Your complete guide on How to Get Your Class A CDL Driver’s License in Texas. We break down the requirements, steps and training required to get you on the road to a career in trucking.
There are several different types of commercial licenses you can get depending on the vehicle you want to drive. The Texas Class A CDL license is what you will need for a career on the open road in Texas.
What is a Class A Driver’s License in Texas?
The Class A Driver’s License in Texas allows you to drive any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle or vehicles towed exceeds 10,000 pounds.
Types of Class A Driver’s Licenses in Texas
There are a couple different types of Class A Driver’s Licenses in Texas:
- Non-Commercial Class A License
- Class A CDL – Interstate
- Class A CDL – Intrastate
Essentially, if you want to drive a truck for a living, you need a Texas Class A CDL. The non-commercial license is for vehicles like large motor coaches, emergency vehicles, farming equipment, etc.
Intrastate vs Interstate
The difference between the interstate and intrastate is where you will be driving. An intrastate license is if you are just traveling within Texas, whereas an interstate license is required if you are traveling between states or cross-border. If you are unsure where you are going to be driving, you should obtain the interstate license.
Types of Vehicles You Can Drive With A Class A License in Texas
With a Class A license in Texas, you can drive many different types of vehicles. You are likely here because you are interested in becoming a truck driver but you can also drive some Class B and C vehicles provided you have the correct endorsements. Some examples of what you can drive with a Class A license in Texas are:
- Truck and trailer combinations
- Double and triple trailers
- Tractor-trailer buses
- Tanker vehicles
- Livestock carriers
Step 1: Class A CDL Requirements in Texas
Before we start the process, you should first make sure you meet the minimum requirements to get your Class A CDL in Texas. In order to apply, you must:
- Be at least 21 years old (or at least 18 years old if applying for intrastatelicense)
- Be in good physical health (more details in the Medical section)
- Can read and write English (interstate license only)
- Have good eyesight (see Vision requirements)
- Not be addicted to drugs or alcohol (interstate only)
- Reside in Texas
- Have a valid social security number
- Proof that you are a citizen or legally
- Have a valid Texas driver’s license
- Not have a suspended license in any state or outstanding fines or warrants
Driving history will be checked across all states going back 10 years.
Step 2: Identification and Medical Requirements
If you think you meet all the minimum requirements, you can now begin the application to get your Class A CDL Driver’s License in Texas. Before you get your full license, you need a learner’s permit. First, you need to complete a couple forms and get some documents together.
There are a number of identification documents you will need to gather:
- Proof of US citizenship or lawful presence in the country. See full list of acceptable documents.
- Proof of Texas residency. See full list of acceptable documents
- Proof of identity (2 pieces). See full list of acceptable documents
- Proof you have a social security number. Aside from your card, you can supply any of these documents.
- If you currently own any vehicles, bring your insurance and registration with you as well.
Use this brochure to help you ensure you have the proper identification.
Now you need to make a decision about whether you want to drive only within Texas or be allowed to travel anywhere in North America for work.
If you are going to stick to just Texas, then you need to fill out the Intrastate Self-Certification of Medical Status Form.
If you are going to travel outside Texas, then you need to fill out the Interstate Self-Certification of Medical Status Form.
Depending on what type of commercial vehicle you going to be driving and where you plan on working, you may need a medical examination by a doctor. Most tractor-trailer drivers are going to fall into the non-excepted categories. For further clarification on the differences, review the forms as they provide detailed instructions or you can read this explanation on FMSCA website.
We are going to operate on the assumption that you are going to be the typical big-rig driver you see on the road every day. Regardless if you are driving in Texas or across state lines, you will need an examination by a doctor. You can download the form and bring it with you to your appointment or your doctor may have copies at their office as well.
Medical Issues That May Disqualify you from obtaining an Interstate Class A Driver’s License in Texas are:
- loss of limb that has not been waived (see here for more info on waivers)
- impairment of hand, finger, arm, foot, or leg that interferes with driving
- diabetes requiring insulin for control
- heart problems
- respiratory dysfunction
- high blood pressure
- rheumatic, arthritic, orthopedic, muscular, neuromuscular, or vascular problems that would affect vehicle control
- epilepsy or other condition likely to cause loss of consciousness
- mental, nervous, organic, or functional disease or psychiatric disorder likely to interfere with vehicle control
- poor hearing (you must be able to hear a whisper from 5 feet away)
Part of becoming a truck driver is being clean and sober. No, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a couple drinks after work but rather you cannot have any drugs or alcohol in your system when you get your physical.
The drugs a DOT medical test screens for are:
- Marijuana metabolites/THC
- Cocaine metabolites
- Amphetamines (including methamphetamine, MDMA)
- Opioids (including codeine, heroin (6-AM), morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone)
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
You can search for a medical examiner closest to you using the national database. They must be on this list in order to conduct the drug testing. This testing is typically conducted once you have an offer of employment but before you start work. Often, your employer will arrange this for you. If you are attending a training program, they will required you to pass the DOT drug test before starting school.
