Obtaining a commercial drivers license in Tennessee, or a CDL, is mandatory if you plan to operate a large and complex commercial motor vehicle (CMV). Generally, Tennessee defines a CMV as a vehicle, or a combination of vehicles, weighing more than 26,000 pounds. However, some vehicles, such as school buses, passenger vehicles designed to transport more than 16 passengers, including the driver, and vehicles transporting hazardous materials require a truck driver license, regardless of the vehicle’s weight. Therefore, if you plan to operate any of the above vehicles, you must apply for a commercial driving credential in Tennessee.

To get a CDL license, you must first get a CDL permit through the Tennessee Department of Safety (DOS), Driver Services Division. To do so, you must meet the license requirements and take a knowledge test. If you pass, you can move forward with taking the CDL skills test. Then, you will be issued a full commercial license for driving in TN.

CDL Requirements in Tennessee

You must meet the CDL license requirements in Tennessee in order to obtain a commercial driving credential successfully. These include the below:

  1. You must be at least 21 years of age
    • Be at least 18 years of age to obtain a Class B CDL, if operating a vehicle intrastate without CDL endorsements
    • Be at least 19 years of age to obtain a Class A license or Class B license, without CDL endorsements
  2. You must have a current, unexpired driver’s license
  3. You must submit proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status
    • A valid, non-expired U.S. passport
    • A certified birth certificate
    • A Certificate of Naturalization
  4. You must provide two proofs of Tennessee residency, with the same state address on both documents
    • A current utility bill, such as electric, water, gas, cable or landline telephone bills; mobile phone bills are not accepted
    • Current vehicle registration or car title
    • Lease agreement or mortgage documents
    • Proof of a relationship to a state residentas proof of Tennessee residency
  5. You must submit a valid DOT Medical Card
  6. You must submit payment for the license fee

Under the CDL requirements in Tennessee, you cannot drive a CMV if you are disqualified for any reason, such as operating a CMV under the influence of drugs or alcohol, leaving the scene of an accident or felony traffic violations. Also, if your personal vehicle driving privileges are suspended, canceled or revoked due to operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance or felony violations, you will lose your commercial license to drive.

How to Apply for a CDL Permit in Tennessee

You must obtain a CDL learners permit before you can apply for a full CDL license. To do so, you must meet the same qualifications for a full CDL that are listed above. Then, you must take and pass the CDL general knowledge test. Once you obtain a CDL permit, you will be able to operate a CMV. However, under the CDL permit rules in TN, you can only drive when accompanied by a passenger in the front seat of the vehicle with a valid CDL for that class of vehicle. Note that a permit is issued for 12 months from the date of issuance.

CDL Written Test in Tennessee

To take the CDL written test in Tennessee, you must do so in person, at any full-service driver service center in the state. Depending on the class of license you wish to obtain and the endorsements you need, you may need to take one or more of the knowledge tests. However, you must take the CDL general knowledge exam, regardless.

When you show up to take the Tennessee CDL license knowledge test, be sure to arrive at least one hour early. If you need to take additional knowledge tests, you should plan to arrive 20 to 30 minutes earlier. If you need an oral exam, you must call the center before you arrive for your appointment.

Tennessee CDL Training Schools & Practice Tests

While enrolling in a CDL school is not required in Tennessee, you should study as much as you can before the exam. The best way to conduct CDL prep for the test is by obtaining a copy of the Tennessee CDL Handbook. You can print a copy online, or request a copy in person, at any full-service driver service center in the state.

How to Get a CDL License in Tennessee

When you apply for a CDL in Tennessee, you must bring mandatory items along with you to complete the process successfully. These include the following:

  1. Your current, valid DOT Medical Card
  2. Proof of your Social Security Number (SSN)
  3. You current driver’s license in the State of Tennessee, from another state
  4. Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status
  5. Two proofs of Tennessee residency

CDL Driving Test in Tennessee

You can move forward with taking the CDL driving test only after you pass the knowledge test. There are three types of general skills encompassed in the CDL test. These include the below:

  1. The pre-trip inspection
  2. Basic vehicle control
  3. On-road driving

To take these tests, you must take them in the type of vehicle for which you wish to be licensed.

CDL driving tests can be scheduled by calling the CDL Road Test Skills appointment line, at 615-251-5217. To make an appointment, you must do so during office hours, which are Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., excluding state holidays.

How to Get a CDL as a Military Member in Tennessee

If you have a military CDL and you operated a CMV for military purposes, you may be excluded from needing to obtain a CDL in Tennessee if you submit the CDL Skills Test Wavier form. However, you must fall into one of the below categories:

  • Active-duty military personnel
  • Member of the military reserves
  • Member of the national guard on active duty
  • Active duty U.S. Coast Guard personnel

Note: If you are a U.S. Reserve technician, you do not qualify for the CDL military exemption.

CDL Medical Exams in Tennessee

According to new DOT physical requirements, you must have a current, valid DOT Medical Card to apply for a CDL. You must also self-certify with the DOS.

To get a DOT Medical Card, you must visit a physician, for a CDL medical exam, to get a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (Form MCSA-5876). To self-certify, you must sign and submit the Tennessee CDL Holder Self-Certification Affidavit (Form SF-1480).

Types of CDL Classes in Tennessee

There are three kinds of CDL classes associated with commercial license in Tennessee. These include the below:

  • Class A license: Allows you to drive a combination of vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds while towing over 10,000 pounds
  • Class B license: Allows you to drive a single vehicleweighing more than 26,000 pounds
  • Class C license: Allows you to drive a single vehicleor combination of vehicles that do not fall into either Class A or Class B, but is/are designed to carry more than 16 people, including the driver, or hazardous materials or toxins

Types of CDL Endorsements in Tennessee

In Tennessee, there are several CDL endorsements available to add to your commercial driving credential. These include the following:

  • N: This allows you a tanker endorsement to drive permanent tanks, or portable tanks of a rated capacity of 1,000 gallons of liquid or gaseous material
  • H: This encompasses the hazmat endorsement to transport hazardous materials
  • X: This includes permanent tanks, or portable tanks of a rated capacity of 1,000 gallons of liquid or gaseous materials, required to be placarded
  • T: This gives permission to operate double or triple trailers
  • P: This is the passenger endorsement, which allows you to drive 16 passengers, including the driver
  • S: This is the general school bus endorsement

Interstate vs. Intrastate Commercial Drivers Licenses in Tennessee

You will need an intrastate CDL if you plan only to drive a CMV within the state of Tennessee. To drive a CMV from one state to another state, or into a foreign country, you must get an interstate CDL in TN.

Commercial Driving License Fees in Tennessee

The CDL license cost figures vary, depending on your needs. They include the following:

Commercial learners permits (CLPs):

  • Class A CDL: $14
  • Class B CDL or Class C CDL: $13

Commercial drivers licenses (CDLs)

  • Class A license: $46, $6 non-refundable application fee plus $40 license fee
  • Class B license or Class C license: $41, $6 non-refundable application fee plus $35 license fee
Last updated on Thursday, March 5 2020.