Do I need a CDL?

Answer a few questions to find out if you need a Commercial Driver's License (CDL).

Is the vehicle’s GCWR (weight of combined vehicles) 26,001 or more pounds?

What do I need to get a CDL?

checkmark Be at least age 18.

checkmark Provide proof of full name, date of birth, and Social Security number.

checkmark Provide proof of citizenship, lawful permanent residency, or an employment authorization document (EAD) or I-94 document.

checkmark Provide proof of Iowa residency (your license showing your Iowa address will meet this requirement).

checkmark Pass vision screening

checkmark Hold a CLP (commercial learner’s permit) for at least 14 days prior to application for CDL (effective July 2015).

checkmark We will check your driving record in all other states; the check must show you are eligible for commercial licensing in all other states.

checkmarkYou must certify how you will use the commercial motor vehicles you will operate, which may require you to obtain a medical certificate.

How do I get a CDL?

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.

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  Commercial learner's permit (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 180 days and may be renewed for an additional 180 days for another $12.

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, available at any driver’s license issuance site or by visiting:

Step three  Skills test
After you’ve held the CLP for at least 14 days, the next step is to pass the required skills and driving test.

There are three phases of the skills 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.)

For more information including a pre-trip inspection memory aid you can use during the test and a helpful instructional video, scroll to the bottom of this page.

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 three  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.

CDL pre-trip inspection test

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.
PDF file CDL Pre-Trip Inspection Memory Aid

Video courtesy of Nebraska DMV







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.
  • Upgrading your existing CDL and the upgrade requires a skills (driving) test.
You must hold a CLP for at least 14 days before you can complete the required skills (driving) 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. CLP Process







Commercial driver’s license (CDL) certification and medical certificate

Federal regulations require all CDL holders and applicants to certify how they operate their commercial motor vehicle whenever they renew, upgrade, or obtain a CDL for the first time. A CDL holder must certify to one of four categories that apply to the type of driving they do. 

Question markDetermine which category applies to me.







Hazardous materials endorsement/fingerprint-based background checks

Under the provisions of the USA Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56, § 1012), rules of the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) (49 CFR Part 1572) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) (Title 49 of Code of Federal Regulation 383.71(a)(9)), the Iowa DOT's motor vehicle offices may not issue a hazardous materials endorsement (HME) until the applicant has first submitted to a fingerprint-based background check. TSA must determine that the applicant does not pose a security threat before the endorsement can be issued. No person applying for a first-time or new HME on or after Jan. 31, 2005, may be issued a HME until the background check is completed. Beginning May 31, 2005, the fingerprint-based background check will also apply to commercial drivers as they renew or transfer the HME.

What will the Iowa procedure be?

The security threat assessment is now initiated through the Hazardous Material Endorsement Enrollment website, not at the driver license station.

Step 1 - Filling out the application
You should complete the TSA HAZPRINT driver application on the Hazardous Material Endorsement Enrollment website or by calling the HazPrint help desk at 855-347-8371. The operator at the help desk will guide you through the process and ensure the application is completed correctly. You can also call the help desk at any time if you have questions about the website. It is important to note that the application must be completed, either online or through the help desk, prior to arriving at the fingerprint capture location. It cannot be done at the fingerprinting site.

What will the cost be?

Included with the application process is the payment of a $86.50 fee. You may pay by credit/debit card or eCheck (must be a company or business check) directly on the website or by providing this information to the operator at the Help Desk. Electronic payments are the most secure and convenient and will save time at the fingerprint collection site. For those drivers who choose not to pay electronically, the driver must bring a money order in the amount of $86.50, made out to MorphoTrust USA, to the fingerprint collection site. Remember, whatever payment method is chosen, you must complete the application online or by calling the help desk in advance of being fingerprinted, as the fingerprint collection site cannot fingerprint a driver who has not completed the HAZPRINT application and paid the $86.50 fee.

Step 2 - Getting fingerprinted
Your fingerprints can be collected at one of more than 100 fixed and mobile sites in the United States. The Hazardous Material Endorsement Enrollment website and the HazPrint help desk, 855-347-8371, are the best sources of information on current site locations, operating hours, and driving directions to the site. Drivers from any of the participating agent states can be printed at any of the agent's sites — even those in another state. You will be required to provide two forms of identification prior to being fingerprinted. Please refer to the "proper ID types" listed at Hazardous Material Endorsement Enrollment website. In addition to being fingerprinted, the driver will be asked to review and electronically sign the application to verify its accuracy.

NOTE: The fingerprint capture location only collects and forwards the electronic application and fingerprints. They do not have specific information about the program, nor will they receive status reports after the submission is made.

How will applicants know when the process is complete?

