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Getting a Commercial Driver License (CDL) or CDL Instruction Permit

Overview

Generally, you must have a commercial driver license to operate a motor vehicle on highways or premises open to the public in Oregon if the gross vehicle weight or gross vehicle weight rating is greater than 26,000 pounds, the vehicle is used to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver, or the vehicle is used to transport hazardous materials.  Exceptions exist for recreational vehicles operated solely for personal use, certain farm vehicles when the driver is operating within the limitations of a farm endorsement, emergency fire vehicles operated by firefighters as defined in ORS 652.050, and emergency vehicles operated by emergency service workers as defined in ORS 401.025. 

CDL Classes

Class A
 
A Class A CDL authorizes the operation of any vehicle or combination of vehicles, except the person may not operate any vehicle for which a specific endorsement is required unless the person obtains that endorsement.
 
Class B
 
A Class B CDL authorizes the operation of any single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) and gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVW or GVWR. A person may not operate any vehicle for which a specific endorsement is required unless the person obtains that endorsement.
 
Class C
 
A Class C CDL authorizes the operation of any vehicle that is designed to transport 16 or more persons (except a school bus), including the driver, if the GVW and GVWR is less than 26,001 pounds and the person has a passenger endorsement; or any vehicle used in the transportation of hazardous materials, in quantities that require placarding by law, if the GVW and GVWR is less than 26,001 pounds and the person has a hazardous materials endorsement. A person may not operate any vehicle for which a specific endorsement is required unless the person obtains that endorsement. 

CMV Driving Type

When you apply for a CDL or CDL instruction permit you must certify the type of driving  you intend to do while holding a CDL or CDL permit.  Your options in Oregon are:

  • Non-excepted Interstate
  • Excepted Interstate
  • Non-excepted Intrastate
Issuance of a CDL or CDL instruction permit for operating a CMV in interstate commerce is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Oregon statute. All federal rules and standards are applicable to drivers of vehicles in non-excepted interstate commerce.
 
Interstate commerce is defined as trade, traffic or transportation:
  • Between a place in a state and a place outside such state;
  • Between two places in a state through another state or a place outside of the United States; or
  • Between two places in a state as part of trade, traffic or transportation originating or terminating outside the United States.

In other words, you may be engaged in interstate commerce even if your vehicle does not leave the state.

Some federal rules and standards are not applicable to drivers of vehicles in excepted interstate commerce. Some examples of excepted-interstate operation include:
  • School bus operations;
  • Transport by government entities;
  • Some farm operations; and
  • Seasonal transportation of bees by beekeepers.

Issuance of a CDL or CDL instruction permit for operating a CMV in intrastate commerce is regulated by Oregon statute. Intrastate commerce is any trade, traffic, or transportation in any state which is not described in the term interstate commerce.

DMV strongly recommends that you certify a driving type of non-excepted interstate if you meet federal qualifications and there is any chance you might operate a CMV in non-excepted interstate commerce. Otherwise your CDL might be needlessly restricted. 

To Qualify/Apply
Commercial Driver License
 
The qualifications needed to obtain and hold a CDL are dependent on the type of driving you do or intend to do and the type of driving you certify.
 
If you certify a driving type of intrastate or excepted interstate, you must:
If you certify a driving type of non-excepted interstate, you must meet the following qualification, in addition to those listed above:

DMV strongly recommends that you certify a driving type of non-excepted interstate if you meet federal qualifications and there is any chance you might operate a CMV in non-excepted interstate commerce. Otherwise your CDL might be needlessly restricted.
 
After you meet all requirements, you will be issued an interim card to use until you receive your CDL in the mail.
 
If you surrendered a previous driver license, permit or identification card, it will be invalidated and returned to you.  The invalidated card is not valid by itself, but may be used as additional proof of identity with the interim card.

CDL Instruction/Learner's Permit
 
If you need to practice or train for the Commercial Drive Test you must obtain a CDL Instruction Permit. You may take the Commercial Skills Test at a DMV office without a CDL Instruction Permit. However, you must have a CDL Instruction Permit or CDL in order to take the Commercial Skills Test with a Third Party CDL Tester.
 
A CDL Instruction Permit authorizes the operation of any vehicle, except a motorcycle or a vehicle carrying hazardous materials, when accompanied by a person who:
  • Is at least 21 years of age;
  • Has a valid commercial driver license for the class of vehicle being driven by the permit holder;
  • Has the proper endorsements for the vehicle being operated; and
  • Is sitting in the front seat next to the permit holder. 

CDL instruction permits are valid for one year from the date of issuance. If you need more practice driving with your instruction permit, you may renew it prior to the expiration of your current one. Renewing an instruction permit does not extend the validity of the current permit. The renewed permit will be valid for one year after the date of issuance. If your permit has been expired for more than one year you will be required to successfully complete the CDL knowledge and vision test and pay all applicable fees.

The qualifications needed to obtain and hold a CDL instruction permit are dependent on the type of driving you do or intend to do and the type of driving you certify.
 
