An Illinois CDL license is required by all drivers who would like to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in the state. The CDL is required to operate CMVs with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, or CMVs that carry 16 or more people. Drivers must be a certain age and have specific experience in order to be eligible to get their commercial licenses in Illinois. Before receiving the license, all IL drivers must first receive their commercial permits and pass the necessary state exams.

To apply for the commercial drivers license, drivers in Illinois must submit a complete application packet, in person, at their nearest Illinois Department of Transportation (IDT) agencies. Submitting the initial application can be done without an appointment, but the final skills test must be scheduled beforehand. Drivers must choose the class of vehicle they will be driving, and any endorsements they must will need to operate the vehicle(s) of their choosing.

CDL Requirements in Illinois

CDL license requirements in Illinois start with age restrictions. All applicants for the commercial license must be at least 18 years of age to drive intrastate, and 21 years of age to work in interstate commerce. Other important CDL requirements all drivers must meet before they will be found eligible for the commercial license include:

  • Possessing either a valid Illinois driver license as a base license, valid throughout the entire period of the initial permit.
  • Proving legal presence in the U.S.
  • Having a valid medical certificate, if declaring non-excepted interstate (NI) driver status.
  • Passing of the general (core) knowledge written test.
  • Payment of the appropriate fees.

How to Apply for a CDL Permit in Illinois

All drivers in Illinois must first apply for the CDL permit, or CLP, before they are eligible to receive a full commercial license. The CDL permit rules allow drivers to practice operating the type CMV for which they hope to receive a license, under the supervision of a driver who already holds that license. To receive the CLP, drivers must submit the abovementioned application material in person, at one of the licensing agencies highlighted by the IDT. At the time of application, the driver will be required to pass the vision and basic knowledge exams in order to receive the permit.

A temporary CDL learners permit will be issued immediately after submitting a successful application and passing the necessary exams. A permanent license is mailed to the driver within 15 days. The driver cannot continue with state testing without the permit, which is valid for 180 days. If the CLP expires before the driver completes the commercial licensing exams, he or she will have to start the entire application process over again, from the beginning.

CDL Written Test in Illinois

All drivers must pass the CDL general knowledge test, in addition to any written tests for specific classes or endorsements, in order to receive their licenses. This basic CDL written test includes 30, standardized, multiple-choice questions, and the driver must pass the exam with at least 80 percent answered correctly. Other exams drivers may have to pass in order to receive the commercial license of their choice include the following:

  • The double/triple trailers exam
  • The vehicles carrying hazardous materials exam
  • The passenger vehicles (16-plus people) exam
  • The school and charter buses exam (passed with 90 percent answered correctly)
  • The tank vehicles exam

Illinois CDL Training Schools & Practice Tests

Illinois drivers are not required to enroll in CDL training school, but the IDT encourages all drivers to make sure they have adequate training before getting behind the wheel. Drivers can also learn about trucking by reviewing the CDL prep book issued by the IDT, which goes into detail about all of the topics that will be covered on the knowledge and skills-based exams.

Students looking for hands-on help can work with qualified instructors, after receiving their CPLs, by signing up for a commercial drivers educational program, taught by any of the providers around the state.

How to Get a CDL License in Illinois

How to get a CDL in Illinois is determined by the Illinois Department of Transportation and federal regulations. To apply for CDL licensure, drivers must begin by meeting the application requirements mentioned previously. This includes providing proof of possessing the valid documentation, passing the knowledge exam and more. Drivers who will be driving interstate must also complete the medical questionnaire.

Once the driver has received a CLP and is preparing the CDL application, he or she should spend as much time as needed learning the ins and outs of the class of CMV he or she will be licensed to drive. The driver must have the CLP for at least two weeks before applying for a full license. At this time, the driver may have to pay additional processing fees. Once confident in his or her abilities, the driver can schedule a driving skills exam at his or her nearest commercial licensing agency to complete the final steps of the application process.

CDL Driving Test in Illinois

The CDL test for driving skills must be taken with the same class of vehicle that the driver intends to use with his or her license, with the same break system and endorsement qualifications. Drivers can schedule the CDL driving test online, at many locations, or by calling 217-785-3013. When the driver arrives at the appointment, he or she should bring proof of vehicle insurance, valid license plates and current vehicle safety inspections for the vehicle that will be used during the test.

