A commercial drivers license is required to operate commercial vehicles, such as buses or trailers, in the state of California. If your license is coming up on its expiration date and you need to complete a CDL renewal, it is safest to begin the renewal process at least two weeks before your birth date. If you need to upgrade your license, maintain an endorsement or apply for a hazardous material endorsement, you will be required to complete knowledge tests before the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will issue you a new commercial license.

Complete a CDL renewal application online or in person at a DMV in order to obtain a new license. Also, if your job requires you to have a CDL, your employer may be responsible for paying the fees required to renew your license and complete the appropriate testing. Your employer is responsible for the examination costs to maintain your medical verification.

When to Renew Your CDL License in California

The state of California will not send you a CDL license renewal reminder unless you have a license with a hazardous material endorsement. It will be your responsibility to remember that your CDL expiration date is on your birthday and set a reminder for yourself.

It is best to begin your CDL renewal at least one month before your birthday. If you need to complete any endorsement tests or a TSA background check, consider renewing your license even sooner. To avoid DMV lines, you can schedule your DMV appointment a week or two prior.

CDL Renewal Testing Requirements in California

It is necessary to recomplete your CDL testing in order to renew your license. In addition to the general skills and knowledge tests that were required during your first application process, you must also take any additional knowledge tests required to maintain your endorsements. You will only be asked to retake a CDL driving test if your license has been expired for two years or more.

The general knowledge test must be taken by all applicants. However, depending on the class of your license, you may also be asked to complete the:

  • Passenger transport test, required for bus drivers.
  • Air brakes test, required if your vehicle has air brakes, including air over hydraulic brakes.
  • Hazardous materials test, required to transport hazardous materials.
  • Combination vehicles test, required to operate combination vehicle.
  • School bus test, required to drive a school bus.
  • Double or triples test, required if you want to drive double or triple trailers.
  • Firefighter endorsement test, required to operate fire operation equipment.

Allow 2 to 3 hours to complete all written tests.

What do you need to renew your CDL license in California?

To complete a DMV CDL renewal, you need to provide proof of identity, medical fitness and residence. These requirements are now legislated by federal law, and must be recompleted each time you apply for a CDL. The document proof you need is:

  • Proof of Identity: U.S. passport, a U.S. birth certificate or copy of a birth certificate from a U.S. territory, certificate of U.S. naturalization or citizenship, valid employment authorization, a state-verified photo ID or a valid permanent resident card.
  • Proof of Residence: A mortgage bill, rental or lease agreement, tax return from the previous year, employment document or a recent home utility bill.
  • Medical Verification: A licensed doctor must complete the Medical Examination Report (MER) Form, MCSA-5875, and the Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC) Form, MCSA-5876 to be submitted to the DMV.

If you apply for a CDL in California but do not have a valid California driver’s license, you are required to supply two documents to prove residence. If you have an unexpired driver’s license from California, you are only required to provide one of the above documents as confirmation of your address.

CDL Renewal Process in California

To fully renew your CDL license, you must visit the California DMV in person. However, some steps may be completed online or by mail. While you can submit your cdl medical forms through mail and complete your application online, you will eventually have to visit the DMV in person to take a vision test and have a new photo taken for your license.

To avoid wait times, schedule your appointment at the DMV at least one week in advance. Appointments are especially necessary if you will be required to take a driving test, as California does not permit walk-in skills testing.

How to Renew Your Commercial Driver’s License Online in California

It is possible to renew a CDL online in California. The Commercial Driver’s License Application (DL 44C) shares a web portal with the standard California Drivers License Application (DL 44). In order to reduce the amount of time you must spend at the DMV, you may complete an application online.

However, written tests must still be completed in person. Additionally, if you are renewing a CDL that has been expired for two years or more, you must complete a driving test in person at a CDL facility.

How to Renew Your Commercial Drivers License by Mail in California

You may submit your CDL medical reports to the DMV in person or submit them by mail. Both forms must be completely filled out by a licensed doctor of medicine (M.D.), registered nurse (R.N.), doctor of osteopathy (D.O.), licensed physicians assistant (P.A.) or a licensed chiropractor (D.C.).

If you prefer to mail your medical CDL certification, make sure you do not mail them to Highway Patrol or any other law enforcement agency. Forms must be mailed to the Department of Motor Vehicles, CDL/PDPS Unit, MS G204, PO Box 942890, Sacramento, CA 94290-0001. The forms must be mailed at least four weeks before the expirations on your current medical verification.

How to Renew Your Commercial Drivers License in Person in California

If you are renewing a California CDL license with a HME endorsement, you are required to reapply in person at a CDL facility. The DMV will update your license photo, issue the skills and knowledge tests required, verify the required documents that have been issued above and determined whether or not you made passing marks on any of the required tests. You will also be required to pass a vision exam.

California CDL Permit Renewal Requirements

In order to get a California CDL permit renewal, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a valid California driver’s license. A California commercial learners permit (CLP) is valid for 180 days and may be renewed once for an additional 180 days on the conditional basis that the CLP expiration date does not exceed one full year from the issuance date. You may only keep a CLP for 360 days and no more.

For a CLP renewal, you must live in the state of California and complete a 10-year History Check. The history report should be a full record of all of the state you have lived in and worked in as part of your employment as a commercial driver.

Hazardous Material Endorsement CDL Renewal Requirements in California

To renew a CDL hazmat license, you must reapply to the DMV and renew your TSA background check. The background check may not be completed until after you have filed a new application for your HME endorsement license, so prepare to renew well in advance of your license expiration.

To satisfy CDL renewal requirements, you must provide a certified medical examination and complete the necessary skills tests. A hazmat test is required to complete the CDL application, as well as all the necessary proof of medical fitness and identity that was required by the initial application.

To restore your TSA background check, you must submit your fingerprints and the required additional information. The TSA background check requires:

  • The reduced $67 TSA renewal fee for applicants from California who have a year remaining on their license, or the full $86.50 for those who do not meet the time requirement.
  • The CDL issued by your state.
  • An unexpired U.S. passport, or a birth certificate and valid form of ID, such as a California driver’s license.

CDL Renewal Fees in California

In the state of California, your employer is required to pay the examination fees for the renewal of your medical certificate. Additionally, your employer may be required to pay your other testing fees if a CDL is required for your jobs.

The CDL renewal price in California is $43 for Class A, Class B and Class C licenses. Additional fees for testing are:

  • Adding an endorsement that is not a passenger transport endorsement costs $43.
  • Adding a passenger endorsements costs $73.
  • Adding a noncommercial Class A to a Class B costs $43.
  • Adding a firefighter endorsement costs $27.
  • A commercial driving or skills retest costs $33.
  • Removing vehicle size or equipment restrictions costs $73.
  • Removing an airbrakes restriction on a Class C costs $43.
  • Adding an endorsement that does not require a driving test for Class C costs $43.
Last updated on Thursday, March 5 2020.