To apply for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in Washington state, you need to be 18 years or older, have a valid WA driver’s license, and be free of any lifetime disqualifications outlined by the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL).
Anyone who operates a commercial vehicle in Washington, such as a bus or semi-truck, must have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). The WA CDL application process is specific to the type of commercial driving that you’ll be doing, but the basic requirements are fairly simple.
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What is required for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in Washington?
Washington CDL disqualifications
If you’ve had your driver’s license suspended, revoked, canceled, or surrendered, you’ll be
disqualified from getting your CDL. Other violations can also get you disqualified, including:
- Committing multiple traffic offenses within 3 years
- Using a vehicle while committing a crime
- Leaving the scene of a car accident
- Refusing a breath or blood test when pulled over
Washington CDL classes
There are three classes of WA CDL, depending on the type of commercial vehicle that you intend to operate. The classes are based on gross vehicle/combined weight rating (GVWR/GCWR), the number of persons the vehicle carries, and the types of materials you’ll be carrying. Here are the different classes and the vehicles they allow you to drive:
- Class A: Any combination vehicle with a GCWR of 26,001 or more pounds for which the vehicle or vehicles being towed are over 10,000 pounds
- Class B: Any single vehicle with GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more or combination vehicles towing a trailer that weighs 10,000 pounds or less
- Class C: Vehicles carrying 16 or more people including the driver or vehicles transporting hazardous materials requiring a placard
For example, you’ll need a Class C CDL to operate a city bus, while a trucker driving the heaviest loads will likely need a Class A CDL. You’ll typically also need endorsements for your commercial purposes, especially for a Class C CDL.
When you apply for your CLP, you’ll need to apply for certain endorsements, based on the type of vehicle(s) you plan to operate. The available endorsements for a CLP in Washington state are as follows:
- P: for passenger vehicles
- S: for school buses
- N: for tank vehicles transporting liquid or gas
Here are the endorsements for when you get your full WashingtonCDL:
- P: passenger
- S: school bus
- T: double and triple trailers
- N: tank vehicles
- H: hazardous materials
- X: a combination of tank and hazardous materials
Certain restrictions may be added to your CDL depending on the vehicle you take your skills test with. On top of this, the self-certification process may require a
medical reportfrom your doctor, depending on how you self-certify.
Minimum age requirement
You must be 18 years or older to operate a commercial vehicle within state lines. For state-to-state driving, the minimum age requirement is 21 years.
New ELDT requirements for 2022
Anyone who has obtained a CLP on or after February 7, 2022 must follow new federal regulations for
Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT).
If that applies to you, you must complete training through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You can find a training provider by using the
FMCSA’s registry. This training must be completed before you can take your skills test.
How to apply for a CDL in Washington
To start the
application process, you’ll need to make an appointment at your local driver's licensing office to pass a knowledge test specific to the type of vehicle that you’ll be operating. You’ll need a few documents when you come to your appointment:
- Your current driver’s license
- Your social security card
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship/Permanent Residency/non-domicile document
You’ll also need to self-certify based on the type of vehicle you’ll be operating. This mostly means submitting pertinent medical documents.
Once this has been done, you’ll be ready to take on the
knowledge test. There is a $35 fee to take the test and an additional $40 fee to get your commercial learner’s permit (CLP) if you pass. All the materials that you’ll need to study for the knowledge test are included in the
commercial driver guide.
Once you have your CLP, you’ll need to fulfill
training requirementsand pass a skills test before being issued your CDL. Each CDL Class requires a specific amount of total training hours, including classroom instruction, street driving, backing maneuvers, proficiency development, and more.
You have to wait at least 14 days after getting your CLP before you can take the CDL skills test. You will need to provide the vehicle you use for your skills test and it must match the type of vehicle your CLP is for.
Here are some things you can expect to be tested on for your Washington CDL skills test:
- Vehicle inspection—instantly ends the test if you fail
- Basic controls
- Backing up an obstacle course
- On-road test
- Knowledge of inspections items
- Air supply system check
- Safe operation according to the CDL guide
The skills test for a truck costs $250 to take. The school bus test costs $100. If you pass the test, congratulations! Now you can
schedule your appointmentto get your new CDL issued to you. Adding your CDL to your valid WA license will cost $40, and each added endorsement costs $10.
How long is a CDL valid in Washington?
Most Washington State driver’s licenses need to be renewed every six years and it usually expires on your birthday. You can renew your license as early as one year before it expires. There’s an extra $10 late fee if you renew your license 60 days after it has expired.
The regular fee to renew a CDL is $55. If your license expired over 6 years ago, you will need to start the entire CDL application process from scratch.
How to save on car insurance in Washington
If you’ve been following along up to this point, you might have noticed that the CDL application process can be expensive—especially if you don’t pass the test on the first try.
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