Iowa CDL Requirements (A Complete 2023 Guide)

Iowa CDL Requirements featured image

Thinking of becoming a truck driver in Iowa? 

That’s great! 

However, going through the process to get your CDL is not so great. This is especially true if you have no idea where to begin. 

This is where we come in. 

We’ll give you a complete guide to all your Iowa CDL requirements — from start to finish. 

In some ways, it’s similar to getting a regular driver’s license, but there are other things you need to prepare for, such as the truck driving exam, a medical certificate, Entry-Level Driver Training… 

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. 

Let’s start from the very beginning. 

CDL Classes in Iowa

The first step is to pick which CDL class to get. 

Now, in Iowa, there are 3 CDL classes, namely: 

  • Class A
  • Class B
  • Class C

Before we define each class, there are two things you need to know — the GVWR and the GCWR. 

  • GVWR or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – the weight of a vehicle (including its load) as stated by its manufacturer.
  • GCWR or Gross Combination Weight Rating – the sum of the GVWR of the vehicle (with the main power unit) and the loaded weight of the towed vehicle/s.

You’ll see why these are important when we explain what each CDL class can operate.

Class A CDL

A Class A CDL is for commercial vehicles that have a GCWR of more than 26,000 pounds and a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds for the towed vehicle. 

This CDL class can operate the biggest trucks and trailers. 

Since this is the highest form of CDL, you can operate Class B and Class C vehicles with it (endorsements may be required).

Class B CDL

Class B CDL is for the second largest trucks. It can operate a vehicle with a GCWR of more than 26,000 pounds but the GVWR of the towed vehicle should only be 10,000 pounds or less. 

You can also operate a Class C vehicle with this CDL class. Again, you may have to get an endorsement. 

Class C CDL

Lastly, the Class C CDL is for vehicles that have a GCWR of 26,000 pounds or less and a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less for the towed vehicle. 

This class is mostly used for transporting hazardous materials that are required to have placards. It’s used for vehicles that transport 16 or more passengers for commercial purposes, too. 

CDL Endorsements in Iowa

On top of the CDL classes, there are endorsements that further classify the commercial vehicle you can drive. These endorsements are added to your CDL class. 

In Iowa, there are 5 endorsements you can get: 

  • Double/Triple Endorsement – allows commercial drivers to operate double or triple trailers. To get this, you need to pass a Double and Triple Trailers written exam. 
  • Hazardous Material – allows you to transport hazardous materials that require placarding. To get this endorsement, you need to pass the CDL Hazardous Material exam and go through a TSA background check. 
  • Passenger – allows you to operate commercial vehicles capable of transporting 16 or more persons. You must pass a Passenger knowledge exam to get this endorsement. 
  • School Bus – allows you to only operate school buses. To get this endorsement, you need to pass a School Bus knowledge exam and a Passenger knowledge exam. 
  • Tank – allows you to operate trucks that carry liquid or gaseous substances. You need to pass a Tanker knowledge exam to get this endorsement to CDL. 

CDL Requirements in Iowa

Hold up…

Are you even eligible to get a CDL in Iowa? 

Well, here is a list of the basic CDL requirements in Iowa: 

  • Be at least 18 years old if you’re driving interstate AND 21 years old if driving across states.
  • Have a regular driver’s license or Real ID
  • Have documents proving your name, date of birth, and Social Security Number.
  • Have proof of US citizenship or legal presence.
  • Have proof of Iowa residency.
  • Do not have a DUI or any reckless driving record.

Do you pass?

If so, then let’s get to the steps to obtaining your CDL in Iowa!

How to Get a CDL in Iowa

Similar to a regular driver’s license, you will first need a permit to practice supervised driving. In this case, you will need a commercial learner’s permit (CLP).

How to Get a CLP in Iowa

Here are the steps to acquiring your CLP in Iowa: 

  • Take and pass the CDL knowledge test. You must also pass any endorsement exams you need/want. 

NOTE: to prepare for the CDL knowledge test, you can review the Iowa CDL Handbook here

  • Submit the following documents:
  • Take and pass a vision exam.
  • Pay the CLP fee of $12. 
  • Get your CLP. This will only be valid for 1 year. Plus, there is no renewal option for a CLP in Iowa. 

Now that you have your CLP, you’re a few steps away from your CDL. 

How to Get a CDL in Iowa

To start working towards your CDL, you first need to:

  • Hold your CLP for at least 14 days
  • Complete an Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) (if applicable)

If you are able to check those off, then follow these steps to get your Iowa CDL:

  • Take and pass the skills and driving test. You will have to pass all 3 phases, namely:
    • Pre-trip vehicle inspection test
    • Skills test (maneuvering around cones and backing up)
    • Driving test on public roads
  • Pay the CDL fee of $8/year for every year you want your CDL to be active. The maximum is 8 years.
  • Surrender your CLP.
  • Get your CDL.

And there you have it.

You’re now a licensed commercial driver in Iowa.


Frequently Asked Questions

Want to know more about getting a CDL in Iowa? Here are some FAQs to help you out. 

Is the Iowa CDL test hard?

This depends on whether you’ve prepared for the CDL test or not. If you want to be ready, you should study the Iowa CDL Handbook

Now, the passing score is 80%. This means you’ll have to get 40 right out of the 50 questions. 

How much does it cost to get a CDL in Iowa? 

To get a CLP, you need to pay $12. And, if you’re required to take an ELDT program, that can cost you up to around $9,000.

On top of that, your CDL is $8 per year. So if you want it valid for the full 8 years, you’ll need to pay $64. 

If you combine it all, it will cost you around $10,000 at least. 

What is the weight limit till a CDL is needed in Iowa?

As we saw, a Class C CDL is the lowest class. It can operate vehicles less than 26,000 pounds. So any vehicle that is under 26,000 pounds and used for commercial purposes needs a CDL. 

What can I expect from the ELDT program in Iowa?

The ELDT program is a mix of classroom instruction and skills training that will teach you baseline knowledge and safety requirements needed for commercial drivers. 

There will be a written and a skills exam after the training to see if you pass and are ready to take the actual exams. 


Now you know everything you need to know to get a CDL in Iowa.

If you follow this guide, it won’t be as complicated as it may seem. 

So what are you waiting for?

Pick your CDL class and endorsement, check your eligibility, and start working on your CLP. Pretty soon, you’ll be a licensed commercial driver in Iowa. 

Good luck!

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