Commercial Driver's License

Commercial learner's permit (CLP)

You will need a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) if you are:

  • Applying for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for the first time or after being without a CDL for one year.
  • Upgrading your existing CDL and the upgrade requires a skills test.
You must hold a CLP for at least 14 days before you can complete the required skills test.

You are required to provide the following documents to obtain your CLP unless you already have a license marked as REAL-ID compliant (which means we already have this information verified). A REAL-ID has a gold star in the top right corner of your license.


Already have a CLP?

Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) is a set of new FMCSA minimum training standards for CDL holders and applicants. Beginning Feb. 7, 2022, ELDT will be required for drivers applying the first time for a Class A or Class B CDL; upgrading existing CDL’s (Class B CDL to Class A CDL); or adding the following endorsements: hazardous materials (H), passenger (P), or school bus (S).

Find out more about ELDT
  • Provide proof of citizenship (certified copy of U.S. birth certificate, passport, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), Certificate of Naturalization, or Certificate of Citizenship), lawful permanent residency (Permanent resident card), or an employment authorization document (EAD) or I-94 document.
  • Proof of your Iowa residency (your license showing your Iowa address will meet this requirement).
  • All CDL Holders must certify how they use their commercial motor vehicles, which may require you to obtain a medical certificate.

CLP Process

Step one  Knowledge test

First, you must pass the knowledge test(s) required for the type of commercial vehicle you want to operate. You can study for the test with the Iowa CDL test app.

Types of knowledge tests (number of questions/allowed to miss)

  • General knowledge for any CDL (50/10)
  • Combination vehicle for Class A (20/04)
  • Air brake (25/05)
  • Passenger (20/04)
  • School bus (20/04)
  • Doubles/Triples (20/04)
  • Hazmat (30/06)
  • Tank (20/04)
  • Iowa operator (if applicable) (25/5)

Step two  CLP

Second, you have to obtain a CLP. You will be issued a CLP after you pass the applicable knowledge tests, and you will have to hold the CLP for at least 14 days before you can go to the third step (skills testing) and get your full CDL.

What CAN I do with a CLP?

The purpose of a CLP is to allow accompanied behind-the-wheel training in a type and class of Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) that your current license (commercial or noncommercial) is not valid to operate. With a CLP you can:

  • Drive a commercial vehicle specific to the type of CLP you obtained when accompanied by another driver who has a CDL valid for the same type of commercial vehicle.
  • Continue to drive vehicles by yourself (unaccompanied) that your existing license or CDL is valid for. The cost of the CLP is $12. The permit is valid for one year from the date of issuance, with no renewal period.

What CAN'T I do with a CLP?

  • Drive a commercial vehicle by yourself if your existing license or CDL is not valid to drive that type of vehicle.
  • Use a cell phone while driving a commercial vehicle.
  • Carry passengers while operating a commercial vehicle (other than the CDL driver accompanying you, other trainees, and test examiners).
  • Drive a commercial vehicle containing hazmat or drive a tank vehicle that previously contained hazmat that is not purged of residue.
  • Drive a tank vehicle containing cargo.

The same rules that apply to CDL drivers also apply to CLP drivers. Certain violations could result in the disqualification of the driver’s commercial operating privileges.

More information about violations and disqualification can be found in the CDL manual.

Step three  Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT)

Beginning Feb. 7, 2022, drivers applying the first time for a Class A or Class B CDL; upgrading existing CDL’s (Class B CDL to Class A CDL); or adding the following endorsements: hazardous materials (H), passenger (P), or school bus (S) will need to complete Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) prior to taking the applicable knowledge or skills test. Once you complete the ELDT, the training provider will upload your driver training certification to the Training Provider Registry, which we will verify prior to testing.

ELDT is a FMCSA program and is not administered by the Iowa DOT. For more information please select the link below or call the FMCSA information line at 1-800-832-5660 or the FMCSA Iowa Field Office at 515-233-7400.

Get more information about ELDT and view the listing of approved training providers


Step four  Driving test

After you’ve held the CLP for at least 14 days and completed the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT), the next step is to pass the required skills and driving test.

There are three phases of the driving test.

You must provide a vehicle that is in good working order and is representative of the class of license you are applying for.

1. Pre-trip vehicle inspection test.

A pre-trip vehicle inspection test is required to show the vehicle is safe to drive. You will have to walk around the vehicle and point to or touch each item and explain to the license examiner what you are checking and why. (You will not have to crawl under the hood of the vehicle.)

Review section 11 in the Commercial Driver License Manual to prepare for and successfully pass the pre-trip vehicle inspection test. 

  • You must successfully demonstrate all three components of the airbrake check before you start the pre-trip vehicle inspection test – prepare for this by reviewing the information in section 11.
  • If you do not pass the airbrake check and/or the pre-trip vehicle inspection test, you must make another appointment to retake the test – that could be two or three weeks out, which will delay the issuance of your commercial driver’s license.

2. Skills test (maneuvers around cones and backing maneuvers).

See section 12 in the Commercial Driver License manual for a description of the skills test exercises and scoring.

3. Driving test (on public roads with examiner).

Step five  CDL

After you have passed the required skills (driving) test, you can obtain your CDL at any driver’s license issuance location. The cost is $8/year plus applicable endorsement fees.



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