Tennessee CDL License Requirements – Beginner’s Guide

| Last Updated: December 18, 2021

Trucking is among the most lucrative and stable careers anyone can start in Tennessee within three weeks. But to qualify, one must meet a list of requirements laid out by the Tennessee Department of Motor Vehicles.

You’ll then need to pass a set of written and skill test examinations before obtaining your Tennessee CDL. The requirements apply to both Tennessee residents and aliens looking to pursue trucking in the state.

However, the applicant must note that the CDL is subject to disqualification upon violation of CDL rules laid by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). 

Below is an in-depth review of Tennessee CDL requirements, plus a lot more you need to know about getting your CDL in Tennessee.

How to Get a CDL in TN

Trucking is an enriching career in Tennessee for those who meet the requirements. Before embarking on CDL application in Tennessee, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Minimum age
  • Meet Tennessee D.O.T medical standards
  • Proof of legal status in Tennessee and US work permit for non-US citizens
  • Pay all applicable Tennessee CDL charges
  • Pass all knowledge and skill tests as required, among other Tennessee D.O.T requirements as may be specified.

CDL Requirements TN

Below is the list of all the requirements when applying for a Tennessee CDL.

1. Age Requirements

  • You must attain 18 years or older to obtain a Tennessee CDL and operate within the state lines (intrastate).
  • You must be at least 21 years old to operate a CMV across Tennessee state lines (interstate), drive a vehicle carrying 16 or more passengers, or transport materials marked as hazardous.

2. Medical Standards

You must take the following tests and meet any other medical requirement as prescribed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

  • Vision test
  • Hearing test
  • Meet the maximum 160/100 blood pressure requirement
  • Urinalysis testing
  • Blood sugar should not exceed 200mg/dl.
  • Physical impairments and their impact on the normal operation of a CMV
  • Implied consent to alcohol or any controlled substance testing
  • Any prescription drugs and their effects on CMV operation (You may be disqualified if the medication adversely affects normal CMV operation.)
  • All government employees applying for a Tennessee CDL with (S) school bus, (H) HazMat, or (P) passenger endorsements must produce a current, legitimate D.O.T medical card.

    3. Proof of Legal Residence

    • You must show proof of lawful residence through legitimate personal identification documentation. These may include a Birth Certificate, US ID, Social Security Card, a Green Card, and a work permit for non-US citizens.

    Other Certifications

    • You must have one valid Tennessee driver’s license or a valid driver’s license from another state (for aliens).
    • You must certify that you’re free from any CDL suspension, cancellation, revocation, or disqualification in Tennessee or any other state in the US.
    • You must take and pass a set of written exams before obtaining your Tennessee Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP).

    CDL Fees

    You must pay $70.00 for Class A CDL and $64.00 for Class B and C CDLs. CDL endorsement charges also apply, where you must pay $8.50 for each endorsement, apart from the school bus endorsement that costs $26.00.

    Important: You must be able to speak and read the English language well.

    How Much is a CDL License in Tennessee?

    Tennessee CDL fees vary according to the type of license one is applying for. In 2016, Tennessee passed a law that requires all CDLs to be renewed after every eight years from the issue date.

    The below table shows all applicable charges when applying for a Tennessee CDL.

    License Class

    Standard License Period

    License Cost

    Application Fee

    Total Cost

    Class A

    8 years

    $64

    $6

    $70

    Class B and C

    8 years

    $56

    $6

    $62

    Class A learner’s permit           

    1 year

    $8

    $6

    $14

    Class B and C learner’s permit

    1 year

    $7

    $6

    $13

    Note: Tennessee CDL endorsements cost $2.50 and an application fee of $6, apart from school bus endorsements that charge $20 and an application fee of $6. 

    How Long Does It Take To Get a CDL in Tennessee?

    You can obtain a Tennessee CDL in as little as three weeks. However, you may take longer in CDL training school depending on several factors, such as the number of endorsements you intend to add to your CDL.

    Commercial License Types & Classes in Tennessee

    Tennessee issues a wide range of Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) classes. The public authority categorizes different CDL classes according to gross vehicle weight and its purposes.

    Below are the three Tennessee CDL classes, indicating different vehicles you can operate with each CDL.

    Class A CDL

    A Class A CDL permits you to operate any combination of vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more and towing a vehicle with a gross weight exceeding 10,000 pounds. 

    Class A vehicles include tankers, tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, flatbeds, and livestock carriers.

    Class A CDL holders can also operate all vehicles defined in classes B and C.

    Class B CDL

    A Class B CDL applies to any single vehicle or a combination of vehicles weighing over 26,001 pounds and pulling a vehicle weighing 10,000 pounds and below. Vehicles included under Class B CDL are:

  • Straight trucks
  • Tractor-trailers
  • Box trucks
    • Large passenger buses

    • Truck and trailer combination

    • Segmented buses

    • Dump trucks with small trailers

    Class B CDL holders can legally operate all vehicles included in Class C if they acquire the respective endorsements.

    Class C CDL

    A Class C CDL is needed to operate any single vehicle or vehicle combination for carrying 16 passengers, plus the driver or specialized vehicle designed to transport hazardous materials.

    Vehicles under Class C include passenger vans, small HazMat vehicles, and any vehicle combination not defined in Class A or B CDL

    CDL Endorsements TN

    Tennessee CDL endorsements are additional privileges on top of your CDL that allow you to operate specialized vehicles. A CDL endorsement comes with advanced skills, which positions the holder for higher earnings. Below are CDL endorsements in Tennessee. 

