Is getting a CDL the same as a regular driver’s license?
What are the requirements to get a CDL in Illinois?
Is there any training before I can operate a truck?
Welcome to your complete guide on how to get a CDL in Illinois.
Here, we’ll answer those questions and more by giving you ALL the details — from which CDL class you need to all the steps and requirements.
With this guide, you’ll see that getting a CDL in Illinois isn’t as complicated as it might seem.
So let’s dive right in!
CDL Classes in Illinois
First things first, you need to choose your CDL class.
Now, there are 3 CDL classes in Illinois:
- Class A
- Class B
- Class C
Let’s look at each class in detail.
A Class A CDL is the highest type of commercial license. Carrying this allows you to drive Class B and Class C vehicles (if you have the right endorsements).
Now, you need this CDL type if you’re operating a combination vehicle with a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or heavier. The unit you’re towing must weigh more than 10,000 pounds.
As for class B, you can operate a single OR combination vehicle with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or heavier. However, if towing a unit, it should be less than 10,000 pounds.
You can drive Class C vehicles (with endorsements) with a Class B CDL, but not those categorized as Class A.
The last type of CDL is Class C. It’s what you need if you’re driving a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, regardless of how much it weighs.
You also need a Class C CDL to carry hazardous material from one location to another. It must be in quantities that lead the federal government to require your vehicle to have a placard.
CDL Endorsements in Illinois
Having an endorsement on your CDL shows that you’re qualified to operate specific types of vehicles. They also indicate that you’re allowed to use them in particular ways.
There are 7 endorsements in Illinois. However, know that only 3 of these are available with your CLP. You’ll have to wait until you have your CDL to apply for the rest.
The table below outlines this for you.
|Endorsement||When You Can Have it||Description|
|P||CLP and CDL||For passenger vehicles|
|N||CLP and CDL||For tank vehicles|
|S||CLP and CDL||For school buses|
|H||CDL Only||For vehicles transporting hazardous materials|
|X||CDL Only||For tank vehicles transporting hazardous materials|
|T||Class A CDL Only||For double and triple trailers|
|C||CDL Only||For charter buses only|
CDL Requirements in Illinois
Now that you know what class and endorsement(s) you need, it’s time to go through the actual requirements.
So before you apply for your CDL, see how many of these boxes you can check off:
- You are at least 18 (if operating intrastate) or 21 years old (if operating interstate)
- You have a valid driver’s license, and it’s the only one you have
- Your driving privileges are not suspended, canceled, revoked, or disqualified at the time of your application
- You passed a physical examination conducted by a Medical Examiner on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME).
- You have proof of legal presence
NOTE: The Secretary of State’s office accepts different documents depending on your status. For example, U.S. Citizens can present an unexpired U.S. passport, while a Lawful Permanent Resident can use his permanent resident card. Click here to see which documents the Secretary of State’s office accepts.
5 check marks mean you’re ready to begin the CDL application process.
How to Get Your CDL in Illinois
In Illinois, you need to first get a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) before your commercial driver’s license (CDL).
Let’s go through these step-by-step.
How to Get Your Illinois CLP
Your first objective is to get your CLP. Here’s how you can do that:
- Determine what vehicle you’re driving and what type of CDL to get. It’s best to know whether you need any endorsements with your CLP, too.
- Ensure you meet all the requirements mentioned above.
- Go to a Secretary of State facility. Some facilities require appointments while others don’t. In turn, some offer full CDL services, while others just offer screenings. Click here to see the complete list of driving facilities and their requirements and services.
- Show the following when you visit a facility:
- Your unexpired Class D driver’s license
- Proof of legal presence
- A valid Medical Examiner’s certificate
- A driving record check
- Pass a vision test.
- Pay the $50 permit fee.
- Pass the written test portion of the CDL exam. If you’re adding a certain endorsement(s), you will need to take a written test(s) for that, too.
- Receive your temporary CLP. The Secretary of State’s Office will mail your card CLP within 15 days.
Now that you have your CLP, you can practice operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) under your class. However, a licensed commercial driver over 21 years old must accompany you all the time.
How to Get Your Illinois CDL
Now that you have your CLP, it’s only a matter of time before you can get your commercial driver’s license.
Here’s how to do that:
- Hold your CLP for at least 2 weeks, starting from the date of issuance of your temporary CLP.
- Attend and complete Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) from an FMCSA-approved provider.
NOTE: The ELDT is mandatory for all first-time CDL applicants. You also need to undergo it if upgrading from a Class B to a Class A CDL or applying for an S, P, or H endorsement.
- Schedule a CDL skills/drive test through Illinois’ online portal or by calling (217) 785 3013 and choosing option 4. In Illinois, only the following facilities administer these tests:
- Elk Grove Village
- South Holland
- West Chicago
- Rantoul (only administers drive exams for Class B and C CDL)
- Bring the following on the day of your driving exam:
- The vehicle you’ll use for the exam. Remember that it must be representative of the CDL class you’re earning.
- Your vehicle’s insurance ID, registration, and current safety inspection
- Your valid CLP
- Receipts for your CLP or written test
- Your valid Illinois driver’s license
- Pass your drive/road test.
NOTE: You must pass all three parts: the pre-trip inspection, basic control skills, and the CDL drive test.
- Surrender your CLP.
- Get your CDL.
And just like that, you are now a licensed commercial driver in Illinois.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we end, let’s go over some of the most frequently asked questions about CDLs in Illinois.
How much does it cost to get my CDL in Illinois?
The initial fee for a CLP is $50 (this already includes getting your CDL). However, you may encounter other expenses depending on your situation. These may include:
- Renewing your CLP: $50
- Adding an endorsement to your CLP: $5
- Adding a School Bus Permit to your CDL: $9
- Upgrading your CDL classification: $5
Don’t forget that there’s also the cost of the ELDT program to consider. Prices between trucking schools vary, so it’s best to compare rates to check your options. You may even consider looking for a company-sponsored CDL school.
How long is a CDL school in Illinois?
ELDT programs vary between providers, but generally, it’s a 160-hour program that runs for 4 weeks. That said, some schools have programs that last for 240 hours.
Still, others offer a more flexible schedule, so it can take you 6 or 8 weeks to complete everything.
Is the Illinois CDL test multiple choice?
Yes. The written test has 30 questions, all of which are multiple choice. You must get 80% right to pass and get your CLP.
How many times can you take the CDL test in Illinois?
Illinois follows a 3-time fail rule. So if you fail 3 times, you have to wait 30 days before you can retake it.
Further failed attempts result in prolonged waiting periods:
- After failing 6 times: 90-day wait
- After failing 9 times: 1-year wait
The fee you pay only covers 3 attempts, so if you exceed that, you must spend again.
What is the best CDL to get?
A Class A CDL is an excellent option if you’re looking at commercial driving as a long-term career. It provides the most flexibility regarding the vehicles you can operate and is more likely to offer higher pay.
Wrapping Things Up
And that was your complete guide on how to get a CDL in Illinois.
Sure, getting your CLD in Illinois takes some time, but it isn’t complicated when you think about it. Just make sure to follow all the steps and requirements listed here.
If you do, then you’ll be on your way to being a licensed commercial driver.
So what are you waiting for?
Go and get started today!