A commercial learner’s permit lets you practice driving semi-trucks under the supervision of a CDL holder. Find out why you need one and how to get it.
What Is a Commercial Learner’s Permit?
A commercial learner’s permit, or CLP, is a driver’s permit that lets you practice driving a commercial vehicle while you’re sitting next to a CDL holder. Simply put, it’s the precursor to getting a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which you’ll need if you want to drive commercial trucks as a career. So if you’re going to get on the path to getting a CDL for truck driving, you’ll first need to apply for your commercial learner’s permit. To do this, you’ll need to have some basic knowledge of commercial driving, which usually means you should attend truck driving school first.
Why Do You Need a CDL Permit?
If you want to get a CDL so you can get a truck driving job, you need to start with a commercial learner’s permit first. Think of the CDL permit as the driver’s permit you need before getting a standard driver’s license to operate a car. It ensures you have enough supervised driving experience and knowledge of the road rules before you can go out on the highway alone. As such, the CDL permit can improve road safety for you and everyone around you when you’re driving.
The more practice you have on the road, the better your skills will be when you’re ready to look for a truck driving job. Plus, gaining experience driving under the supervision of a CDL holder can increase your confidence in your ability to safely handle a semi-truck before you even apply for a job in this field. Finally, getting a commercial learner’s permit is simply required before you can test for your commercial driver’s license, so it’s essential to learn the process you can expect to go through for it.
How Can You Get a CDL Permit?
You must meet a few qualifications before you can get a commercial learner’s permit. First, to drive a truck interstate—across state lines—you must be 21 or older. This means you have to be at least 21 to apply for a CDL permit. However, you can get an intrastate CDL permit at age 18, which will allow you to drive a truck within your state only. You also must already have a standard driver’s license before you can apply for a CDL permit.
Next, you’ll need to pass a written test on your knowledge of the road. Attending truck driving school will help you pass this test, as you’ll learn all the truck driving rules and safety precautions in class. Depending on your state, you might have to pay a small fee when you take the test.
This test is only one part of the application process for a commercial learner’s permit. You’ll also need to present some documents to your local motor vehicle department. This includes your driver’s license, proof of citizenship or legal residency, and a Medical Examiner Certificate showing that you’ve recently had a physical exam and are in good enough health to drive a truck safely.
In most states, you’ll also need proof that you’ve been driving a vehicle—any car other than a motorcycle—for at least one year. If you’re applying for a CDL permit in the same state that issued you a standard driver’s license, this information should be in the database. If you have an out-of-state license, you’ll need to show that it was issued at least one year ago.
Steps to Take to Get Your CDL
Once you get a CDL permit, you might wonder how to use it to eventually get your commercial driver’s license so you can start driving alone. The good news is that it won’t take long to turn your permit into a license—you simply need to spend time practicing driving a commercial truck. The amount of time you need is mainly up to you, though there are some standards to adhere to.
In fact, you’re required to keep your commercial learner’s permit for at least 14 days, ensuring you have two weeks or more to get experience driving under the supervision of a CDL holder. In most states, the permit expires in six months, though you can usually renew it if you want more time to practice.
After you’ve had your commercial learner’s permit for at least two weeks and you’re ready to apply for your commercial driver’s license, you’ll follow a similar process as you did with the CDL permit. That means you’ll go to your local motor vehicle department, prepared to pay any fees and show the same legal and medical documents as you did when you applied for the CDL permit.
You’ll then need to pass a skills exam that has three parts, including a vehicle inspection, road test, and basic controls. If you’ve completed a truck driving program, you should have all the knowledge you need to feel confident that you’ll pass the test for your CDL.
If you haven’t gone to truck driving school, it’s not too late to sign up so you can start preparing to get your CDL permit as soon as possible!