2024 Pennsylvania CDL Requirements Guide

To get a CDL in Pennsylvania, applicants must complete training, pass knowledge and skill tests, and receive endorsements.
Written by Shannon Fitzgerald
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Commercial
driver’s license
(CDL) requirements in
Pennsylvania
mandate that applicants must be 18 or older and a non-commercial license holder for at least two years. They will need to complete entry-level driver training (ELDT), pass knowledge and skill tests, and receive certain endorsements. 
Just as everyday drivers follow steps and requirements to earn a standard license, drivers of trucks, buses, or other commercial vehicles need to follow a specific licensing process as well. While earning your commercial driver’s license in Pennsylvania can seem complicated, knowing what class of commercial vehicle you’ll be driving and which endorsements you’ll need to operate it will set you on the right path. 
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What is required for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in Pennsylvania? 

Getting a commercial driver’s license in Pennsylvania takes a few more steps than getting a standard driver’s license. Depending on your vehicle’s class, you will be required to pass certain knowledge and skill tests and receive certain endorsements
Since so much of a CDL is based on the commercial vehicle you’ll be operating, it’s important to have that vehicle (or a similar vehicle) on hand. Not only will you be using it for your road test, but you’ll be required to perform a safety inspection for an examiner. 
On a basic level, you’ll need a non-commercial driver’s license that you’ve held for at least two years and identification documents to get started. You’ll then want to get familiar with which class of CDL you’ll be applying for. 

Pennsylvania CDL classes

Like many states, Pennsylvania has three different CDL classes. A Class A CDL has the most privileges while a Class C CDL has the least. The CDL class you need depends on the weight and purpose of the vehicle you intend to operate: 
  • Class A: The gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of any combination of vehicles exceeds 26,000 lbs where any trailers or towed vehicles exceed 10,000 lbs.
  • Class B: The GCWR of a single vehicle or power unit is over 26,000 lbs.
  • Class C: The GCWR of a single vehicle is 26,000 lbs or less, and it is transporting placarded hazardous materials, intended to transport 16 or more passengers, or a school bus for 11 or more passengers including the driver. 
Essentially, drivers intending to operate heavier vehicles like livestock carriers and triple trailers will need a Class A CDL, standard truck drivers usually need a Class B CDL, and school buses or HAZMAT vehicle drivers will need a Class C CDL. Drivers who have a Class A CDL are also qualified to operate Class B or Class C vehicles (with the required endorsements), and Class B CDL holders may also operate Class C vehicles. 

Endorsements

Certain commercial vehicles can only be operated if drivers obtain specific endorsements for their CDL. There are six different endorsements you can obtain in Pennsylvania: 
  • H: permits the driver to transport hazardous materials requiring a placard
  • N: permits tank vehicle operation
  • X: permits the transport of hazardous materials in a tank (combo of H and N)
  • P: permits the transportation of passengers 
  • S: permits school bus operation 
  • T: permits double and triple trailers 
To earn an endorsement, you will need to pass a written knowledge test that is separate from the general CDL knowledge test. In some cases, you may also need to complete a skills test on the road, undergo a criminal background check (like with an H endorsement), or participate in minimum training hours (like with an S endorsement).  
Because endorsements are so specific to your vehicle and operational intentions, you’ll want to consult
PennDOT’s Commercial Driver’s Manual
for more detailed requirements. 

Restrictions

Depending on the commercial vehicle you test with and your performance during the skills test, you may receive certain restrictions on your CDL. Pennsylvania imposes 14 different restrictions on CDLs. 
Some restrictions can be medical in nature, like requiring corrective lenses or a hearing aid to drive, while others pertain to missing equipment or knowledge during a skills test. For example, a driver may receive an L restriction prohibiting them from operating vehicles with air brakes if the vehicle they tested with did not have them. 
You can remove some restrictions for a fee by retaking your skills test in a vehicle that does have the necessary qualifications like a manual transmission or air brakes. Since this will cost you more time and money, try to make sure your testing vehicle has all of the qualifications you need

Minimum age requirement

You must be at least 18 years old to drive a commercial vehicle within Pennsylvania’s state lines. Interstate CDL drivers will need to be 21 years or older, as will drivers who are applying for a CDL with an H or X endorsement. 

