Calling all aspiring truck drivers in Washington State…
Are you not sure how to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL)?
Maybe you don’t know which CDL class or endorsements you need…
Or maybe you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to the whole process…
We’ve got you.
Here, we’re going to show you how to get a CDL in Washington State. We’ll talk about the CDL classes, endorsement, restrictions, requirements, and steps.
We won’t skip any detail.
So, are you ready to begin?
Here we go!
CDL Classes in Washington State
We’re not jumping into the application process immediately.
First, you must know which CDL class you need. You have three options:
- Class A CDL
- Class B CDL
- Class C CDL
Having the correct CDL class is critical. After all, it affects what kind of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) you can operate.
Let’s break it down for you.
Class A CDL
A Class A CDL is for all occasions — so if you’re unsure what type of CMV you’ll be operating, it’s best to get it.
However, it’s specifically for Class A CMVs. These are combination commercial vehicles with a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of over 26,000 pounds. The vehicle/unit it tows weighs more than 10,000 pounds.
Big rigs, tractor-trailers, and semis require you to have this CDL class.
Class B CDL
Combination CMVs aren’t the only commercial vehicles with a weight rating exceeding 26,000 pounds.
Single, heavy commercial vehicles require you to carry a Class B CDL. You can also tow a vehicle/unit with this CDL class, but it cannot weigh more than 10,000 pounds.
Some city buses, box vans, and dump trucks are examples of Class B CMVs.
Class C CDL
On the other hand, not all CMVs are heavy.
There are those that weigh fewer than 26,000 pounds and, if towing, tow units fewer than 10,000 pounds.
This is where the Class C CDL comes in.
Now, Class C CMVs are unique in that they have a very specific purpose. They must:
- Transport 16 or more passengers
- Carry hazardous materials that require placarding
Anything other than that, a regular driver’s license may do the job.
What if you drive a school bus but it weighs more than 26,000 pounds?
Do you need a Class B or Class C CDL?
Simply check the weight ratings.
Since it’s higher than 26,000 pounds, you should get a Class B CDL. Mind you, you need the proper endorsements, too.
CDL Endorsements in Washington State
Besides your CDL class, you must also know whether or not to apply for endorsements.
An endorsement means you received additional training and thus can operate specific CMVs or carry specific loads.
In Washington State, commercial drivers can add the following endorsements to their CDL permits and licenses:
|Allows you to drive commercial vehicles that sit at least 15 passengers (excluding the driver)
|S (School Bus)
|Specifically for school bus operators, regardless of the bus’s size
|N (Tank Vehicles)
|For CMVs transporting liquid or gaseous materials in tanks. These could be permanently or temporarily attached to the vehicle or its chassis.
|H (Hazardous Materials)
|To operate commercial vehicles transporting hazardous materials in amounts requiring placarding.
|X (Combination of H and N)
|For CMVs that meet N and X endorsement requirements.
|T (Double and Triple Trailers)
|For combination CMVs that tow two or more trailers.
NOTE: You can add the P, S, and N endorsements to your CDL permit, while the H, X, and T endorsements can only be added to your commercial license.
CDL Restrictions in Washington State
While endorsements authorize you to drive specific CMV types and loads, restrictions do the opposite.
It provides information on things you cannot do.
Here are some restrictions you may get on your Washington State CDL:
- L: You can’t drive a CMV with air brakes as you didn’t take (or failed) the CDL test (written or skills) for air brakes.
- Z: You can’t drive a CMV with air brakes as you took the CDL skills test using a CMV with hydraulic brakes.
- E: You cannot drive a CMV with a manual transmission as you took the CDL skills test with a CMV with automatic transmission.
- O: You cannot drive a combination CMV using a pintle hook or other non-fifth wheel connection for its towed units.
- M: You cannot drive Class A CMVs (issued when you apply for a Class B CDL).
- N: You cannot drive Class A and B CMVs (issued when you apply for a Class C CDL).
- K: You cannot drive for out-of-state commerce due to your age (under 21) or you are self-certified as Non-Excepted Intrastate.
- V: Indicates that you have a medical waiver (Federal or State).
CDL Requirements in Washington State
We’re almost there.
But before you start working on your Washington CDL, let’s ensure you’re eligible.
See how many of these items can you check off?
- You must meet the age requirement:
- Intrastate commerce: At least 18
- Interstate commerce: At least 21
- You must be a U.S. citizen or have a permanent residency or are authorized to work in the U.S.
- You must be a resident of Washington State.
- You must have a Washington State-issued driver’s license, with active and full driving privileges
- You meet the health requirements of the FMCSA
So how did you do?
A check on all the boxes means you’re ready to move on to the next step.
But don’t worry if you’ve got a couple of unchecked boxes. Take a step back and work on those first before you begin your application.
How to Get A CDL in Washington State
Now for the meat of this article!
