2023 South Dakota CDL Requirements Guide

Getting a CDL in South Dakota requires getting a learner’s permit, writing several knowledge tests, and doing a skills test.
Written by Thidas Senanayaka
Reviewed by Claire Beaney
You have to be at least 18 years old to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in South Dakota, though you need to be 21 to drive across state lines. You also need a driver’s license with a clean driving history
If you want to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in South Dakota, you need a South Dakota CDL. Driving a 26,000-pound vehicle is risky business and the Mouth Rushmore State (rightfully so) requires you to complete certain requirements before you’re allowed to do so. 
The process might seem a little convoluted, but don’t let this scare you away.
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What is required for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in South Dakota? 

You need a CDL in South Dakota to drive a single vehicle or trailer with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more or a vehicle transporting more than 16 people.
The process requires you to go through different tests and even get a couple of certifications. Your requirements will change based on what class license you’re looking to get or what endorsements and restrictions may apply to you. 

South Dakota CDL classes

South Dakota has three CDL classes: Class A for combination vehicles, Class B for heavy straight vehicles, and Class C for small vehicles. Class A vehicles require the most skill and knowledge to operate compared to Class B and C.
  • Class A: A combination of vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the GVWR of any vehicle being towed is more than 10,000 pounds. Class A holders can also drive Class B and C vehicles.
  • Class B: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 (or more) pounds or such a vehicle where the GVWR of the towed vehicle is under 10,000 pounds. Class B license holders can drive Class C vehicles as well.
  • Class C: Any single vehicle with a GVWR less than 26,001 pounds or towing a vehicle less than 10,000 pounds if they are (1) designed to carry 16 or more passengers including the driver or (2) used to transport hazardous materials.
Class A combination vehicles include truck-tractors/semi-trailers or truck and trailer-combinations. Straight trucks or large buses are considered Class B vehicles. Class C has a great variety of vehicles, but due to the safety required, still requires a CDL to operate.


Certain types of vehicles or cargo have endorsements that you need to attach to a CDL or Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). South Dakota has six CDL endorsements/
  • T: for double and triple trailers  
  • N: for transporting liquids/gaseous materials within a tank
  • P: for passenger vehicles that can carry 16 or more people (including the driver)
  • H: for transporting hazardous materials
  • X: for tank vehicles that transport hazardous materials
  • S: for driving school busses
Some of these endorsements have special knowledge tests that need to be taken. Only the P (passenger), S (school bus), and N (tank vehicle) endorsements can be added to a CLP in South Dakota. 

Minimum age requirement

To start the CDL process, you have to be at least 18 years old with a valid South Dakota Class 1 or Class 2 operator’s license—this is when you can get your CLP, which you can use to prepare for the CDL tests. You have to be at least 21 years old to be able to leave the state while driving a CMV. 

Medical requirements

Every time you apply for, renew, or upgrade to a different class of CDL, you will need to declare whether or not you need a medical certificate. Medical certificates are required for interstate drivers (including school bus drivers operating across state lines commercially).

ELDT requirements

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has set out some additional training steps you’ll have to fulfill before taking a CDL skills or knowledge test. This is called
Entry Level Driving Training (ELDT)
and you’ll have to complete it if you are:
  • Obtaining a Class A or B CDL for the first time
  • Upgrading an existing Class B to a Class A CDL
  • Obtaining an S (school bus), P (passenger), or H (hazardous material) endorsement for the first time
These requirements will apply to people getting a CLP on or after February 7, 2022. If you were issued a CDL or an S, P, or H endorsement before February 7 of 2022, you don’t need to complete the training. You can use the FMCSA’s
list of training providers
to complete your ELDT requirements.
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How to apply for a CDL in South Dakota

minimum requirements
for a CDL in South Dakota are that you be a resident, be at least 18 years old, and have documents proving your identity and address. You also need to hold a Class 1 or Class 2 license (for trucks, cars, and/or motorcycles).
If your record has a history of serious traffic violations, violations of an out-of-service order, grade crossing violations, or major traffic violations, you may be disqualified from getting a CDL for different terms. If you have been convicted of more than two major traffic violations, you may be disqualified for life (it can be reduced to 10 years). Committing a felony related to distributing an illicit substance or human trafficking would be a lifetime disqualification, permanently. 
In addition to not being disqualified, you need to have a Class 1 or Class 2 license (for trucks, cars, and/or motorcycles) to start the CDL process. Your first step is to get a CLP—you also won’t qualify for your South Dakota CDL otherwise. A CPL costs $33
To get your CPL you need to pass the General Knowledge Test, which has 50-multiple choice (MC) questions. All knowledge tests need an 80% score to pass. If you don’t score at least 80% on the General Knowledge test, you won’t be issued a CLP or allowed to take a skills test. If your vehicle is equipped with air brakes, you also have to take the air brakes test.
If you’re looking to get a Class A license, you will need to take a combination vehicles knowledge test as well. The following endorsements also have their own knowledge tests you’ll need to take:
  • T: double/triples knowledge test (20 MC questions)
  • N: tank vehicle knowledge test (20 MC questions)
  • P: passenger transport knowledge test (20 MC questions)
  • H: hazardous materials knowledge tests (30 MC questions)
  • X: tank vehicle knowledge test and hazardous materials knowledge tests
  • S: school bus knowledge test (20 MC questions)
After you pass your knowledge tests, you’ll be issued a CLP. This is valid for 1 year, but you will only have up to 180 days to convert your CLP to a CDL—otherwise, you will have to redo the knowledge tests along with the skill tests. 
The next step is taking your skills tests. You need to have held your CLP for at least 14 days before you take a skills test. There are 3 types of skills tests you are required to pass: vehicle inspection, basic control skills, and the road test. Road tests are required for an initial CDL, removing a CDL restriction, or adding a P or S endorsement to your CDL.
You’ll need to pay another $33 for the CDL and $15 per endorsement test. Since testing can be done at third-party testing centers, that might cost you $90 plus tax as well. 
Your road test will take roughly 30-45 minutes and involve things like left and right turns, intersections, railroad crossings, curves, up and down grades, single or multi-lane roads, streets, or highways. The examiner will guide your driving.
Once these steps are completed, you will have your South Dakota CDL! 

How long is a CDL valid in South Dakota? 

In South Dakota, a CDL expires on the licensee’s birthday in the fifth year from the date it was issued. Each license can be renewed 180 days before its expiration unless you’re turning 21 in which case you have to wait till after your 21st birthday. If you apply for renewal within a year after expiry, written or skills testing is not required

How to save on car insurance in South Dakota

So that’s it! That’s what you need to do to get a CDL in South Dakota. As you can tell, it’s going to cost you more than a fair amount—but one way to offset that cost is to save on other costs, like your
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