Wisconsin CDL License Requirements – Driver’s Guide

| Last Updated: December 18, 2021

Commercial trucking plays an integral role in the US economy. Americans depend on trucks to deliver most of the consumer goods they use daily. According to the Commodity Flow Survey, 71.6% of all goods shipped in the US in 2017 were by trucks.

Trucking firms are always scouting for truck drivers, and the search doesn’t seem likely to end any time soon. Wisconsin is a hotbed of trucking activities, with many job openings every year.

In this article, we take an in-depth look at CDL requirements for building a successful trucking career in Wisconsin.  

How to Get a CDL in Wisconsin

Getting a CDL in Wisconsin means fulfilling a set of requirements that all applicants – residents and aliens – must meet. These include:

  • The minimum age requirements
  • Proof of legal residence 
  • Adherence to all medical standards
  • Meeting all legal fee requirements
  • Taking and passing all tests, among other requirements as may apply. 

Wisconsin CDL Requirements

Here is a list of requirements all applicants must meet before obtaining a Wisconsin CDL.

Age Requirements

  • You must attain the minimum age requirement of 18 years to operate a CMV within Wisconsin state lines (intrastate).
  • CDL applicants must be 21 years and above to operate a CMV across Wisconsin state lines (interstate), operate a vehicle carrying passengers, or any vehicle transporting hazardous materials.

Medical Standards

Below are necessary medical standards that apply to all Wisconsin CDL applicants:

  • Vision requirements: Your eyesight must not be less than 20/40 on each eye with or without glasses. You must also pass the color blindness test that includes differentiating red, green, and amber colors.
  • Hearing requirements: You must be able to perceive a forced whisper at least 5 feet away.
  • Blood pressure: Your blood pressure must not be above 160/100. FMCSA permits the use of prescription drugs to achieve the threshold.
  • Blood sugar must not exceed 200mg/dl.
  • Diabetes controlled through medication or diet is allowed. The use of insulin injections to control diabetes is not permitted.
  • Applicants must pass a urinalysis test.
  • Physical impairments with adverse effects on the normal operations of a CMV will be disqualified.
  • Prescription drugs that affect regular CMV operation are not allowed.
    • Applicants must consent to a controlled substance or alcohol testing.

    Proof of Lawful Residence

    All Wisconsin CDL applicants must produce valid personal identification documents that include:

    • Social Security Number Card
    • Certified Birth Certificate
    • A valid US passport or a Green card (applicable for non-US citizens)
    • A valid I.D. card

    Other Certifications

    • Possess one valid regular (non-CDL) driver’s license from Wisconsin or any other state (for aliens)
    • Pass your Wisconsin Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) examination
    • Present proof that your driving privileges are not disqualified, revoked, suspended, or canceled in Wisconsin or any other state in the US

    CDL Fees

    You must pay all the legal fee requirements, including $30 for Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) and $74 for a CDL license. CDL renewal and endorsement charges also apply differently.

    Photo credit: cdlpracticetest.com

    Wisconsin CDL Testing

    You can take your CDL test after holding your Commercial Learner’s Permit for 14 days. The Wisconsin CDL skills test comprises three parts as below:

    Pre-trip Inspection

    You must first take a knowledge test of the class of vehicle you intend to operate before taking the CDL driving test. 

    The pre-trip inspection will determine if your commercial vehicle is safe for public road operation. It also determines whether you can identify various components of the vehicle and their importance.

    Those who fail pre-trip inspection are not allowed to take the Road Skills Test.

    Basic Controls Test

    Before taking the Road Skills Test, you must prove your competence and ability to operate a commercial vehicle on a public road. 

    The Basic Controls Test comprises various off-road maneuvers like moving the vehicle forward, backing up, and turning on specified locations.