    • T endorsement – Double/triple trailers – requires a knowledge test
    • P endorsement – Passenger – requires a knowledge and skills test
    • N endorsement – Tank vehicle – requires a knowledge test
    • H endorsement – Hazardous materials – requires a knowledge test
    • X endorsement – Class C CDL tank vehicles – requires a knowledge test
    • S endorsement – School bus – requires a knowledge and skills test (one must be at least 25 years)
    • W endorsement – Tow truck – requires a written test

    Why is Tennessee a Great Place to Start a Truck Driving Career? 

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

    Shorter Training Duration

    You can get your Tennessee CDL in just three weeks across most training institutions in the state of Tennessee. The duration can stretch longer, depending on other factors.

    If you’re looking for a fulfilling career that doesn’t require long class time, then Tennessee is your best destination for a trucking career.

    More Training Schools

    Tennessee boasts multiple ​CDL training schools offering up-to-date CDL curricula certified by the Secretary of State. 

    Aspiring CMV drivers don’t have to worry about the lack of CDL training funds in Tennessee. Some colleges have special training programs that allow students to train and secure job placements and repay their CDL fees later.

    Competitive Rates

    Tennessee is among the best paying states for truck drivers in the US. Entry-level drivers can earn up to an average of $25,750 per year, whereas seasoned drivers with more than ten years of experience can take home up to $64,130 per year.

    Job Outlook and Salary For Truck Driving in Tennessee

    Tennessee ranks seventh highest in the number of truckers in the US. The high demand has resulted in learning programs where schools partner with companies to train students who pay later after securing jobs.

    The trend is expected to continue to curb the truck driver shortage in Tennessee.

    Companies are also willing to pay more competitive rates for the best talents and experience.  

    The more experienced you are, the more you’ll earn as a trucker. Still, entry-level CMV drivers can expect to earn an average of $25,750 per year. Below is a further breakdown of CDL wages in Tennessee, according to Career Explorer.

    • Junior-level truck driver: $33,110 per year
    • Mid-level truck driver: $41,940 per year
    • Senior-level truck driver: $54,780 per year
    • Top-level truck driver: $64,130 per year

    What is the Demand For Truck Drivers in Tennessee?

    Tennessee falls among the top ten states in the US with the highest demand for truck drivers. The state currently has over 60,000 employed truckers spread across different motor vehicle types.

    As long as there is consumer demand, the demand for truck drivers is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade.

    How Much Do CDL Drivers Make in Tennessee?

    Although the pay for truck drivers varies according to multiple factors such as skills level and experience, the average salary for a Tennessee truck driver is $41,940 per year.

    Truckers also earn differently depending on the city. Additionally, different companies have different compensation plans, meaning you can make more or less in a given company.

    Conclusion

    Tennessee promises a stable and enriching career as a commercial truck driver in about three weeks if you meet all its requirements. These include:

    • Minimum age cap
    • A rigorous medical test process
    • Proof of lawful residence
    • Meet all the legal CDL fee requirements
    • Possess a driver’s license from Tennessee or another state, among other mandatory requirements specified in this article

    People Also Ask

    Tennessee CDL requirements are distinctive from many US states. Here are common questions about Tennessee CDL requirements.

    Do You Need a CDL For Air Brakes in Tennessee?

    Those who wish to operate any vehicle with air brakes in any CDL class (A, B, or C) must pass a 25-question test to get a CDL with the Air Brakes endorsement.

    What Disqualifies You From Getting a CDL in Tennessee?

    A Tennessee CDL may be disqualified under the following circumstances:

    • Refusing blood or breath test
    • Leaving an accident scene
    • Having or exceeding 0.04% blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
    • Causing a fatality due to negligence
    • Using a CMV to commit a felony
    • Operating a CMV using a disqualified, suspended, revoked, or canceled CDL

    Note that the above are major offenses that will attract at least one-year suspension and up to three years for drivers of vehicles carrying hazardous materials on the first conviction. A second or third conviction leads to lifetime disqualification.

    How Long is a TN CDL Good For?

    Although you can renew your Tennessee CDL every year, the standard license duration should be eight years, as per the Department of Motor Vehicle requirements.

    How Much Does CDL School Cost in Tennessee?

    Unlike many states in the US, Tennessee CDL costs vary extensively. Class A CDL costs $64 with an application fee of $6, totaling $70. On the other hand, Classes B and C CDLs each cost $56 with an application fee of $6, totaling $62. 

    Can You Get a CDL With a DUI in Tennessee?

    Although Tennessee law does not say you’ll lose your CDL if you have a DUI, driving under the influence is a major offense that can attract at least one year of CDL disqualification and up to three years for those transporting hazardous materials.

    A second or third repetition may lead to lifetime disqualification.

    How Do I Take The CDL Practice Test in TN?

    Taking a CDL test in Tennessee requires one to have a general knowledge of all test covers, including safe cargo transportation, safe driving, vehicle inspection, basic control skills, road test, among other endorsement tests as may apply.

    You must then take the 50-question test and score at least 40 questions right, equivalent to an 80% pass score. TN CDL practice tests are available online for free or at a small fee.

    How To Do a TN CDL Self Certification

    Tennessee CDL self-certification requires all TN CDL holders to declare their intended mode of operation to the State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA). One should operate commercially in any one of the following four categories:

    • Interstate non-excepted
    • Interstate excepted
    • Intrastate non-excepted
    • Intrastate excepted


    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.