How Long Does It Take To Get a CDL? – Complete Guide

| Last Updated: November 8, 2021

As a new commercial driver looking to obtain your CDL, the time it will take you is a major concern. You want to get the license in the shortest time possible to enable you to start earning soon. 

While it usually takes only a few weeks to obtain a CDL, the entire process might take several months to complete, depending on several factors. 

This article explores how long it takes to obtain a CDL license, factors determining the duration, and some handy tips for getting your CDL fast. 

What is a CDL License?

A CDL or commercial driver’s license is a driver’s license issued by a state to a driver who commercially operates heavy, large, or placarded hazardous material vehicles. 

There are three types of CDL licenses, based on the three groups that commercial motor vehicles are divided into according to weight, type of materials carried, and the number of people carried. 

Based on the three parameters above, you may train for and obtain any of the following CDL license types:

  • Class A CDL

  • Class B CDL

  • Class C CDL

How Long Does It Take To Get a CDL?

It takes about seven weeks to obtain a CDL if you attend a training program full-time for five days a week, eight hours per day. 

Most CDL training programs in CDL training schools last between 4 and 8 weeks. 

You might also take between 3 and 6 weeks, especially if you attend a paid CDL program offered by a trucking company in dire need of truck drivers. 

If you attend training part-time, it might be up to 6 months before you obtain your commercial driver’s license!

Variables That Affect Your Time Commitment

As mentioned, several factors go into determining how fast you can obtain your CDL. Below is an overview of some of these factors. 

Type of Training Program

The training program you attend determines how much time you need to dedicate to your CDL training. 

If you attend a full-time program, you attend training for eight hours per day for five days every week to obtain the CDL in about seven weeks. 

You can tailor a part-time program to your specific schedule and availability for classes, but it might take you up to six months to get your license. 

Paid or sponsored CDL programs by trucking companies are much faster and usually last three to six weeks. 

Type of CDL

Compared to Class B and Class C, a Class A CDL will take you longer and require you to dedicate more of your time. Class A vehicles require extra training to handle, thus it takes you longer to get a Class A CDL.

Testing and Retesting

You will be required to pass a three-part skills test to obtain your CDL. The test involves a pre-inspection test, basic controls test, and a road skills test. 

In most states, the skills test lasts two to three hours. If you fail the skills test, you’ll have to wait for at least 24 hours before scheduling for a retest, which will also take about 2-3 hours. 

CDL Endorsements

You will be required to dedicate more time to the CDL process depending on the types of endorsements you want to add. 

Common CDL endorsements include hazardous materials (HazMat), Passenger (P), School Bus (S), and Tank vehicles (N). 

For instance, if you require a HazMat endorsement, the time to get your CDL will be longer since you have to complete and pass a background check that takes 30-45 days. 

It will also take you an additional week or more to prepare for and take the HazMat test. 

Individual State Requirements

While the federal government rolls out CDL requirements through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for states to follow, many states adopt the stipulations to fit their individual needs. 

Due to various adaptations of FMCSA guidelines and requirements for CDL, it might take you longer to obtain your commercial driver’s license in one state than in another. 

For example, Washington state strictly requires a CDL driver to train for at least 160 hours for a Class A CDL and 80 total hours minimum for Class B and Class C CDL.

Further, the state requires CDL applicants to take CDL classes through an employer the state has licensed as a CDL training provider or through an authorized CDL training school.

Tips on Getting Your CDL License Fast

You want to get it in the shortest possible time. Here are some handy tips to help you speed up the process. 

Free Up Your Time

It’s a wise decision to free up your time to ensure you have more time to attend your CDL training program. If you can manage taking it full-time for five days a week, the better. 

CDL applicants who can only manage part-time availability should try their best to be available even for a few hours every day in the evening. 

If you can dedicate all weekends to the training, you’ll be able to get your CDL in under six months. 

Go for Paid CDL Training

If you want to get your CDL in as short as three or four weeks, consider joining a sponsored or paid CDL training program in a reputable trucking company. 

However, there are disadvantages to such paid training, such as overly long contracts with low pay. On the flip side, you get your CDL sooner and can even start earning during training. 

Conclusion

It will take you about seven weeks to obtain your CDL license if you attend a full-time training program and as much as six months if you take classes part-time. 

Your availability for classes is a main determining factor for how long you’ll take to obtain your CDL. It’s advisable to free up your time to complete the process in about seven weeks or less. 

People Also Ask

It’s a long and tedious process to get your commercial driver’s license, and without the right information on aspects such as the duration and requirements, you may find it extremely tasking. 

Here are some common questions people ask about getting a CDL. 

What is the Hardest Part of Getting a CDL?

Getting a CDL is generally a challenging endeavor, but the hardest part is proving your aptitude for it. Not everyone can withstand the long driving hours. 

You might also have difficulty fulfilling all CDL requirements, especially if you have a dented past with felonies or substance abuse issues. 

How Can I Get My CDL Without Going to School?

You can obtain your CDL without going to a formal CDL training school, but that will significantly limit your employability. 

If you really can’t attend training school, you have other options like self-training with the help of a sponsor (licensed CDL driver) in a commercial motor vehicle belonging to the CDL class you are training for. 



After spending years on the road, I had a lot of time to think about the hardships that came with the trucking industry. I realized there was an opportunity to lend a hand a create a resource for truckers by truckers. With the help of my tech-savvy son, I built Trucker Geek as a way to show people that becoming a driver doesn’t need to be a stressful headache.