Step 3- Security threat assessment
Based on the data provided on the HAZPRINT application, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will perform a threat assessment for each driver applicant. The results of this assessment will be provided directly to the state department of transportation. The applicant will also receive a letter from TSA with the results of the assessment. Take this letter to the driver's license examiner as it will indicate that you have been cleared for issuance of the hazardous material endorsement.

Step 4- Status
Approximately six weeks after the applicant has been fingerprinted, if he/she has not received a letter from the TSA, information on the status of an application should be available at the HazPrint help desk at 855-347-8371.

Is a knowledge test required?

Yes. The knowledge test must be taken at a driver license station. It may be taken before, during or after the assessment, but must be successfully passed before issuance of the endorsement.

Will additional identification have to be shown to the driver's license examiner at the time the endorsement is issued?

Yes. Federal Regulation (49 CFR, Part 383.71) requires that proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency be shown. You must present one of the following to the examiner at the time the endorsement is issued:

Status Proof of status
U.S. Citizen
  • U.S. Passport
  • U.S. Certificate of Birth that bears an official seal and was issued by a state, county, municipal authority or outlying possession of the United States.
  • Certification of Birth Abroad issued by the U.S. Department of State (Form FS-545 or DS-1350)
  • Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or N-570)
  • Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (Form N-560 or N-561)
Lawful permanent resident
  • Permanent Resident Card, Alien Registration Receipt Card (form I-551)
  • Temporary I-551 stamp in foreign passport
  • Temporary I-551 stamp on Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, with photograph of the bearer.
  • Reentry Permit (form I-327)

Where can one find additional information including a list of the HME disqualifying crimes?

Additional information can be found at (HAZMAT).

The hazardous materials team

Iowa DOT's Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement's hazardous materials unit was created in 1992 at the request of the hazardous materials carriers and shippers.

The team is comprised of six hazardous materials transportation regulation specialists.


Shippers and carriers are required to comply with the hazardous materials regulations found in Title 49 of Federal Regulations Parts 100-185

Emergency response guidebook

The Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement is responsible for the distribution of the Emergency Response Guidebook to fire departments, law enforcement agencies, emergency medical services and other emergency responders.

Training and outreach programs

The Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement offers training programs on hazardous materials such as Hazardous Materials Awareness for First on the Scene, Basic Hazardous Materials and Cargo Tanks.

For more information on hazardous materials and/or training/outreach programs, please call 515-237-3135 or 515-290-2193 for assistance.

The Minnesota DOT has given us permission to link the following website. This website can be used as a hazardous materials resource tool.

Related websites

U.S. DOT's Office of Hazardous Materials Safety







Rules and regulations

checkmark Iowa Truck Information Guide

checkmark Medical certification requirements

checkmark Farm drivers and vehicles

checkmark Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

checkmark Vehicle inspection requirements

checkmark Hazardous materials

U.S. DOT number

Who needs a U.S. DOT number and how to get one

Motor carriers operating commercial vehicles across state lines will find helpful information and assistance at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Online Registration and Compliance Assistant website.

Motor carriers who are domiciled in Iowa and operate in for-hire intrastate commerce within Iowa also need to obtain a USDOT-IA number. Intrastate for-hire carriers need to contact the Iowa DOT's Office of Vehicle & Motor Carrier Services at 515-237-3268 for an application and assistance in obtaining intrastate operating authority and a USDOT-IA number.

A motor carrier who already has a USDOT number for interstate commerce will not be issued a second USDOT number, but must still obtain intrastate operating authority for loads transported within Iowa

Trailer hitch requirements

The Iowa Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement (MVE) is reporting an increase in questions related to safe and lawful trailer hitch attachment in Iowa. The majority of questions relate to whether you must remove the trailer hitch from your vehicle when a trailer is not attached. Iowa DOT’s MVE Major Ned Lewis clarified that there is no Iowa law that requires a hitch be removed when a trailer is not in tow.







Vehicle Inspection Requirements

  • Vehicle Inspection Requirements

    Any truck that is used in commerce and that has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 lbs. must be inspected. "In commerce" means the truck is used in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise.

    Trucks used in a commerce that have a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. or less are not required to be inspected, unless they are used in combination with a trailer. If they are used in combination with a trailer, you have to consider the combined GVWR for the truck and trailer and whether the combined vehicle will be used only in Iowa or in Iowa and other states:

    Used in Iowa only: If the combined vehicle is used only in Iowa (only in intrastate commerce), and the combined GVWR of the truck and trailer is 26,000 lbs. or less, the truck is exempt from the annual inspection requirements. This exception would include most pick-up trucks and trailers operating only in Iowa. Please check the GVWR of the truck and trailer to be sure.

