How to Get A CDL in Tennessee (A Complete 2024 Guide)

How to Get A CDL in Tennessee

Becoming a commercial driver can be a lucrative career. 

But before that, you must first work on your commercial driver’s license (CDL).

If you’re from Tennessee, we have all the specific steps and requirements for you. 

We’ll go over:

  • The CDL classes
  • The CDL endorsements
  • The CDL eligibility requirements
  • The CDL steps
  • The CDL’s most frequently asked questions

So are you ready to learn how to get a CDL in Tennessee?

Let’s jump right to it!

CDL Classes in Tennessee

The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out which CDL class you need. 

Is it a Class A CDL?

Class B CDL?

Or Class C CDL?

Let’s find out…

Class A CDL

A Class A CDL is your best option if you plan on driving various commercial vehicles. 

Although it’s primarily for large combination vehicles (those with a Gross Combined Weight Rating exceeding 26,000 pounds, towing a unit weighing more than 10,000 pounds), a Class A CDL also allows you to drive Class B and Class C commercial vehicles. 

Most of the time, however, a Class A CDL is used for big rigs, tractor-trailers, and flatbeds. 

Class B CDL

Some commercial vehicles have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of over 26,000 pounds but aren’t combination vehicles. 

They’re aptly named heavy straight vehicles and require a Class B CDL. 

However, these vehicles can tow a unit — but the unit must have a weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less.

Examples of Class B commercial vehicles are dump trucks, box vans, and some large city buses. 

Class C CDL

A Class C CDL is for smaller commercial vehicles — those with a GVWR of under 26,000 pounds.

More specifically, it’s for commercial vehicles that:

  • Carry 15 passengers or more (16, if you include the driver); OR
  • Transport large amounts of hazardous materials (enough to require your vehicle to have placarding).

CDL Endorsements in Tennessee

Besides CDL classes, you also have to decide if you need endorsements. 

An endorsement on your CDL is required if you operate a specific vehicle or carry a specific load. 

Now, there are 6 endorsements available to commercial drivers in Tennessee:

  • T: For double or triple trailers
  • H: To transport hazardous materials in quantities requiring placarding
  • N: For tank vehicles
  • X: To transport hazardous materials in a tank vehicle (combination of H and N)
  • P: To operate CMVs that can sit 16 or more passengers (the headcount includes the driver)
  • S: To drive a school bus

Here are some things to note about CDL endorsements:

  • Only S, P, and N endorsements can go on your CLP (commercial learner’s permit). You get the rest with your CDL. 
  • Each requires an additional written knowledge exam.
  • P and S endorsements have separate skills tests. 

CDL Requirements in Tennessee

Okay, okay. 

So you already chose your CDL class and endorsement. 

Now it’s time to ensure you qualify for a commercial license. 

Here’s a list of criteria — see how many you can check off:

  • You must be at least 21 years old.
NOTE: Those between 18 and 20 can drive a CMV intrastate if they don’t need any endorsement on their CDL.
  • You must have a regular driver’s license.
  • You must have all your driving privileges (if your license is suspended or revoked, you must fulfill those first before pursuing your application).
  • You must meet the FMCSA’s health requirements.
  • You must be an American citizen or a permanent resident of the U.S.
  • You must be a resident of Tennessee.

So, how many did you get? 

A check on every box means you’re ready for the next step — getting your CDL!

However, don’t lose hope if you leave a few blanks. At least now you know what to prioritize.

Get your ducks in a row, and once you can mark everything off, move to the next step!

How to Get A CDL in Tennessee – The 2-Stage Process

Here comes the main event — working on your commercial driver’s license. 

The entire process involves 2 stages:

  • Getting your CDL permit
  • Securing your CDL

Let’s walk you through each stage. 

How to Get Your TN CDL Permit 

Follow these steps to get your CDL permit in Tennessee: 

  1. Ensure you meet all the requirements listed in the previous section.
  1. Determine the following:
    1. Your CDL Class
    2. Your CDL endorsement(s)
  1. Upload the following forms to DSD’s online portal:
    1. Medical Examiners Certificate from an approved physician 
    2. CDL Holder Self-Certification Affidavit (SF-1480)
  1. Prepare the necessary documents:
    1. Your current driver’s license
    2. A DOT Medical Card (check your self-certification affidavit if you need this)
    3. Proof of Social Security Number
    4. Proof of US citizenship or permanent residency
    5. 2 proof of Tennessee residence 
NOTE: Click here to see which documents you can or can’t use.
  1. Access DSD’s online ticketing system and get an e-ticket to virtually put you in line. You only have 2 hours for your e-ticket to work.
  1. At the Driver Service Center, submit the required paperwork (see step 5) and fill up an application form. 
  1. Pass the CDL knowledge test and (if necessary) S, P, or N endorsement knowledge test(s).
  1. Pay the appropriate CDL permit fees:
    1. Application fee – $6
    2. Class A permit – $8
    3. Class B or C permit – $7
    4. Application fee per endorsement – $6
    5. S endorsement – $20
    6. P endorsement – $2.50
    7. N endorsement – $2.50
  1. Get your Tennessee commercial learner’s permit.


