Driver's license/ID

License descriptions

Class C - Operator

This is the license most Iowans have. With this license, you may drive cars, pickups and trucks whose gross vehicle weight is 16,000 pounds or less. To get an operator’s license, you will have to pass the vision screening. You will also have to take the knowledge test and a driving test if you have an invalid or expired (over one year) out-of-state license, or if you have not had a driver’s license before. If you have a valid out-of-state license that allows you to drive by yourself, the driving test may be waived.

Class D - Chauffeur

This license covers operation of light straight trucks and small passenger-for-hire vehicles. This also includes persons exempted from commercial licensing, such as a farmer who is driving a farm truck-tractor semitrailer combination, a paid or volunteer firefighter who is driving vehicles in excess of 16,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating, and a taxi driver. The Class D license has one of three endorsements allowing a driver to operate:

  • Endorsement 1: tractor-trailer combinations if a CDL farm exemption applies. Must pass General Knowledge exam and a driving test (and vision screening)
  • Endorsement 2: single-unit vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 16,001 pounds or more up through a 26,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating. Must pass General Knowledge exam and a driving test (and vision screening)
  • Endorsement 3: passenger vehicles which carry less than 16 passengers, such as taxis. No knowledge test required; no driving test required if you’ve had a valid license and clear driving record for the previous two years.

Class C - Instruction Permit

This gives you the chance to learn how to drive with the help of an experienced driver. To get an instruction permit you must be at least 14 years old and pass the vision screening and knowledge test.

Class D - Chauffeur’s Instruction Permit

This allows you to learn to drive a vehicle for which you need a Class D license, but not commercial motor vehicles that require a CDL. When driving, you must have someone who has a Class D or commercial license valid for that type of vehicle in the seat next to you. This restriction is added to your existing license. To get your chauffeur’s permit, you must be at least 18 years old and pass the vision screening and general knowledge test.

Class C - Minor's School License

To get a school license you must have successfully completed an Iowa-approved driver education course (unless you show a hardship exists) and live 1 mile or more from school. One of your parents must sign a consent form, and your school superintendent or chairperson of the school board must furnish a statement of need on a form provided by the DOT. This form is available from any Iowa driver’s license issuance site. You must pass a vision screening, but the driving test may be waived. You will also need to take the knowledge test unless your instruction permit is still valid. Get more information on minor school licenses.

Class C - Minor’s Restricted License

A “minor restricted license” (valid only for travel to and from work, or to transport dependents to and from temporary care facilities if necessary to hold a job) may be issued to a person age 16-18 who has completed an Iowa-approved driver education course and to whom any of the following apply:

  • is not in attendance at school;
  • has not completed the requirements for graduation in an accredited school; or
  • has not obtained a high school equivalency diploma.

Motorcycle Instruction Permit

A motorcycle instruction permit allows you to operate a motorcycle while accompanied by another person that has a license valid for motorcycles. The accompanying person must stay within sight and hearing distance and be on or in a different motor vehicle. Only one learner may be supervised by any one licensed driver. To get a motorcycle instruction permit, you must pass the motorcycle knowledge exam and a vision screening.

Note: If you are under age 18, a motorcycle instruction permit allows you to operate a motorcycle with a licensed parent/guardian or immediate member of your family who is at least 21 years old, but you must have written permission from your parent/guardian to operate a motorcycle with any other adult, who must be at least 25 years old and have a license valid for motorcycles.

Motorcycle endorsement (added to an existing license)

The motorcycle endorsement allows you to operate vehicles classified as motorcycles. To obtain a motorcycle endorsement you must pass the motorcycle knowledge test and a motorcycle skills (driving) test as well as a vision screening. The department may waive the skills test if you have successfully completed an Iowa-approved course in motorcycle education.

Class M - Motorcycle license only

This license is for motorcycle driving only and is not valid for the operation of any other type of motor vehicle. To obtain a motorcycle-only license, you must pass the motorcycle knowledge test as well as the operator knowledge test, pass a skills (driving) test on your motorcycle, and complete a vision screening. The department may waive the skills test if you have successfully completed an Iowa-approved course in motorcycle education.

Moped (motorized bicycle) license only

This license allows you to operate moped (motorized bicycle). You will need to pass the vision screening and the operator knowledge test. The knowledge test may be waived if you already have a valid operator instruction permit or operator driver’s license. If you are under age 16 you must also have successfully completed an Iowa-approved course in moped education. A driving test may be required.

Identification card only

An identification card may be issued to any person regardless of their age. Learn about proof of identity documents required to obtain an Iowa identification card.

Class A commercial

A Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is valid for the operation of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds if the towed vehicle or vehicles have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or GCWR of 10,001 or more pounds. The license is also valid for the operation of vehicles with lower GCWRs and other vehicles, except motorcycles (which requires a motorcycle endorsement). To obtain a Class A CDL, you must pass the CDL General Knowledge test, CDL Combination Vehicles knowledge test, and any tests required to obtain any additional CDL endorsements. A skills (driving) test and an on-the-road driving test are also required, as well as a pre-trip inspection.

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. Learn more about CDL medical certification requirements.