If you certify a driving type of intrastate or excepted interstate, you must: If you certify a driving type of non-excepted interstate, you must meet the following qualifications, in addition to those listed above:
Commercial Knowledge Test
CDL and CDL Instruction Permit applicants are required to take one or more knowledge tests, depending on what class of CDL and CDL endorsements are needed. Information needed to pass CDL knowledge tests can be found in the Oregon Commercial Driver Manual. The tests are offered in English only and translators are not permitted.

You must pay test fees prior to taking any test. Be prepared to make separate payments for your testing and licensing fees.

CDL Knowledge Tests:
  • General Knowledge Test - Required for all CDL and CDL instruction permit applicants.
  • Combination Vehicles Test - Required to operate vehicles in combination (Class A).
  • Air Brakes Test - Required to operate vehicles with air brakes.
  • Passenger Endorsement Test - Required to operate vehicles carrying 16 persons or more, including the driver.
  • Hazardous Materials Endorsement Test - Required to haul hazardous materials or waste in amounts which require placards. To renew a CDL with a hazardous materials endorsement you must pass the hazardous materials endorsement knowledge test prior to renewal.
  • Tank Endorsement Test - Required to haul liquids or gas in bulk.
  • Doubles/Triples Endorsement Test - Required to pull double or triple trailers.
  • School Bus Endorsement Test - Required to transport pre-primary, primary or secondary school students from home to school, from school to home, or to and from school sponsored events.

Note: Refer to the "What Sections Should You Study" table in the Oregon Commercial Driver Manual to determine the specific sections to study in order to obtain the desired endorsement(s). Endorsement knowledge tests  cover not only material from individual endorsement sections, but also from the section on driving safely. You will need to be familiar with the driving safely section when applying for any class of CDL, commercial instruction permit or CDL endorsement.

If You Have a CDL from Another Jurisdiction:

DMV will waive all CDL knowledge tests EXCEPT the Hazardous Materials Endorsement Test if you surrender a current, valid CDL from another jurisdiction for a comparable Oregon CDL.

Third Party CDL Testers

CDL drive tests are also available from Third Party CDL Testers.

Commercial Skills Test

Commercial skills tests must be conducted in English only and translators/interpreters are not permitted.

DMV will not conduct a commercial skills test in a vehicle that is:
  • Transporting any load;
  • Contains hazardous materials:
  • Has more than one trailer;
  • Pulls a trailer that has no brakes or uses surge brakes; or
  • Is clearly illegal or unsafe.

CDL Skills Test consists of three parts:

  • Pre-trip Vehicle Inspection- You will be asked to complete  a pre-trip inspection of your vehicle and explain to the examiner what you should inspect and why. Section 11 of the Oregon Commercial Driver Manual tells you what to inspect and how to inspect it.
  • Basic Control Skills (BCS) - You will be asked to perform backing maneuvers to demonstrate your ability to exercise basic control of your vehicle. Section 12 of the Oregon Commercial Driver Manual contains additional information about this portion of the CDL skills test.
  • On-Road Driving Test- You will be tested on your skill to safely operate your vehicle in a variety of traffic situations that may include left and right turns, intersections, railway crossings, curves, up and down grades, single or multi-lane roads, streets, or highways. The examiner will tell you where to drive. Section 13 of the Oregon Commercial Driver Manual explains more about this test.

Waiver of CDL Skills Testing Requirements for Qualified Military CMV Operator 

DMV may waive the Class A or B CDL skills testing requirements for qualified military commercial motor vehicle operators under the Oregon Military Skills Test Waiver program. Passenger and school bus endorsement skills tests will not be waived under the Oregon Military Skills Test Waiver program. To apply for a military skills test waiver you must:
  • Hold or be eligible for an Oregon Class C driver license;
  • Provide proof that you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent lawful resident;
  • Be currently employed, or have been employed within the previous 12 months, in a military specialty in which a primary duty involves operation of a commercial motor vehicle. Currently, only Army primary MOS 88M, Marine primary MOS 3531 and Air Force primary AFSC 2T1X1 have been identified as specialties in which a primary duty is operation of a commercial motor vehicle;
  • Complete an Oregon Application for Military Skills Test Waiver (Form 735-7390), or equivalent application from DOD or another state, signed by you and your commanding officer;
  • Provide a copy of your DD 214 or, if you are currently in military service, a copy of your Military Identification Card;
  • Provide a copy of your military vehicle operator’s permit (OF346 or DA Form 5984-E) that DMV can use to properly classify the type of commercial motor vehicle that you operate, or operated. DMV cannot waive the skills tests unless the vehicle can be associated with a specific federal CMV classification that can be verified; and
  • Otherwise meet the requirements described in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 383.77.

Send the Oregon Application for Military Skills Test Waiver (Form 735-7390) along with copies of other required documents to:

Oregon DMV
CDL Policy Unit
1905 Lana Ave NE
Salem, OR  97314

If DMV is able to determine that you meet the qualifications for the military skills test waiver, a copy of your application and an approval letter, with instructions, will be mailed to you. If you do not meet the qualifications for the military skills test waiver, DMV will return your documents to you.