Medical requirements

Depending on which commerce your vehicle is involved in, you may be required to provide a
current medical examiner’s certificate
to PennDOT. This is in compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations
Typically, all interstate commercial drivers need a completed medical certificate from an
FMCSA-registered licensed medical professional
. There are some
exceptions for certain interstate drivers
, but usually, you must meet the following qualifications:  
  • At least 20/40 vision
  • Can hear a harsh whisper from at least five feet away without hearing aids
  • Blood pressure is 160/100 or below
  • Can differentiate colors
  • Blood sugar is lower than 200 without controlled insulin 
  • No detection of Schedule 1 drugs, amphetamines, narcotics, or other habit-forming substances
Along with verifying whether you need restrictions for corrective lenses or hearing aids, the medical certificate also indicates if you have a medical variance. This is essentially an exemption from the FMCSA for health concerns that could affect your driving like diabetes, epilepsy, severe vision impairment, and heart problems. Check
FMCSA’s website
for more information on the variance process. 
The completed medical examiner’s certificate (DOT physical card) can either be faxed to PennDOT at (717) 783-5429, emailed to
CDLmedscert@pa.gov
, or turned in to your
nearest PennDOT licensing center
. You may also send the medical form to:
PennDOT 
Bureau of Driver Licensing 
P.O. Box 69008 
Harrisburg, PA 17106-9008
Note that processing may take 30 days or longer by mail. 

New ELDT requirements

Drivers who are applying for a Pennsylvania CDL class or endorsement for the first time are now subject to some new
Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT)
regulations from the FMCSA. Put in place on February 7, 2022, the new ELDT rules require CDL applicants to complete training with providers listed in
FMCSA’s registry
prior to taking a Class A or B CDL skills test, an S or P skills test, or an H knowledge test. 

Exemptions

In Pennsylvania, you do NOT need to have a commercial driver’s license if you’re operating military equipment in uniform, emergency fire equipment owned by a fire company, recreational vehicles, or certain agricultural and construction equipment. 
Some of these exemptions can be quite specific, so be sure to check directly with PennDOT before operating a commercial vehicle under the assumption that there is a CDL exemption. 
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How to apply for a CDL in Pennsylvania

To get a CDL in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to be a licensed non-commercial driver for two years first. Like a standard license, your initial step is to apply for a commercial learner’s permit, which can be done using form
DL-31CD
. In addition to this, you will need to self-certify the commercial vehicle you’ll be driving with
form DL-11CD
All CDL learner’s permit applicants must present their completed documents, proof of identity and citizenship, and proof of residency to PennDOT in person. Accepted forms of citizenship documentation include: 
  • US-issued birth certificate with raised seal
  • Passport 
  • Current immigration or naturalization documents 
If the name recorded on your citizenship documents differs from your current name, bring an original marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order indicating the name change. To prove your Pennsylvania residency, you can use any one of the following: 
  • Current license
  • W-2 forms 
  • Lease and mortgage documents
  • Tax records 
  • Recent utility bills (gas, cable, electric, water, etc.) 
  • Existing weapons permit 
The fee for your CDL application varies depending on the vehicle class and endorsements you’re applying for. However, you can generally expect to pay at least $32.50 for a non-commercial license upgrade 7-12 months before expiration and $86.50 for a 37-48 month upgrade. Here’s a
chart of additional PA CDL application fees
you may need to pay. 
Another important, and unspoken, requirement of a Pennsylvania CDL is a
clean driving record
. Having any major offense on your record will disqualify you from getting a CDL. This includes a
license suspension
, a
DUI
, or a hit-and-run. If you are convicted of using a vehicle to manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled substances, you will be permanently banned from obtaining a CDL. 