Class B commercial

A Class B License is valid for the operation of a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds. It is also valid for a combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds if the towing vehicle has a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds and the towed vehicle or vehicles have a GVWR or GCWR of less than 10,001 pounds. A Class B CDL is also valid for the operation of vehicles with lower GVWR or GCWR, with the exception motorcycles (which requires a motorcycle endorsement). To obtain a Class B CDL, you must pass the CDL General Knowledge test and any tests required to obtain any additional CDL endorsements. A skills (driving) test and an on-the-road driving test are also required, as well as a pre-trip inspection.

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. Learn more about CDL medical certification requirements.

Class C commercial

This class of commercial license applies only to vehicles that are required to be placarded for hazardous materials or vehicles that are designed to transport 16 or more persons including the driver, or any redesigned or modified vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 or more pounds that has been redesigned or modified to transport less than 16 persons with disabilities.

A Class C Commercial Driver's License is valid for any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of less than 26,001 pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR. To obtain a Class C CDL, you must pass the CDL General Knowledge test, either the hazardous materials examination or the passenger knowledge test (whichever applies to the type of license you seek), and any other knowledge tests required to obtain any additional CDL endorsements.

If you are operating a passenger vehicle or a hazardous material vehicle under 16,001 GVWR, you will be required to pass a CDL skills (driving) test. If you are operating a yellow school bus with a GVWR of 16,000 pounds or less, you will be required to pass a pre-trip inspection, skills (driving) test, and an on-the-road driving test.

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. Learn more about CDL medical certification requirements.

CDL endorsements

Hazardous Material

Any driver who transports hazardous materials in amounts requiring placarding must have a hazardous material endorsement added to his CDL. To obtain this endorsement you must pass the CDL Hazardous Material examination. This examination is required each time you renew your license. Additionally, federal regulations require that you must make application with Integrated Biometric Technology (IBT) for verification and fingerprinting. The fingerprint-based threat assessment is also required each time you renew your license and is also required if you are transferring an out-of-state license. Learn more about the fingerprint-based background checks.

Passenger Endorsement

Any driver who wishes to drive a motor vehicle having a design capacity to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver, must have a passenger endorsement on their CDL. This also includes a redesigned or modified vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 or more pounds used to transport less than 16 handicapped persons. To obtain this endorsement you must pass the CDL Passenger knowledge examination, as well as a pre-trip, skills, and a driving test in a passenger vehicle representative of the class of vehicle you wish to operate with the license.

Note: The Passenger endorsement alone is not valid for the operation of school buses. School bus operation requires both the passenger endorsement as well as the school bus endorsement.

School Bus Endorsement

Any driver who wishes to drive a school bus having a design capacity to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver, must have both a school bus endorsement as well as a passenger endorsements on their CDL. This includes a redesigned or modified school bus with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 or more pounds used to transport less than 16 handicapped persons. To obtain the school bus and passenger endorsements you must pass the CDL School Bus knowledge examination, Passenger knowledge examination, and a pre-trip, skills, and a driving test in a school bus representative of the class of vehicle you wish to operate with the license.

Tank Endorsement

Liquids in bulk can cause driving control problems because the cargo is heavy, prone to shifting, and has a high center of gravity. Drivers of any commercial motor vehicle designed to transport any liquid or gaseous materials within a tank or tanks that have an individual rated capacity of more than 119 gallons and an aggregate rated capacity of 1,000 gallons or more that is either permanently or temporarily attached to the vehicle or the chassis must obtain a tank endorsement on their CDL. To obtain the tank endorsement, you must pass the CDL Tanker knowledge examination.

Double/Triple Endorsement

Drivers who pull double or triple trailers must have an endorsement on their CDL. To obtain this endorsement you must pass a CDL Double and Triple Trailers knowledge examination. A double/triple endorsement is not required to operate a commercial motor vehicle with two or more towed vehicles that are not trailers. For example, a semi tractor pulling other tractors “piggy back”.

Note: Current Iowa law does not permit the operation of triple trailers; however, a driver whose home state is Iowa must be able to obtain the endorsement in order to haul a triple trailer in those jurisdictions where they are legal.

Removing the airbrake restriction

If you complete a driving test in a commercial vehicle that is not equipped with air brakes, you must have a restriction on your CDL indicating you cannot operate commercial motor vehicles that are equipped with air brakes. To remove this restriction, you must pass the CDL Air Brake knowledge examination, as well as a partial pre-trip (airbrakes only).

Remove full air brake restriction

If you complete a driving test in a commercial vehicle that is equipped with air over hydraulic brakes (not full air brakes), you must have a restriction on your CDL indicating you cannot operate commercial motor vehicles that are equipped with a full air brake system. To remove this restriction, you must pass a pre-trip inspection test. 

Remove manual transmission restriction

If you complete a driving test in a commercial vehicle that is equipped with automatic transmission, you must have a restriction on your CDL indicating you cannot operate commercial motor vehicles that are equipped a manual transmission. To remove this restriction, you must pass a vehicle safety inspection and a CDL driving test in a commercial vehicle equipped with manual transmission.

Remove tractor-trailer restriction

If you complete a driving test for a Class A combination vehicle with a pintle hook or non-fifth wheel connection, you must have a restriction on your CDL indicating you cannot operate Class A combination commercial vehicles that are connected by a fifth wheel that requires a Class A CDL. To remove this restriction, you must pass a pre-trip inspection test and CDL skills and driving tests with a Class A combination vehicle connected by a fifth wheel.