Iowa CDL License Requirements – Your Complete Guide

| Last Updated: December 19, 2021

After adopting the 1986 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Act (FMCSA), the state of Iowa expects all commercial vehicle drivers to obtain a commercial driving license (CDL). That includes those transporting hazardous materials, bulk products, passengers, and school-going kids.

Overall, you must meet specific age, residential, medical, and physical requirements to obtain a CDL in Iowa. We’ll share with you all these requirements, including the fees and the process of getting the license.

How to Get a CDL in Iowa

Essentially, you need to be of legal age to apply for a CDL in Iowa. After meeting the age requirements, you need to show proof of residency and proof of citizenship.   

After that, you need to pay $12 to take a general knowledge commercial driving test that earns you a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP).  

Usually, you are expected to hold the CLP, which is a temporary driving permit, for at least 14 days before applying for the CDL three-part test at the Iowa DoT (Department of Transport).

After passing the three-part test, you’ll also need to pass a physical test, hearing test, vision test, and medical examiner test before you can have your CDL. After passing the tests and getting the results, it may take at least three weeks to obtain your CDL.

Iowa CDL Requirements

Here are the basic requirements for obtaining a CDL in Iowa:

  • Age Requirements – You need to be at least 18 to drive a truck intrastate (within the state borders) in Iowa and at least 21 years to drive interstate (across the state borders) or haul hazardous materials.
  • Proof of Identity – You need to provide your ID, passport, or birth certificate, which could also serve as proof of age.
  • Proof of Residency – You need to prove that you are an Iowa resident by providing a driver’s license, utility bill, social security number (SSN), or any other document with your home address.
  • Physical and Medical Requirements – You must prove your physical capability of driving a commercial vehicle in Iowa by providing a medical examiner certificate. You also need to self-certify that you operate or are planning to operate in Iowa.
  • Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) – This special permit allows you to drive intrastate for about 14 days as you wait for your CDL to be processed. You’ll need to pay $12 and sit for a general knowledge test before getting the permit.
  • Fees Requirements – The CDL will cost you $8 (yearly fee) and $5-$10 for the endorsement, depending on the type. That’s in addition to the $12 for the CLP.
  • Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP)

    A CLP is a prerequisite for obtaining a CDL in Iowa, and you need to meet these basics to get it:

    • An ID, passport, or birth certificate as proof of identity
    • Proof of residency, which could be an Iowa driving license or a utility bill for locals and a green card or permanent resident card for foreigners
    • $12 fee

    Iowa CDL Medical Requirements

    The state of Iowa also expects to meet the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations medical requirements that include these tests:

    • Hearing Test – You must prove that you can hear well.
    • Urinalysis – You must undergo a urine test to check for hidden severe medical conditions.
    • Vision Test – You must distinguish between traffic lights and distant objects.
    • Blood Pressure Examination – This is a test for hypertension. Generally, your acceptable BP should be below 140/90.
    • Physical Impairment Test – You need to provide a Skills Performance Evaluation (SPE) report in case of physical impairment to show that your impairment doesn’t hinder you from driving a CMV.

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

    Here is the cost breakdown of obtaining a CDL in Iowa:

    • $12 Commercial Learner’s Permit fee
    • $8 CDL license fee (applicable to Class A-C)
    • $5 for a tanker, double trailer, or hazardous material endorsement
    • $10 for the school bus or passenger vehicle endorsements
    • $10 for restriction removal

    It’s worth noting that the $8 CDL fee is charged yearly. So, you have to pay for it annually as long as you use the CDL. Usually, CDLs have a five to eight-year lifespan.

    Another note is that it may cost you $3,500-$10,000 if you opt for the CDL training before the application.

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

    Usually, you should use your commercial learner’s permit for about 14 days before scheduling the CDL test at the Iowa Department of Transportation.

    A full-time CDL training program lasts about seven weeks on average.

    Once you pass the CDL exam, it’ll take you at least three weeks before you can obtain a CDL.

    Commercial License Types & Classes in Iowa

    You can apply for any of these CDLs in Iowa:

    Class A CDL

    Class A CDL is essential in driving a combined vehicle with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more and a trailer load of 10,000 pounds or more.

    Class B CDL

    A Class B CDL is essential for driving a combined vehicle with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more but with a trailer load that doesn’t exceed 10,000 pounds.

    Unlike Class A, it also applies to single vehicles and not just combined vehicles.   

    Class C CDL

    A Class C license is necessary to transport either 16 or more people or drive a commercial vehicle that needs placarding to transport hazardous material.

    Iowa CDL Endorsements

    Here are the commonest endorsements for CDL drivers in Iowa:

    • Hazardous Endorsement Essential for hauling hazardous materials that require placarding
    • Tanker Endorsement Essential for transporting bulk liquids or gases in a tanker
    • Passenger Endorsement – Essential for transporting 16 or more people (including the driver)
    • School Bus Endorsement – Essential for operating double and triple trailers  
    • Air Brake Endorsement – Essential for operating a vehicle with air brakes

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

    The state of Iowa is a fantastic destination for launching your career as a truck driver because of the following:

    Low Cost of Living 

    The cost of living in Iowa is much lower than in most places. In a city like Des Moines, the cost of living is 10% lower than the national average.