    These maneuvers include:

    • Offset back/right
    • Offset back/left
    • Straight-line backing
    • 90-degree alley docking
    • Parallel parking (conventional)
    • Parallel parking (driver side)

    Photo credit: gfycat.com

    Road Skills Test

    Upon passing the above two tests, you’ll be required to operate a commercial vehicle (the same class you intend to drive after receiving a CDL) in various traffic situations on public roads.

    The examiner predetermines the routes you’ll follow for the Road Skills Test. Your test  may include the following:

    • Starting
    • Stopping
    • Turning
    • Braking
    • Using vehicle controls
    • Observing traffic signs
    • Observing other traffic
    • Observing traffic signals
    • Underpass clearance
    • Upgrades

  • Downgrades
  • Upgrade stopping
  • Downgrade stopping
  • Railroad crossing
  • Bridge clearance
  • General safe CMV operation
  • How Much Does It Cost To Get a CDL in Wisconsin?

    The following CDL charges apply for all applicants seeking a Wisconsin CDL.

    • Class A, B, C Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP): $30
    • Original Class A, B, C: $74 (being prorated charges for the remaining time on current Wisconsin driver’s license)
    • Class upgrade (one or multiple classes): $15
    • CDL renewal (8 years): $74
    • Duplicate: $14
    • School bus (S) endorsement: $5 (when renewing a CDL with an existing S endorsement)
    • Adding S endorsement for the first time: $10
    • Hazmat Endorsement: $44

    Note that the CDL knowledge test in Wisconsin is free.

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

    You’ll take as little as three weeks to train and acquire a Wisconsin CDL. However, this may be longer, depending on other factors, such as training for additional endorsement qualifications.

    WI CDL Disqualifications

    You’ll be disqualified from getting a Wisconsin CDL if you breach any of the following regulations laid by the Wisconsin DMV. These include:

    Major Offenses

    • Operating a CMV while intoxicated (more than 0.04% blood alcohol concentration) or under the influence of other controlled substances
    • Declining to take alcohol or chemical tests as enshrined under the implied consent regulations
    • Leaving an accident scene
    • Using a CMV to commit a felony
    • Operating a CMV with a revoked, canceled, suspended, or disqualified CDL
    • Using a CMV to cause fatality through operational negligence, among other motor vehicle manslaughter crimes

    The first violation of major offenses leads to at least one year of CDL disqualification and up to three years for those operating vehicles transporting hazardous materials. A repetition of the offense leads to lifetime disqualification.

    Serious Traffic Violations

    • Overspeeding, usually moving more than 15 miles per hour or speeding beyond the posted limits
    • Making erratic lane changes
    • Following the vehicle in front too closely
    • Operating a CMV without a CDL in your possession
    • Driving a CMV without a CDL
    • Driving a CMV with a non-corresponding CDL type or endorsement

    You’ll not be disqualified on the first serious traffic violation. However, fines may apply as appropriate.

    A second violation will attract up to 60 days of disqualification, whereas a third violation will lead to CDL disqualification for not less than 120 days.

    Railroad-Highway Crossing Violations

    The first railroad-highway grade crossing violation leads to CDL disqualification for 60 days. A second violation within three years leads to up to 120 days disqualification, whereas a third violation within three years attracts not less than one year CDL disqualification.

    Violating Out-of-service Orders 

    Your CDL will be disqualified if you are caught operating a CMV before the end of an out-of-service period.

    Commercial License Types & Classes in Wisconsin

    Wisconsin has various CDL classes. Each of these classes varies by gross vehicle weight and the purpose of the vehicle. Below are the three Wisconsin CDL types permitting different CMV operations. 

    Class A CDL

    A Class A CDL permits the CDL holder to operate any combination of vehicles with more than 26,001 pounds gross weight and tow a vehicle with over 10,000 pounds gross weight. 

    Class A CDL holders can operate all vehicles included in Class B and C.

    Class B CDL

    A Class B CDL is for any single or vehicle combination weighing 26,001 pounds or more and pulls a vehicle with less than 10,000 pounds gross weight. 

