So, you want to drive commercial vehicles in Florida.
However, you should know that getting a CDL is different from a regular driver’s license. For one, you need to choose what class you need, as well as take the exams for that specific class.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
In this article, we’re going to give you a complete guide on how to get a CDL in Florida. We’ll give you ALL the details, from choosing a class to finally holding a CDL in your hand.
Are you ready?
Let’s dive right in!
CDL Classes in Florida
There are 3 types of CDL classes in Florida:
- Class A
- Class B
- Class C
Before anything else, you need to decide which one to get. Now, the type of vehicle you plan to operate will determine which type you need.
Let’s break it down.
Class A is the CDL type you need when driving a combination vehicle. That’s usually a truck towing a unit — typically a trailer.
Class A vehicles have a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or heavier. The towed unit must weigh 10,001 pounds or more.
Examples of CMVs in this category are truck-tractor/semi-trailer and truck and trailer combinations. Carrying a Class A CDL also allows you to operate Class B and Class C vehicles.
Vehicles requiring a Class B CDL are heavy, straight vehicles. Non-combination vehicles must have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or heavier. Or, if it’s towing a unit, the unit’s weight shouldn’t exceed 10,000 pounds.
Straight trucks and large buses are Class B CMVs. You can also operate Class C vehicles if you have a Class B CDL. However, you can’t drive Class A CMVs.
You need a Class C CDL to operate a vehicle with a GVWR of fewer than 26,001 pounds. If it’s towing a unit, it must not exceed 10,000 pounds.
To qualify as a Class C CMV, you must use it to either:
- Transport 16 passengers or more, including the driver
- Carry hazardous materials in amounts that require you to have a placard
Now that you know the CDL classes, you should select the one that fits what YOU will operate.
CDL Requirements in Florida
So you’ve selected your CDL class already.
But hold up…
It’s time to check your eligibility.
To qualify for a CDL in Florida, you must meet several requirements. See if you can check off the following items:
- You must live in Florida and have permission to work in the U.S.
- You must be able to read and speak in English.
- You must be at least 18 years old (to drive intrastate) or 21 years old (to drive interstate or have hazardous materials as cargo).
- You must have a valid Florida Class E license.
- Your license shouldn’t be suspended, canceled, revoked, or disqualified.
- You do not have other CDLs issued in Florida or any other state.
- You must meet the FMCSR’s medical requirements.
- You must have proof of a valid Social Security number.
Checking all those boxes means you’re good to go.
How Can You Get a CDL in Florida
There are 2 phases to getting a CDL in Florida. The first involves getting a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). After you’ve held that for some time, you can complete the process of getting your CDL.
Let’s see the steps one by one.
How to Get Your CLP in Florida
These are the steps to getting your CLP in Florida:
- Determine which CDL type you need and whether or not you must have endorsements. (We’ll talk more about endorsements below)
- Ensure you meet the qualifications listed in the previous section.
- Contact the Driver License Service Center near you and check if you need to make an appointment for your exams. Click here for office locations.
- Submit the required documents:
- Pay the exam fees
- Take and pass the appropriate general knowledge and endorsement exams.
- Take and pass a vision test.
- Pay the $75 CLP fee (if a tax collector office issues your CLP, they’ll charge an additional $6.25 service fee)
Congratulations! You now have your Commercial Learner’s Permit.
With this, you can practice driving your CMV. Just remember that a driver with a valid CDL must always be with you.
How to Get Your CDL in Florida
So how do you change your CLP to a CDL?
Here are the steps:
- Ensure that you’ve had your CLP for at least 14 days.
- Complete an Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) program. IMPORTANT! This is only for those getting a Class A or B CDL, those that want to upgrade their Class B CDL to a Class A CDL, or those that are getting an S, P, or H endorsement. Also, if you got your CLP before February 7, 2022, you do NOT have to complete this step.
- Schedule your road test. You can find all locations here. It shows the following information:
- The company or agency administering the road test
- Location and phone number
- What skills test they have, whether or not they provide a CMV, and the corresponding fees
- Pay the road test fee
- Take and pass the road test
NOTE: the Florida CDL road test consists of 3 parts:
- Vehicle inspection: Whether or not you know if your vehicle is safe to operate
- Basic vehicle controls: Covers basic driving maneuvers, such as moving forward, backward, and turning
- On-Road Test: Covers driving your CMV in various traffic scenarios
- Submit the necessary documents to your local Division of Driver’s License office.