    And when it comes to housing, while the national average listing cost is $389,400, the average listing in Iowa is $171,251.

    Decent Pay

    With Iowa recording average yearly earnings of $73,228, which equals the national average, few truck drivers can complain about pay rates. Besides, you can always make more by working more hours and taking multiple jobs.

    Steady Economic Growth 

    Iowa may not be the fastest-growing economy, but it has been consistent over the years, with its financial growth curve rising steadily. According to Ibis World, Iowa ranks 41st nationwide with a 1% growth rate in gross state product.

    That shows there is an opportunity for truck drivers to secure employment in new and old companies as the economy is steadily growing.

    Low Traffic

    Unlike most states, Iowa doesn’t suffer much traffic. That means you’ll not spend much time on the road, which is essential when you have to make quick deliveries.

    Job Outlook and Salary for Truck Driving in Iowa

    According to a recent report by Indeed, Iowa equals the national average ($73,228 yearly) when it comes to the truck driving job scene.

    While looking at the operating mode, company truck drivers don’t make as much as owner-operator drivers. According to the Indeed report, while owner-operator drivers earn $3,754 weekly, company solo drivers average $1,363, while company team drivers average $3,111.

    Other than the operating mode, another salary determinant is the job experience. 

    While entry-level drivers make $68,758, those with more than ten years of experience make up to $82,658, more than the national average.

    By route type, regional drivers make more money per mile than local drivers.

    Overall, companies like Western Express, Builders Transportation, UPS, and FedEx top the list of the best-paying companies, while Davenport, Iowa City, and Des Moines top the list of the best-paying cities.

    What is the Demand for Truck Drivers in Iowa?

    According to Zip Recruiter, Iowa ranks 18th nationwide when it comes to CDL truck driving pay. So, the state doesn’t fare badly.

    Meanwhile, the report shows that truck drivers with certifications, endorsements, and more years of experience are in greater demand and are the ones likely to make the most money.

    Moreover, cities like Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Iowa City, and Ankeny lead the list of job creators.

    How Much Do CDL Drivers Make in Iowa?

    As per Indeed, CDL truck drivers make an average of $73,228 yearly, which equals the national average. However, more experienced drivers like those with over ten years of driving experience average $82,685.


    Generally, the Iowa CDL requirements are pretty straightforward. You can count on a smooth process once you meet all the requirements, pay all the necessary fees, and sit for the tests. Above are the basics to get you started!

    People Also Ask

    CDL application in Iowa is a broad subject that will elicit different questions, which we probably haven’t covered in our above guide.  After checking online, more so on discussion forums, here are some additional questions that most people ask.

    Do Farmers Need a CDL in Iowa?

    The state of Iowa exempts farmworkers (apart from commercial grain-haulers) from obtaining a CDL before operating farm machinery. In that case, farmers don’t need a CDL to:

    • Use a farm tractor to transport equipment or farm supplies to and out of the farm
    • Use the farm machinery within a 150-mile radius from their farm
    • Perform any agricultural operation on the farm

    Do You Need a CDL for Air Brakes in Iowa?

    The State of Iowa expects you to apply for the Airbrakes endorsement if you plan to drive an air brakes commercial vehicle. The vehicle could belong to Class A, B, or C.

    Usually, you have to go through a CDL knowledge test, which gauges your general knowledge of the air brakes components.

    Do You Need a CDL to Drive a Semi in Iowa?

    Yes, you need a CDL to drive a semi in Iowa. But first, you must apply for the Commercial Learner’s Permit before you can start operating the semi. You’ll then wait for 14 days before scheduling your CDL test.  

    What Disqualifies You from Getting a CDL in Iowa?

    The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) can disqualify you from getting a CDL in Iowa if:

    • You are found under the influence before receiving the CDL (when using a CLP)
    • You are driving a commercial vehicle that was used to commit a felony
    • You are operating a CMV with an alcohol concentration of above 0.04
    • You refuse to undergo an alcohol test
    • You are found driving recklessly, over-speeding, or committing any other serious traffic offense

    How Much Does CDL School Cost in Iowa?

    Currently, there are over 25 CDL training schools in Iowa, all charging differently. The tuition fee is about $3,500-$10,000, depending on the CDL school that you pick.

    Can You Get a CDL with a DUI in Iowa?

    You may get disqualified from obtaining a CDL if you are convicted of DUI while possessing a commercial learner’s permit. But if you are a first-time offender, you could have your CDL suspended for at least one year.

    Where Can You Get the Iowa CDL Practice Test?

    Nowadays, you can access an array of Iowa CDL tests by downloading any of these mobile apps:

    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.