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

    Class C DCL

    A Class C CDL is necessary for any single vehicle or vehicle combination designed for carrying more than 16 passengers, including the driver, or any specialized vehicle used to transport materials marked as hazardous by federal laws.

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

    Below are the top reasons you should start a trucking career in Wisconsin.

    More Trucking Schools

    Wisconsin has up to 20 trucking schools with up-to-date trucking curricula offered by seasoned truckers-cum trainers. You’ll be ready to start earning in about three weeks, which is the shortest duration you can take to obtain a Wisconsin CDL.

    Better Remuneration

    An entry-level driver with less than one year of experience can make up to $67,000 per year. These rates can be higher depending on skill level or years of experience. Most companies have additional remuneration plans such as retirement benefits and paid leaves, among other bonuses.

    More Trucking Companies

    Wisconsin has many trucking companies offering competitive salaries to top talents. Most Wisconsin trucking companies have partnerships with trucking schools for internships and job placements upon graduation.

    Job Outlook and Salary For Truck Driving in Wisconsin

    With the growing demand of up to 1,574 drivers per year, Wisconsin employers are more willing to absorb fresh graduates with minimal experience to fill the vacancies.

    More companies are ready to offer handsome compensation plans, including pensionable salaries, among other bonuses to retain truckers.

    Here’s the breakdown of the salary range for truckers in Wisconsin, according to Indeed.

    • Less than one year of experience: $67,704 per year
    • 6-9 years of experience: $76,987 per year
    • Over ten years of experience: $81,418 per year

    What is the Demand For Truck Drivers In Wisconsin?

    Wisconsin has experienced high truck driver demand over the years. According to a Department of Workforce Development report, the state had an average of 1,359 job openings for truck drivers between 2015 and 2017.

    The number is expected to grow to 1,574 openings every year until 2024.

    How Much Do CDL Drivers Make in Wisconsin?

    Some companies pay as high as $80,000 per year, including bonuses, among other perks. The average pay for a truck driver in Wisconsin is $72,106 per year.


    With up to $72,106 average base salary, among other bonuses and benefits for truckers, Wisconsin is among the best places to start a trucking career in the US if you meet all the CDL requirements.

    There is a high demand for drivers each year, and more companies are willing to absorb even the least experienced drivers with a good starting pay of not less than $67,000 per year.

    However, the state of Wisconsin also has a strict set of rules governing CMV operations. All CDL holders must adhere to these regulations, lest they risk CDL suspension or lifetime disqualification in extreme or repeated violations.

    People Also Ask

    Getting a CDL in Wisconsin is a straightforward process if you meet all the requirements laid out by the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles. Still, it’s important to know about all the requirements before embarking on the application process.

    Here are common questions about Wisconsin CDL requirements.

    Where to Find a CDL Practice Test WI?

    Taking practice tests helps you to familiarize yourself with test questions you can expect in your CDL examinations. You can download Wisconsin CDL practice tests from the Wisconsin DMV Permit Test website for free.

    When Do You Need a CDL in Wisconsin?

    You’ll need a Wisconsin CDL to operate the following vehicles:

    • Vehicle combination weighing more than 26,001 lbs and pulling a unit weighing over 10,000 lbs
    • Any single vehicle or vehicle combination, where the single vehicle weighs over 26,001 lbs and towing a unit weighing less than 10,000 lbs
    • Any vehicle or vehicle combinations for transporting more than 16 passengers, including the driver, or designed to transport hazardous materials

    Can You Get a CDL With a DUI In Wisconsin?

    Under Wisconsin laws, a first-time DUI conviction attracts CDL disqualification for up to one year, among other applicable fines of between $150-$300.

    The period goes as long as three years for CDL holders operating vehicles carrying hazardous materials and can attract fines of between $300-$1,000. Subsequent convictions (2nd or 3rd) will lead to lifetime disqualification.

    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.