California CDL License Requirements – 2022 Guide

| Last Updated: October 10, 2021

Trucking is an enriching career in California for those who qualify. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles requires that all applicants comply with its federal regulations to obtain the California CDL. However, the initial stages of the journey can feel overwhelming.

California CDL requirements are somewhat different from other US states. For instance, all California CDL applicants must undergo a Ten-Year History Record Check if they previously possessed a driver’s license from another jurisdiction or state within the past ten years.

Read on to find out the requirements to obtain a CDL in California.

How to Get a CDL in California

To get a CDL in California, one must adhere to all federal regulations laid out by the Department of Motor Vehicles. All applicants must first meet the minimum age requirement to pursue a CDL in California.

Upon passing all the medical procedures, you’ll need to pass both the knowledge and skill test.

Applicants from other states who previously owned licenses must also pass the 10-year history record check to proceed with their California CDL processing.

Before you think of applying for a CDL in California, you’ll need to meet all the requirements as detailed in the section below.

California CDL Requirements

All CDL applicants in California must meet the below requirements to drive a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) within or outside the state. Some conditions may vary by the type of license or residence.

  • Minimum age of 18 years for drivers who wish to drive within the state (intrastate)
  • At least 21 years for those who want to drive between states (interstate)
  • DOT Medical report that focuses on: Hearing, vision, blood pressure, urinalysis, physical impairments, and prescription drugs
  • Possess at least a one-year-old class D driving license in good standing with authorities
  • A duly completed self-certification form
  • Possess a GED or high school diploma
  • Must have a social security card
  • Pass a ten-year background check
  • Pass TSA screening
  • Preserve a good driving record
  • Present proof of insurance
  • Posses a documented ID as proof of California residence
  • Pass periodic drug tests

How Much Does It Cost to Get a CDL in California?

The cost of getting a CDL in California varies according to the type of license. Other charges for renewal and taking knowledge and skills tests also apply: Below is a breakdown of what you should expect to pay to get a CDL in California.

  • Class A or B Original License: $76
  • Class C Original License: $45
  • Renewal: $45
  • License Replacement: $31
  • Commercial Driving or Skill Retest: $35
  • Name Change: $28
  • Adding Passenger Transport Endorsement: $76 (Class A and B)
  • Adding Tank, Double/Triple Tank, and Hazmat Endorsement: $45
  • Adding Firefighter Endorsement: $27

Note that license processing fees apply in some cities.

How Long Does It Take to Get a CDL in California?

The duration you take to complete a CDL program in California depends on several factors, such as mode of study. Typically, it would take you seven weeks, attending full-time lessons five days a week. Otherwise, you may take as long as six months or as little as three weeks.

Commercial License Types & Classes in California

California issues vehicle licenses based on the type of vehicle one wishes to operate. The licenses are categorized into three classes as below:

Class A CDL

A class A license applies to any legal combination of vehicles whose gross combined weight rating is 26,001 or more and towing a unit exceeding 10,000 pounds in gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).

Class A license holders can operate all class B and C vehicles unless the vehicle requires a special endorsement.

Class B CDL

Class B license applies to any single vehicle or a combination of vehicles whose gross vehicle weight rating is 26,001 pounds or more and towing vehicles not exceeding GVWR of 10,000 pounds.

Drivers operating Class B CMVs can also operate class C vehicle types unless special endorsements are required.

Class C CDL

Class C license applies to any single vehicle or a combination of vehicles not meeting class A and B criteria. These are vehicles designed to carry 10 or more passengers. The vehicles can also be used in transporting hazardous materials that require the HazMat placard.

What Makes California a Great Place to Start a Truck Driving Career? 

Below are the top reasons why you should consider a trucking career in California. 

More Driving Schools

With up to 130 truck driving schools in California, potential truckers have many options to choose from. Many such schools offer placement opportunities to top students. You can always be assured of employment after completing a trucking program in California. 

Proper Remuneration

The annual median salary for truckers in California is $49,790. That’s more than the U.S median yearly wage. Besides, drivers enjoy other benefits, including paid sick days off and paid vacations for most companies.

Other benefits include DOT inspection and monthly performance bonuses. Generally, truckers have high-income potential as their experience grows.

Less License Fraud

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has the strictest federal laws in the US.  All drivers from other states who wish to extend their trucking careers in California must file a 10-year history record check to get a CDL in California. 

Such laws cut license fraud by up to 90% ensuring truck drivers are not a threat to other road users and reducing the influx of truckers from other states into California hence more job protection for existing truck drivers.

Job Outlook and Salary for Truck Driving in California

Overall, the trucking industry remains on top among the careers with the highest demand and job security. California has the second-highest number of truckers in the country after Texas.

The average annual salary for truckers in California is $45,790, with the top pay going as high as $71,000 per year.

With more than 130 truck driving schools, we can expect the demand for truck drivers to continue growing in the coming years.  

What Is the Demand for Truck Drivers in California?

The demand for truck drivers is expected to hit a 5.8% growth rate between 2016 and 2026. Currently, there are an estimated 1,872,700 truck drivers in the US. Coming second after Texas with 182,230, California has a total of 137,930 truck drivers.

And with the emergence of many truck driving schools in California, we can only expect the demand to go up over the years.

How Much Do CDL Drivers Make in California?

Experience plays a crucial role in truck driver’s salaries in California. Entry-level truckers can expect a considerably small amount compared to their veteran counterparts. The difference in wages may also apply to different cities within the state.

Below is a breakdown of what truckers earn annually in California, according to Career Explorer.

  • Top-level Truck Drivers: $71,732 per year
  • Senior-level Truck Driver: $57,992 per year
  • Mid-level Truck Drivers: 49,790 per year
  • Junior-level Truck Drivers: $36,155 per year
  • Entry-level Truck Drivers: $29,230 per year

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Whether you intend to pursue a full-fledged career in trucking or do it short-term, you must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The process can be overwhelming. Still, it’s possible.

You can make CDL processing less painful by first learning about the state’s requirements. However, before you start the whole process, it’s important to realize that the California CDL application is a little demanding compared to other states. (Read more: CDL License Requirements – Everything You Need to Know)

All drivers who want to operate in California as truckers must, thus, be extra vigilant to avoid potential suspension or disqualification resulting from federal rules violations.  

People Also Ask

As you might have already noticed, California commercial driver license rules and regulations are a little demanding. As a CDL driver or an aspiring trucker, suspension or permanent loss of a CDL license is the last thing any driver wants to experience.

Check out the below answers to common questions people ask about California CDL requirements.

What Disqualifies You from Getting a CDL in California?

California CDL has many requirements that all drivers must follow, lest they risk disqualification.

The Department of Motor Vehicles will disqualify you from getting a California CDL if it sees you as an imminent hazard to other road users. These may include serious traffic offenses or involvement in other serious criminal activities, such as reckless driving and speeding.

Those serving CDL suspension or disbandment from other states can also be disqualified from getting a CDL in California.                                                                  

Where Can You Get a California CDL Practice Test?

Obtaining a California CDL requires proper knowledge, skills, experience, and physical ability to operate a CMV. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) then issues you with a CDL after duly completing all procedures. 

You can search for a DMV location near you to take the test.  

When is a California CDL Required?

California requires all drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles belonging to classes A, B, and C to have a California CDL.

These include any single vehicle or a combination of vehicles whose Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) exceeds 26,001 pounds and vehicles transporting 10 or more passengers, or any hazardous materials.

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.