- Your valid CLP
- 2 proofs of residency
- Your pass score for the road test
- DOT medical card and printed out self-certification
- Proof of Social Security number
- Pay the CDL fee of $75
- Get your CDL
And there you have it!
You are now allowed to drive a commercial vehicle that falls under your CDL class.
Exemptions for Military Members
You may be able to skip the road test portion of the CLD test if you used to drive large trucks in the military. To qualify for this exception, you must meet the following requirements:
- You drove a vehicle in the military in the last two years.
- You pass the necessary knowledge tests.
- You submitted a completed Certification for Waiver of Skill Test for Military Personnel form, which proves your driving experience.
- You began the application process while still on active duty or within 90 days from when you separated from the military.
CDL Endorsements in Florida
An endorsement is added to your CLP or CDL to indicate that:
- You have specialized knowledge about operating specific vehicles
- You are transporting certain cargo
There are 6 endorsements in Florida. Let’s take a look at these in the table below.
|Endorsement||Definition||Can be added to a CLP?|
|Passenger (P)||This endorsement is given to drivers who operate a vehicle that carries 16 or more people, including the driver.||Yes|
|School Bus (S)||Drivers operating school buses must have this endorsement.||Yes|
|Tank (N)||This is for drivers who operate vehicles used to transport liquid or gaseous materials in tanks. It must have an individual rated capacity of 1,000 gallons or more, which is attached to the vehicle temporarily or permanently.||Yes|
|Double and Triple Trailers (T)||Indicates that the driver operating the vehicle has specialized knowledge regarding problems often encountered with pulling multiple trailers.||No|
|Hazardous Materials (H)||You must have this if you transport any material considered hazardous based on 49 U.S.C. 5103. Your vehicle must also be placarded when you have this endorsement.||No|
|Combination Hazardous Materials and Tank Vehicle (X)||For drivers operating tank vehicles used to haul hazardous materials. You must also ensure your CMV is placarded.||No|
Frequently Asked Questions
To end, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions about CDLs in Florida.
What disqualifies you from getting a CDL in Florida?
Besides not being able to check all the eligibility requirements, here are some other reasons why you can be disqualified to get a Florida CDL:
- Having a BAC of 0.04% or higher, leaving the scene of an accident involving a CMV, or committing a felony
- Committing severe traffic violations such as excessive speeding, reckless driving, or tailgating
- Violating Out-of-Service orders and railroad-highway grade crossing regulations
- Failing to meet the requirements for a Hazardous Materials endorsement, such as a criminal background check
- Having severe traffic violations on your personal vehicle
How long does it take to get a CDL in Florida?
It may take anywhere between 5 and a half months to about a year to get your CDL. There are a couple of variables that affect your timeline.
First, there’s your permit. Your CLP remains valid for 6 months after it’s issued.
Ideally, you should complete your CDL training and road test within that period. However, you have the option to have it re-issued for another 6 months if you need extra time.
The CDL program is another factor. You can complete it as short as 4 weeks, but it’ll take longer if you only attend class during weekends.
Remember, you can’t take a road test without completing your CDL program.
So yes, the timeline will all depend. But on average, the shortest time is 5 months and the longest a year.
How much does a CDL cost in Florida?
You’ll spend $75 for a CDL in Florida. You’ll pay an additional $6.25 service fee if you go to a tax collector’s office.
Can you take the CDL test online in Florida?
Although you can take some parts of the test using a computer, you must still go to a DMV facility in Florida.
However, you can prepare for the written portion of the CDL test by taking practice exams. These you can take online and in the comfort of your home.
How hard is the CDL test in Florida?
The written portion of the Florida CDL test has 50 multiple-choice questions. You need to get a score of at least 80% (that’s 40 correct answers) to pass.
It’s not an easy exam, but you can prepare by studying the Florida CDL Handbook.
So that was your complete guide on how to get a CDL in Florida.
There’s a lot to take in, but don’t worry — you can always revert back to this article if you forget anything.
But just keep in mind…
It all begins with understanding what CDL class you need. Ensure you meet all the qualification requirements and gather the necessary documents.
After that, it’s a matter of passing the necessary tests to get your CLP. Once you complete a CDL program, you can take your road test.
Pass that, and you’re sure to get your CDL.