All drivers must follow a predetermined route when taking the road exam, completing the necessary maneuvers and inspections, as required by the examiner. Drivers must pass all three parts of the test – at the same time – to receive the license. The three parts of the CDL test are the:

  1. Pre-trip inspection test.
  2. Basic control skills test.
  3. Driving/road test.

How to Get a CDL as a Military Member in Illinois

An Illinois commercial drivers license is not necessary for qualified drivers of U.S. Department of Defense military vehicles. This automatic military CDL is possible for members on active military duty and in the Reserves or National Guard. The IDT also offers a CDL for veterans of the armed forces that were released within the last 12 months. Drivers eligible for this license can waive some of the state’s typical exams if they can prove having adequate experience while in the military. This option is only available to drivers attaining their first commercial licenses, not renewals or upgrades.

Under the waiver program, the military CDL allows drivers to choose from the Even Exchange and the Skills Test waiver options. For either waiver option, the driver must have his or her Commanding Officer provide a completed application, with the required documentation, sent via email to the CDL Division at: CDLSafeRideIllinois@ilsos.net. Note that military drivers must still pay standard commercial license application fees.

CDL Medical Exams in Illinois

A CDL medical exam is required by all Illinois drivers who plan on receiving a non-excepted interstate or intrastate license. Applicable drivers must complete a CDL physical with a qualified physician to demonstrate meeting the minimum standards, as established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). To qualify, the doctor completing the physical must be a part of the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME), and must sign and complete the official FMCSA Medical Examination Report Form (MCSA-5875).

Types of CDL Classes in Illinois

Illinois drivers can apply for a commercial license in one of four different classes.

  • A Class A license is used to operate combination vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 or more pounds, if the GVWR of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • A Class B CDL is for operators of single vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • A Class C CDL to driver single vehicles with a GVWR of at least 16,001 pounds, but less than 26,001 pounds.
  • A Class D license is used to operate single vehicles with a GVWR of less than 16,001 pounds.

Types of CDL Endorsements in Illinois

CDL endorsements are issued to drivers of certain types of vehicles, or those who are transporting certain types of goods. The hazmat endorsement, for example, is required of all drivers who plan on transporting hazardous materials. Important endorsements for commercial licenses in Illinois include the below:

  • Passenger Endorsement (P)
  • Charter Bus Endorsement (C)
  • Double/Triple Trailer Endorsement (T)
  • Hazmat Endorsement (H)
  • School Bus Endorsement (S)
  • Tanker Endorsement (N)
  • Combined Tank and Hazardous Materials Endorsement (X)
  • School Bus Permit (SBP)

Interstate vs. Intrastate Commercial Drivers Licenses in Illinois

In Illinois, drivers can choose from an intrastate CDL and an interstate license when applying for their commercial license. An interstate CDL is required by a driver who will leave state borders or transport goods or people originating outside of Illinois. Drivers who will only be operating in the state may only need to apply for the more basic intrastate license.

Commercial Driving License Fees in Illinois

The total CDL license cost varies from driver to driver because, of the multiple fees that go into it. Beginning with the CDL permit cost, drivers can expect to pay any combination of the following fees:

  • Renewing an Illinois CDL or transferring in an out-of-state CDL: $60
  • Renewing an Illinois CDL or transferring in an out-of-state CDL, with a motorcycle class: $65
  • Applicants possessing an Illinois non-CDL, adding a CLP: $50
  • Applicants possessing a CDL upgrading their CDL classification or adding an endorsement and obtaining an original CLP: $5
  • Applicants possessing an Illinois CDL and adding/changing an endorsement/restriction where a CLP is not required: $5
  • Applicants possessing an Illinois CLP and adding/changing an endorsement/restriction where a corrected CLP is required: $5
  • Applicants renewing an original CLP: $50
  • Adding a School Bus Permit (SBP) to a CDL or non-CDL: $9
Last updated on Tuesday, April 30 2019.

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