Drivers must apply for the Iowa CDL, or commercial drivers license, in order to drive any type of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in the state. A CDL license can be requested by eligible drivers by submitting a complete application to the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT). All drivers must apply for – and receive – their commercial permits before they can submit the application for their full licenses. Applications must be accompanied by the appropriate application fee in order to be processed.

When applying for a CDL, the driver will be asked to pass a number of written and skills-based driving exams to demonstrate his or her expertise operating CMVs. Iowa drivers can choose from different classes of commercial drivers licenses, and add on endorsements to allow them to complete certain types of transport. Most drivers must complete a medical exam to be found eligible, as well. Some drivers, like military members, may be exempt from some steps in the application process, however.

CDL Requirements in Iowa

There are some CDL license requirements that apply to all IA drivers, regardless of the class of vehicle or endorsements for which are being applied. Other CDL requirements apply only to drivers who will be traveling across state lines, transporting hazardous material, etc. The most important qualifications that drivers in IA must meet to get their commercial licenses include:

  • Being at least 18 years of age.
  • Providing proof of full name, date of birth and Social Security Number (SSN).
  • Providing proof of citizenship, lawful permanent residency, an employment authorization document (EAD) or an I-94 document.
  • Providing proof of Iowa residency (a drivers license showing your Iowa address will meet this requirement).
  • Holding a CLP for the necessary length of time.
  • Providing proof of a driving record in all other states (if applicable).
  • Self-certifying whether driving intrastate or interstate.
  • Passing vision screening.
  • Passing all necessary written knowledge tests.
  • Passing all necessary driving skills exams.

How to Apply for a CDL Permit in Iowa

All Iowa drivers must apply for a CDL permit, or CLP, before they can be found eligible to receive the full operator’s license. In fact, getting a CDL learners permit is the first step in the process to becoming a licensed commercial driver. IA drivers can apply for their CLPs by bringing all of the previously mentioned required application material to a nearby BMV commercial licensing agency.

At the time of application, the driver will be asked to complete the necessary vision and written knowledge exams. The skills-based exams are not taken until the driver needs to transfer his or her CLP to a full license.

Getting CDL permit credentials allows new drivers to practice driving CMVs in the class – and with the endorsements that they must learn about – for the licensing exam. Drivers must hold their CLPs for at least 14 days before they can apply for a full operator’s license from the DOT.

CDL Written Test in Iowa

A CDL general knowledge test must be passed by all Iowa drivers in addition to any class or endorsement-specific exams. Each CDL written test has a different number of multiple-choice questions, and drivers must receive a score of at least 80 percent to pass. The following knowledge skills tests are offered by the IA DOT:

  • General knowledge
  • Combination vehicle for Class A
  • Air brake
  • Passenger
  • School bus
  • Doubles/triples
  • Hazmat
  • Tank

Iowa CDL Training Schools & Practice Tests

Drivers in Iowa can get great CDL prep by reviewing the state-issued Commercial Driver License Manual. Several private CDL school programs are also offered around the state, and are especially useful for drivers looking to get hands-on driving experience with trained instructors.

Although IA drivers are not required to complete an education program, the DOT highly recommends attending some form of CDL training program for all new truck drivers. Some drivers may also be able to benefit from taking the practice knowledge tests for the exams they are required to pass to successfully receive their licenses.

How to Get a CDL License in Iowa

How to get a CDL in Iowa depends on the driver’s previous driving experience and the class of license the driver would like to receive. To begin the CDL application process, drivers must gather all of the previously mentioned documentation to prove that they meet the state’s eligibility requirements. Once prepared, the driver must take the complete application packet to a nearby DOT licensing agency to submit the request in person, and take the vision test and necessary knowledge exams.

The next step to apply for CDL credentials can occur only once the driver has held his or her commercial permit for a minimum of 14 days. Only after this point can the driver schedule an appointment to take the remaining driving skills exams required to receive the license. After passing these final exams, the driver can visit any DOT location to receive his or her full operator’s license.

CDL Driving Test in Iowa

All drivers must pass the basic CDL test of driving skills to show that they know how to inspect a CMV in their class of license, operate it safely and adhere to state and federal laws on the road. To take the CDL driving test, the driver is required to make an appointment with a DOT licensing agency, and to provide his or her own vehicle of the necessary class and design for the exam.

The three main portions of the Iowa exam, all of which must be passed at the same time in order for the driver to receive a license, include the below:

  1. The pre-trip vehicle inspection test
  2. The skills test (maneuvers around obstacles, backing skills, etc.)
  3. The driving test (in traffic with examiner)

How to Get a CDL as a Military Member in Iowa

Iowa residents in the U.S. armed forces or those previously enlisted may qualify for a military CDL if they can demonstrate having significant driving experience within the military. To qualify for this CDL for veterans and active-duty servicemembers, drivers must be able to prove that they operated the same class and type of commercial vehicle for which they plan on getting a license within the last two years.

Drivers seeking a military CDL are usually required to complete the same first few steps of the application process as other drivers, but can skip the final skills test. These drivers must complete the Application for Military Skills Test Waiver form and provide proof of their military service in order to be eligible.

CDL Medical Exams in Iowa

Most commercial drivers operating in Iowa must complete a CDL physical before they can be deemed safe operators of CMVs. The CDL medical exam must be completed by a qualified physician who is currently on the National Registry of Medical Examiners in order to be valid. Some drivers suffering from certain disabilities or illnesses can receive a waiver to pass the medical exam, and be able to receive their commercial licenses. Proof of ‘passing’ the health exam must be provided to the DOT when submitting the original application for a CLP, if necessary.

Types of CDL Classes in Iowa

In Iowa, drivers must choose between three CDL classes: the Class A license, Class B license and Class C, license when applying for a commercial operator’s license. Each class allows drivers to operate different types of CMVs.

  • The Class C CDL is required of drivers operating vehicles carrying hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers.
  • The Class B CDL is required for the operation of a combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Combination Rating (GVCR) of 26,001 or more pounds.
  • The Class A CDL, the easiest level to receive, allows for the operation of single vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Combination Rating (GVCR) of 26,001 or more pounds.

Types of CDL Endorsements in Iowa

Many commercial drivers in Iowa are required to apply for CDL endorsements on their licenses in order to be able to transport specific types of materials or goods, or to drive certain types of CMVs. The following five endorsements are available to truckers in Iowa:

  • Passenger Endorsement
  • Double/Triple Trailers Endorsement
  • Tanker Endorsement
  • Hazmat Endorsement
  • School Bus Endorsement

Interstate vs. Intrastate Commercial Drivers Licenses in Iowa

Iowa commercial drivers must choose between an intrastate and an interstate CDL when submitting an application and completing the necessary eligibility requirements. An intrastate CDL allows drivers to transport items or people within Iowa that originated in Iowa. All other drivers must apply for an interstate license, allowing them to bring goods and people across state borders.

Commercial Driving License Fees in Iowa

The total CDL license cost for drivers in Iowa depends on the duration of the license, and any endorsements that the driver would like included on the license. IA drivers can expect to pay a combination of the following fees:

  • Class A, B and C commercial licenses (valid for five to eight years): $8/year
  • CDL permit cost (must be added to an existing license): $12
  • Double/triple trailers endorsement: $5
  • Passenger endorsement: $10
  • Tank vehicles endorsement: $5
  • Hazardous materials endorsement: $5
  • School bus endorsement: $10
Last updated on Thursday, March 5 2020.