2024 Colorado CDL Requirements Guide

The basic Colorado CDL requirements include having a valid Colorado driver’s license and being at least 18 years old. Click here to learn more!
Written by Andrea Barrett
Reviewed by Amy Bobinger
background
To apply for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in
Colorado
, you must be at least 18 years old and hold a valid regular Colorado driver’s license. You’ll also have to pass the required written tests successfully.
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What is required for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in Colorado? 

Getting a CDL in Colorado isn’t as simple as getting your regular driver’s license. To get a Colorado CDL, you’ll need to do the following: 
  • Have a valid regular Colorado driver’s license
  • Be a minimum of 18 years old
  • Gather all required identification documents
  • Obtain a Colorado DOT medical card
  • Complete all necessary examinations
That said, the exact requirements depend on what class of CDL you’re getting and any endorsements you may need to operate a specific commercial vehicle. 

Colorado CDL classes

There are three basic classes of commercial driver's licenses you can apply for in Colorado. From most to least comprehensive, they are: Class A, Class B, and Class C. Here are the types of vehicles you can operate with each license class: 
  • Class A: Any combination of vehicles whose gross combination weight rating (GCWR) is 26,001 pounds or more where the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is more than 10,000 pounds. A driver with a Class A license can drive vehicles in Class B or C.
  • Class B: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more or any combination of vehicles where the GVWR of the towed vehicle does not exceed 10,000 pounds. Drivers with a Class B license can operate vehicles in Class C.
  • Class C: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or less or any vehicle towing another vehicle that does not exceed 10,000 pounds GVWR. Commercial vehicles in this class are designed to transport 16 or more passengers or used to transport hazardous materials.
Tractor-trailers (big rigs, 18-wheelers, etc.), flatbed trucks, and tanker vehicles require a Class A CDL to operate. For a city bus or dump truck, you’ll need a class B CDL. And for certain smaller passenger buses or vehicles transporting hazardous waste, you’ll need a Class C CDL with the proper endorsement. 

Endorsements

All commercial drivers who drive specific vehicles or haul certain types of cargo must add endorsements to their CDL license and/or Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) to confirm that they’ve received specialized training and knowledge to operate such vehicles. In Colorado, there are six types of CDL endorsements that may be required, depending on the vehicle type or kind of cargo.
  • T: for double or triple trailers over a specific weight
  • N: for tank vehicles
  • P: for passenger vehicles 
  • H: for transportation of hazardous materials 
  • X: for transportation of hazardous materials or waste in a tank vehicle
  • S: for school buses
Note that drivers holding a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) can only add specific endorsements to their license: 
  • Passenger (P)
  • School bus (S)
  • Tank vehicle (N)
In addition to the six required endorsements, states are also approved to add special endorsements of their own as they see fit.

Minimum age requirement

To obtain a Colorado CDL Instruction Permit or a full CDL, drivers must be at least 18 years of age. Drivers between 18 and 20 years of age will be issued a “K” restriction, which allows them to operate a commercial vehicle within Colorado state borders. Drivers must be 21 years or older to operate outside state lines.

Medical requirements

Finally, the Colorado Department of Revenue requires all people applying for a CDL to pass a
DOT medical exam
. This exam ensures an individual is physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Medical requirements include:
  • Minimum 20/40 correctable vision in each eye and both combined; glasses or contacts are permitted
  • Forced whisper test to detect adequate hearing
  • Controlled blood pressure according to the FMCSA guidelines
  • Maximum blood sugar level of 200 or less without insulin injections
  • No use of Schedule 1 drugs, amphetamines, narcotics, or any habit-forming drugs
If the Medical Examiner determines that you are physically qualified to drive a commercial vehicle in accordance with the physical qualification standards, they will need to complete and provide the driver with a Medical Examiner's Certificate (MEC),
Form MCSA-5876
.