Step 3: Obtaining your Texas Class A Commercial Learner Permit (CLP)
Once you have your identification documents and medical papers together, fill out the Texas Commercial Driver’s License Application but don’t sign it until you get to a licensing office. You also need to complete the General License Application.
You must attend a licensing office in person. You can find a location near you using their service locator. The cost to obtain you Texas Class A Commercial Learner’s Permit is $25.
At the office you will be required to provide a thumbprint and have your picture taken. You then need to take some tests before they issue you a Texas Class A CLP.
The vision test will conducted at licensing office when you are applying for your Commercial Learner Permit. You must have 20/40 vision or better in each eye and not be color blind.
If for some reason you don’t meet the standard vision requirements, you may be able to get a waiver but you have typically need to meet the other medical requirements. If you are applying for a intrastate license, you get the waiver through the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The following are the Texas Class A knowledge tests you are required to take to get your CLP:
- Texas Commercial Rules
- General Knowledge
- Air Brake (If applicable)
- Any additional endorsements, like Double/Triple Trailer, Passenger, School Bus, Tanker and HazMat.
Though it says “if applicable” for the air brake test, if you want to drive a semi-truck then you are going to need to know how to use air brakes and take this test.
You must score at least 80% on each test in order to pass. Don’t worry, they are multiple choice but make sure you study the Texas Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook. Chapters 1-3, 6 and 11-13 are for Class A but you also want to review Chapter 5 as it covers air brakes.
Important facts about a Texas Commercial Learner Permit
- A CLP is not valid without your base Texas driver license and cannot be used for identification
- A CLP authorizes you to practice on public roads in a CMV with a qualified CDL license operator, 21 years of age or older who holds the same class of CDL for the vehicle you are driving, sitting next to you
- You must hold the CLP for 14 days before taking skills exams
- A CLP is valid for 180 days or when your Texas driver license expires, whichever is earliest
- A CLP can be renewed one time, up to 30 days prior to expiration, without needing to retake the knowledge exams
Step 4: Texas Class A License Training
Although formal training or lessons are not required to get your Texas Class A Driver’s License, you really don’t have a shot at passing the skills tests if you don’t have any experience driving trucks. Also, most employers aren’t going to hire you and give you a company truck without any training.
Most Class A license courses in Texas last between 4-8 weeks. You can look up to state regulated schools for CDL training online. The Texas Workforce commission sets standards that these programs are required to meet.
Many schools offer some sort of financing or tuition assistance programs to help you with the costs. There are also typically discounts and programs specifically for veterans. If you are unemployed, you may also be able to get all or part of your tuition covered by the government. Contact a couple schools to find out what kind of programs they are offering and they will also be able to direct you to any financial assistance programs.
There are even some companies that will reimburse your tuition if you work for them for a specific length of time, which is typically one year. Others, if you get hired with them in advance, will pay for the training up front. Once again, you must agree to work for them after for your Class A Training for the length of time they set out.
Many of these schools are available to provide the skills testing as well, so you don’t have to worry about scheduling or arranging the tests and a truck.
Step 5: Texas Class A License Skills (Road) Testing
Skills Testing (also known as Road Testing) is the final step in getting your Class A Texas CDL. You need to have held your CLP for at least 14 days before attempting the skills tests.
The cost to get your Texas Class A License is $61. This will expire after 5 years.
Before you do your skills testing though, there needs to be a safety inspection of your vehicle. This will include equipment requirements, liability insurance requirements, and registration requirements. If the vehicle does not pass inspection, the skills test will be postponed. For a complete list of things they are looking for, refer to page iv (8 of the PDF) of the Texas Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook.
There are 3 parts to the skills test that you must pass in order to get your Texas Class A CDL. They are:
- Pre-trip inspection (including air brake inspection)
- Basic vehicle control
- Safe on-road driving skills
The on-the-road test will evaluate your ability to perform the following maneuvers:
- Quick Smooth Stop
- Parallel Parking
- Lane Change
- Use of Lanes
- Approach to Corner
- Traffic Signals
- Traffic Signs
- Left Turns
- Right Turns
These tests are essentially pass or fail. You will fail if you break the law during the test, get too many deductions (making too many driving errors), drive dangerously, get involved in an accident or fail to lisent to the evaluator.
If you fail the knowledge or skills test 3 times, or you don’t successfully complete them within 90 days of your application, you will have to redo the application and pay the fees again.
Use this brochure from the Texas Department of Public Safety to help you prepare for your test.
Texas Class A Driver’s License Costs
The cost to get your Class A driver’s license in Texas is approximately $4,500. This is without any financial assistance, tuition reimbursement, government aid or paid training by an employer. The costs included to get your Class A driver’s license Texas include:
- $25 for your Commercial Learner Permit
- $100 approximately for your DOT medical
- $61 for your Class A Commercial Driver’s License
The average cost of a Class A Driver Training Program is approximately $4,000 if you don’t qualify for any government assistance or paid training by a future employer.