Getting a commercial license can seem overwhelming, so let’s divide it into two phases:
- Getting your CLD permit
- Earning Your CDL
Let’s explore the steps to both.
How to Get Your WA CDL Permit
Let’s work on your CDL permit first. After all, you have to learn how to walk before you can run.
Here’s how to get it:
- Prepare the required paperwork:
- Your current and valid Washington driver’s license
- Proof of Social Security Number and citizenship, permanent residence, or non-domicile document
- Self-certify and (if necessary) submit the required medical documents online. You can read more about this here.
- Schedule an appointment to apply for your CDL permit. You can either select an office that already offers the CDL knowledge test or make a knowledge test appointment here.
- Bring the documents you gathered in Step 1 and submit them.
- Pay the following fees:
- $35 testing fee
- $40 CDL permit fee
- Pass the CDL knowledge test and any endorsement test(s). Remember, each endorsement has its own knowledge test.
- Receive your CDL permit.
Your CDL permit allows you to gain driving experience. However, you must obey the restrictions:
- A licensed commercial driver must supervise your driving. They must have at least five years of driving experience, two of which must be in the CMV you’re driving.
- You can only drive a commercial vehicle that fits your CDL class and endorsement.
- If you have an N endorsement, your CMV’s tanks must be empty. It should not even have any hazardous material residue.
- If you have an S or P endorsement, you cannot have any unspecified passengers.
How to Get Your WA CDL
To upgrade your CDL permit to an official CDL, follow these steps:
- Have your CDL permit for 14 days or more.
- Complete the required training. The FMCSA mandates that you must attend an Entry-Level Driving Training (ELDT) program if you are a first-time applicant for any of the following:
- Class A CDL
- Class B CDL
- S, P, or H endorsement
|NOTE: You must also attend ELDT if upgrading your Class B CDL to a Class A CDL.
- Schedule your CDL skills with a DOL examiner or third-party examiner (TPE). To schedule with a DOL examiner, call 360-902-3785. If going for a TPE, confirm your test provider by calling the number above and then scheduling with the TPE directly.
- Pay the $250 skills test fee. For a school bus endorsement, the testing fee is an additional $100.
|NOTE: You can pay a DOL examiner over the phone (a $5.25 convenience fee will apply) or by mail. The latter requires a completed Commercial Driver License Skills Test Mail-In Payment form sent with a check or money order.
For TPEs, all payments go directly to them.
- Bring the following to your CDL skills test appointment:
- Your current Washington State-issued driver’s license
- Your valid CDL permit
- Your Medical Examiners Certificate (if applicable)
- A CDL licensed driver with at least 5 years of experience.
- A registered and insured CMV (it must be within the CDL class and endorsement in your application)
- Authorization letter from the CMV’s owner (if it was borrowed)
- Pass all three components of the CDL skills test and any endorsement test (for S and P endorsements only).
- Make an online appointment to apply for a CDL at least 24 hours after passing the CDL skills test.
- While there, present your current driver’s license, Social Security Number, and proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency (click here for a list of acceptable documents).
- Get your CDL.
And there you have it.
Yes, it took a while, but it was well worth it.
Now you can start your truck driving career!
FAQs About How to Get A CDL in Washington State
Besides what we covered, here are some questions aspiring commercial drivers ask when working on their first CDL.
How Much Does it Cost to Get a CDL in Washington?
Be ready to spend approximately $4,360 for your CDL.
Why that amount? Well, here are the fees you must pay:
- CDL knowledge test: $35
- Permit fee: $40
- ELDT program: $4,032
- CDL skills test: $250
The most significant factor in your expenses is how much you pay for trucking school. AllTrucking.com puts the average cost of trucking schools in Washington at $4,032.
How Long Does it Take to Get a CDL in Washington?
Several factors affect how long it takes to get your CDL. Generally, it ranges from several months to about a year and a half.
Here are some factors that may affect your timeline:
- Whether or not you pass your CDL tests on the first try
- Whether or not you renew your CDL permit
- How long before you complete the ELDT program
How Many Hours is CDL Training in Washington State?
The required number of hours varies between CDL classes.
You must complete at least 160 hours of training for a Class A CDL, while you only need at least 80 hours for a Class B or Class C CDL.
How Do I Prepare for the CDL Permit Test in Washington?
Studying the WA DOL Commercial Driver Guide will help prepare for your CDL knowledge test. All the test questions come from there.
However, you can also take a practice test. Although it has only 20 questions, it can give you an idea of what to expect during the real thing.
The Wrap Up
See? Getting your Washington State CDL isn’t as complicated as you thought.
Yes, there are many requirements, and it’ll take a while, but it’s far from impossible.
So now that you know how to get a CDL in Washington State, what are you waiting for?
Go ahead and start with Step 1.
Soon enough, you’ll have your CDL and you can start operating a CMV.