New ELDT requirements

If you’re interested in getting a Colorado CDL, but you’ve never applied for one, you’ll have to follow the new regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for
Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT)
. This applies to people looking to:
  • Obtain a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time
  • Upgrade an existing Class B CDL to a Class A CDL
  • Obtain a school bus (S), passenger (P), or hazardous materials (H) endorsement for the first time
As of February 2022, all new applicants must find a registered training provider in
FMCSA’s registry
and complete training with them before they can take their skills tests or the H knowledge test. If an applicant obtained a CLP before February 7, 2022, and obtains a CDL before the CLP expires, they are subject to the ELDT requirements.

How to apply for a CDL in Colorado

The first (and most important) requirement for obtaining a Colorado CDL is having a valid Colorado driver’s license. Although the Colorado DOT doesn’t specify a
clean driving record
is mandatory, all CDL applicants must submit to a review of their driving record
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires a record for the past ten years, which means that any significant traffic violations could delay your eligibility—and certain offenses will make it impossible altogether. These include: 
  • Leaving the scene of an accident
  • Commission of a felony
  • Serious traffic violations (speeding, reckless driving, improper or erratic lane changes, etc.)
  • Violation of out-of-service orders
  • Railroad or highway crossing violations
  • Moving violations in personal vehicle
Assuming you pass all the preliminary requirements, there are still a few requirements you’ll need to meet before you’ll be given a CDL. First, you’ll need to apply for a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) before applying for a full Colorado CDL. To do that, you’ll need the following: 
  • Valid Colorado driver’s license
  • Current DOT medical card (find a local
    FMCSA Certified Medical Examiner
    )
  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of legal presence
  • Social Security number (Social Security card, W-2 or 1099 forms, or paystubs that include your name and SSN)
  • Commercial drive skills test completion form dated within 60 days (only required for turning your learner’s permit into a CDL)
  • Appropriate applicable fee
You must also:
  • Pass a vision screening test
  • Complete and pass a road test at your local State approved organization
  • Submit to a review of your driving record (previous ten years)
Ensure you’ve completed all requirements before bringing your documents and fee to your
local driver’s license office
.
All drivers with a CLP are required to wait at least 14 days before the CDL skills exam can be taken. During that time, you’re authorized to operate the class of vehicle shown on your CLP with an adult 21 years or older with a CDL in the same class of license or higher, with the required endorsements for the vehicle being driven. All Commercial Learner's Permits (CLP) are valid for 180 days and are eligible for one renewal, which is also valid for 180 days.
Before being issued a CDL, you must pass specific exams and fulfill a couple more requirements. First, schedule an appointment at your local driver’s license office and bring your completed CDL application and all required identification documents you used to get your CLP. The fee for the CDL itself is $17.08. You’ll also be required to pass a vision exam, which will likely be part of your DOT medical exam. 
The CDL knowledge exam tests you on the following:
  • General Knowledge
  • Passenger Transport
  • Air Brakes
  • Combination Vehicles
  • Endorsements (if applicable) 
The Colorado CDL written test consists of 50 questions, and applicants must correctly answer at least 40 questions (80%) to pass. The general knowledge test covers the contents of the
Colorado CDL Manual
.
Once you’ve passed the written tests, it’s time to hit the road for your driving test! You can schedule a driving skills test with an
approved driving school
. The skills test consists of three parts: vehicle inspection, basic vehicle control, and on-road driving. You must take the skills test in the vehicle type you wish to be licensed. Some things you should be prepared to do include: 
  • Starting the vehicle 
  • Parallel parking
  • Off-set backing
  • Straight-line backing
  • Lane change
  • Merge
  • Use of lanes
  • Right-of-way
  • Traffic signs and signals
  • Left and right turns
  • Intersections
  • Railroad crossings
  • Curves
  • Roadside stop/start
  • Upshifting and downshifting (if applicable) 
Once you pass the driving skills test, you’re now a certified Colorado CDL holder! Congratulations! 

How long is a CDL valid in Colorado? 

Once you’ve obtained your Colorado CDL, it is valid for four years. You can renew your CDL at any time, up to one year after its expiration. The renewal fees are the same as the original application fee: $17.08.
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