Knowledge tests

Once you have all your paperwork, documents, and fee payments compiled, you can head to the DMV. You will need to submit a medical examiner’s certificate at this time, so be sure to have one prepared if required. 
After all the paperwork for your commercial learner's permit is processed, a PennDOT agent will give you a Knowledge Test Authorization (KTA) for every CDL class, endorsement, or restriction removal you request. Your KTA is basically a ticket to appear at any
CDL Driver License Center
to take the specified knowledge test—it is NOT your commercial learner’s permit. You will have three tries per KTA to pass the test over a one-year period after which you will have to request an extension with
form DL-31CD
All CDL knowledge tests are multiple-choice. Here are the tests Pennsylvania implements: 
  • General (all CDL applicants)
  • Passenger (all bus drivers)
  • Air brakes (applicable vehicles) 
  • Combination (Class A combo vehicles) 
  • Hazardous materials (vehicles hauling any quantity of toxins listed in
    42 CFR 73
  • Tanker (vehicles hauling high volumes of liquid or liquid gas) 
  • Double and triples (vehicles hauling double or triple trailers)
  • School bus 
A commercial learner’s permit will only be issued upon successful completion of each test—that means a grade of at least 80%. Note that you will need to fulfill ELDT requirements prior to taking the knowledge test for an H endorsement if it’s your first time doing so. 
After your CLP is secured, you must wait a minimum of 15 days before taking a Class A, B, or C skills test. Like your KTA, it also lasts a period of one year, during which time you are authorized to practice driving your commercial vehicle on public roads as long as you are accompanied by a CDL holder who is 21 years or older. You may extend your CLP using form
DL-31CD

Skills tests

In Pennsylvania, CDL skills tests consist of three parts: vehicle inspection, basic vehicle control, and on-road driving. Most new CDL applicants will need to complete the required ELDT training beforehand. 
To schedule your CDL skills test, contact one of the Driver License Centers listed in
PennDOT’s Commercial Driver’s License Location Flyer
or use the
online scheduler
. There will be no fee as long as you have a valid CLP. 
At your CDL skills test, you will first need to perform a vehicle inspection for your examiner proving that your vehicle is safe. They may ask you questions about
safety inspection points
, so be sure to know where they are. 
After your inspection, you will be tested on basic vehicle control at the testing site. This typically consists of simple forward, backward, and turning maneuvers around cones or barriers. You will be scored on three maneuvers with attention toward how well you stay within boundaries, how frequently you move forward, and your vehicle’s final position. 
Finally, you will conclude your CDL skills test on the road. Your examiner will usually test you on the following situations: 
  • Turning left and right
  • Merging
  • Changing lanes
  • Going up and down grades 
  • Crossing railroads 
  • Crossing intersections 
  • Single and multi-lane roads 
  • Highway driving
After all that is successfully completed, you’ve finally earned your Pennsylvania CDL!

How long is a CDL valid in Pennsylvania? 

If you upgraded your non-commercial driver’s license to a CDL, your CDL will be valid until your license was scheduled to expire. Otherwise, a CDL is generally valid in Pennsylvania for a period of four years—just like a standard license. Renewal fees are a little more expensive than a non-commercial license at $102.50, or $120.50 with an H endorsement. 
That said, if you are 65 or older, your CDL will only last a period of two years. Renewal will cost $56.00 for standard CDL renewal and $74.00 with an H endorsement. 
No matter how old you are, an additional $60.00 federal renewal fee will apply to H endorsement renewals

How to save on car insurance in Pennsylvania

The costs to acquire a CDL in Pennsylvania can add up quickly, but budgeting on your passenger vehicle
car insurance
can help give you some extra cash flow. 
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The average user saves $800+ a year on car insurance, so it’s definitely worth it to help finance that CDL application! 
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