL he/she:

  • Has not had more than one driver’s license
  • Has not had any license suspended, revoked, or canceled
  • Has not had any convictions for any type of motor vehicle for the disqualifying offenses contained in 49 CFR § 383.51(b)
  • Has not had more than one conviction for any type of motor vehicle for serious traffic violations
  • Has not had any conviction for a violation of state or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control (other than a parking violation) arising in connection with any traffic accident; has no record of an accident in which he/she was at fault; and has no incidents of fraud relating to obtaining a drivers license

An applicant must provide evidence and certify that:

  • He/she has operated a vehicle representative of the commercial motor vehicle he/she expects to drive
  • Can provide documentation proving citizenship or legal presence

The following documentation must be provided for waiver consideration:

  • Current out-of-state CDL
  • A copy of a driving record from a previous state of licensure less than 30 days old, indicating that the customer has held a CDL with no disqualifying events
  • Verification of employment on company letterhead, which must contain dates of employment and class of vehicle operated
  • Proof of residency in Massachusetts

If the above requirements are met, the customer can obtain a Massachusetts CDL without taking the general knowledge exam or a road test. If the customer cannot meet the above requirements, the out-of-state CDL can be converted to a Massachusetts Class D driver's license. The out-of-state license must be surrendered at this time. The customer may then apply for a Massachusetts CLP. Customers must pass the written and road tests in order to obtain the CDL.

The conversion process is the same for all commercial motor vehicle classes (Class A, Class B, and Class C). However, note that some states issue non-commercial Class A, B, and/or C driver's licenses that do not qualify as CDLs under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's definition. These can only be converted to a Massachusetts Class D driver's license.

Expired CDLs cannot be converted. However, an out-of-state CDL that has been expired for less than four years can be converted to a Massachusetts Class D driver's license.

Transferring Endorsements

When a customer applies for a CDL out-of-state conversion, he/she may also choose to transfer the endorsements on the previous CDL. However, due to federal requirements, an H Endorsement is not transferable. To receive an H Endorsement on a Massachusetts CDL, the customer must reapply for the endorsement.