You’re one step closer to getting your commercial driver’s license. 

Now, a CDL permit allows you to operate a CMV within your CDL class, but a licensed commercial driver must supervise you at all times. 

Another thing. 

Your CDL permit remains valid for one year — so use this time wisely. 

The DMV voids all knowledge tests if it expires before you get your CDL. That means restarting the entire process.

How to Get Your TN CDL

Follow these steps to get your official CDL in Tennessee:

  1. Hold your CDL permit for 14 days or more.
  1. Complete the FMCSA-approved Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) program.
  1. Schedule your CDL skills test with either of the following:
    1. Any Commercial Driver License Road Skills Test locations
    2. A certified CDL Third Party Testing Program participant
NOTE: To schedule with a Commercial Driver License road Skills Test location, call (615) 502 4179 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday.

As for third-party providers, you must contact them directly. Don’t forget that you may have to pay additional fees if you choose this route.
  1. Arrive early to your appointment and present the following:
    1. Your valid CDL permit
    2. Your current driver’s license
    3. A CMV for testing (it must be within your chosen CDL class/endorsement)
  1. Pass your CDL skills test.
  1. If adding an H, T, or X endorsement, research what other requirements you need to undergo and do it. 
  1. Get another e-ticket to a Driver Service Center and bring the following:
    1. Your CDL skills test score (if provided)
    2. Your valid CDL permit and driver’s license
    3. Proof of Social Security Number
    4. Proof of US citizenship or permanent residency
    5. 2 proof of Tennessee residence 
    6. Any required documents for a T, H, or X endorsement (if applicable)
  1. Submit your documents and fill up an application form.
  1. Take a vision screening (if getting an H endorsement).
  1. Take a T, H, or X endorsement skills test (if applicable).
  1. Pay the appropriate amount:
    1. Application fee – $6
    2. Class A CDL – $64
    3. Class B or Class C CDL – $56
    4. Application fee per endorsement – $6
    5. H endorsement – $2.50
    6. T endorsement – $2.50
  1. Get your Tennessee CDL with endorsement (if applicable).


Now you’re ready to be a commercial driver in Tennessee. 

Frequently Asked Questions ABout CDLs in Tennessee

How Much Does it Cost to Get a CDL in Tennessee?

There are several fees to pay when working on your commercial license. The table below details these.

CredentialApplication FeePermit / License FeeOverall Cost
Class A Permit$6$8$14
Class B or C Permit$6$7$13
Class A CDL$6$64$70
Class B or C CDL$6$56$62
S Endorsement$6$20$26
N, P, H, and T Endorsement$6$2.50$8.50

However, you must also prepare to pay for trucking school. 

Of course, trucking school rates vary between providers. But, on average, expect to spend around $1,000 to $6,000.

How Long Does it Take to Get a CDL in Tennessee?

You can get your CDL in under three months if everything falls into place. 

That said, several factors affect your timeline of getting your CDL in Tennessee — how long it takes you to complete the ELDT course and how long you wait before scheduling your CDL skills test are some. You may also choose to maximize your CDL permit’s validity.

Can I Get a CDL Without Going to School in Tennessee?

No. With the FMCSA’s new regulation about Entry-Level Driver Training, all applicants must undergo schooling to get their CDL.

The ELDT is a requirement if any of these situations apply to you:

  • You are a first-time Class A or B CDL applicant
  • You are applying for an S, P, or H endorsement for the first time
  • You want to upgrade your Class B CDL to a Class A CDL

What is the New CDL Law in Tennessee?

In 2022, there were 2 laws enacted that related to CDL applicants in Tennessee. 

The first one is Entry-Level Driver Training. 

Starting February 7, 2022, all first-time applicants of the following:

  • Class A or Class B CDL
  • P, S, or H endorsement 

Must undergo an Entry-Level Driver Training program from an FMCSA-approved provider.

The other law was about age restriction. 

On July 1, 2022, applicants 18 to 20 became eligible for a CDL in Tennessee. However, they must observe the following restrictions:

  • They can only drive a Class A or Class B CMV within the state.
  • They do not need any endorsements to operate their commercial motor vehicle.

How Long is a CDL License Good for in Tennessee?

A CDL remains valid for 8 years in Tennessee.

What Trucking Companies Will Pay for CDL Training in Tennessee?

Trucking school costs a lot in Tennessee.

This is why finding a company to sponsor your education can help manage your expenses (plus, you’ll have a job waiting for you when you get your CDL).

Here are some of your options:

How Many Questions Are on the CDL Permit Test in Tennessee?

The CDL permit test has 50 questions, all of which are multiple-choice. You must get at least 40 correctly to pass — a score of 80%.

The Wrap Up

And that is how to get a CDL in Tennessee. 

Now you know everything you need to know to get a commercial driver’s license in the state.

You know which CDL class and endorsement you need. 

You know the steps to getting your CDL permit and CDL.

You know all the facts about commercial driver’s licenses in Tennessee. 

So what are you waiting for?

Go ahead and get started today!

Good luck!

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