    If the combined GVWR of the truck and trailer is more than 26,000 pounds, the truck must be inspected annually, even though it is only used in Iowa and the GVWR of the truck alone is 10,000 pounds or less.

    Used in other states: If the combined vehicle is used in other states (used In interstate commerce), the truck must be inspected annually if the combined GVWR of the truck and trailer is more than 10,000 pounds, even though the GVWR of the truck alone is 10,000 pounds or less.

  • How often must I inspect my truck?

    Once a truck is inspected, the inspection is valid for 12 months from the date of the inspection.

  • Where can I get my truck inspected?

    Most truck dealers and many major truck stops may be contacted.

  • Is there a charge for the inspection?

    The rule requiring the inspection does not establish a fee nor does it prohibit a fee. You should check with your inspection facility prior to having the vehicle inspected.

  • Can I do my own inspections?

    There is nothing to prohibit you or your employee from conducting the inspection as long as you or your employee meets the qualifications.
    If you would like more information on inspector qualifications and a sample copy of an inspection certificate, click here.

  • What safety equipment must be inspected?

    The inspection must be performed according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations found in Chapter 3, Subchapter B, Appendix G Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations.
    For a printable copy of that information please, click here.  

  • Does anything need to be carried in the truck to prove the vehicle has been inspected?

    The driver must have a copy of the actual inspection carried in the vehicle or a decal with similar information attached to the vehicle. 

  • Who can I contact for further information regarding annual inspections?

    For further information you may contact the Iowa DOT’s Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement Information Line at 800-925-6469 or you may contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at 515-233-7400. 

Inspection report copies

Inspection report
A motor carrier may request a copy of a single inspection report by submitting a faxed request to the Iowa DOT's Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement at 515-237-3387.  The faxed request must be made on company letterhead, include the driver's name and the inspection report number, and must be signed by a company official responsible for the maintenance or accuracy of carrier records. The requested inspection report will be sent to the carrier by return fax or e-mail if provided.

A motor vehicle carrier seeking copies of more than one inspection report must submit the request by U.S. mail on company letterhead and include all of the above mentioned information for each inspection requested. The fee for multiple inspection copies is $1 per report. Payment in the form of a check payable to the Iowa Department of Transportation is required with the request letter. No other form of payment will be accepted. Do not send cash.

Due to the inspection reports containing personal information, a motor carrier will be required to have filed a Privacy Act Agreement for Request of  Motor Vehicle Record(s) with the Iowa DOT's Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement. No inspection reports will be provided unless the form is on file. If the carrier changes its names, a new privacy form will need to be filed.

The form can be filled out online, printed and faxed; or the form may be printed, filled out by hand and faxed; to the Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement's fax number 515-237-3387.

Inspection challenge

A motor carrier may challenge information contained on an inspection report by submitting a request through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's DataQ website.

Carriers are encouraged to utilize the DataQ website as needed, but also utilize the toll-free information line at 800-925-6469 to obtain answers to questions on violations and regulatory issues that may need clarification.  In addition, violations involving a citation will not be changed through a DataQ challenge until the courts have issued disposition of the citation or a supervisory review of the citation has been made. A carrier who believes a supervisory review of a citation is necessary should contact the Iowa DOT's Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement at 800-925-6469 or



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Proof of citizenship or lawful presence to renew your CDL

warning sign

Federal regulations require you to bring proof of citizenship or lawful presence to renew your CDL.

You must bring one of the of the following documents to prove citizenship or lawful presence in the U.S. to renew your CDL (required)

U.S. Citizens

  • Certified copy of U.S. birth certificate
  • Valid U.S. passport
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA)
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Certificate of Citizenship
If your CDL has a gold star in the upper righthand corner, it’s a REAL ID license, and no additional documentation is required. Just bring your current CDL.

Permanent resident

Permanent residents or temporary foreign nationals must provide proof of lawful status whenever they are issued a license.
  • Permanent resident card (lawful permanent residents)

Temporary foreign national

Permanent residents or temporary foreign nationals must provide proof of lawful status whenever they are issued a license.
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or I-94 document

You’re also required to prove your Iowa residency.
Bring your current CDL showing your Iowa street address. If you donot have your current CDL, bring any document with your name and address, such as a utility bill, pay stub, or any piece of mail with a postmark or stamped date.



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warning sign

Federal regulations require you to bring proof of citizenship or lawful presence to renew your CDL. Get more information.



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Is the vehicle transporting hazardous materials in a placardable quantity?



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Is the power unit’s GVWR (weight of single vehicle - registered weight or manufacturer’s rating) 26,001 or more pounds?



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Is the trailer’s GVWR 10,001 or more pounds?



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Is the trailer’s GVWR 10,001 or more pounds? (if single unit choose NO)



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Is the vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver?



Commercial Driver's License