How to Get a CDL in Illinois

A commercial driver’s license is typically required if you want to operate a commercial vehicle (CDL) in not only Illinois but the whole of the United States. Start by getting in touch with a DMV that is closest to you, since there are minor variations in the policies and regulations across each state. Before you can apply for a CDL, you will be required to submit a written application and pass a skills test. This article is a quick guide to help you get started with obtaining a CDL in Illinois.

Why Getting a CDL in Illinois is a Good Idea

If you are considering a trucking career, then the following are some of the unique benefits you will reap from it.

Good Starting Pay

While the starting pay for most careers is not that attractive, working as a commercial driver gets you a good starting salary. Oftentimes, the range for a truck driver’s salary starts from $29,000 to $66,000 per year. So on average, you can expect to earn about $46,000 per year and the best part is that you don’t require a college degree to start working.

Potential for Career Growth

Another benefit of working as a truck driver is the potential for growth in your career. CDL is not confined to one type, so you can choose from different classes and endorsements and grow your career as you wish. With experience, your salary equally increases and more endorsements make you a valuable asset not only to your employer but to the entire industry.

Job Security and Flexibility

Because different industries have a demand for truck drivers, you will have enough job security and the flexibility you want. You are presented with different options for growth and, depending on your preferences, you can choose the industry you want to work in.


Your trucking career also presents you with independence since you don’t have to deal with the micromanagement that comes with other typical jobs. You also get flexible hours since you can plan your day depending on the amount of work you wish to do. 

The Requirements for Getting a CDL in Illinois

  • You have to be 18 years of age or older to operate a commercial motor vehicle in Illinois and get your CDL. Also, if you want to operate a CMV across state lines, carry any passengers, or drive a hazmat vehicle, you are required to be at least 21 years old. You should also be able to read and speak English.
  • You are also required to have only a single driver’s license with no revocations, cancellations, suspensions, or disqualifications of your driving privileges in Illinois. All the FMCSA medical requirements should be met, and the applicant should also pass the written test for acquiring a commercial learner’s permit.
  • Carry either your birth certificate, green card, or social security card. These are used to prove your US citizenship and residency in Illinois, as well as show that you have permission to work in the US. 
  • Applicants must correctly answer at least 80% of the questions on the knowledge tests which include both the general and endorsement tests to pass.
  • Candidates must complete each of the necessary skills to pass the Illinois CDL skills test. The applicant must take the skills test using a vehicle that is comparable to the vehicle they are currently operating or that which they will handle in the future.

Steps To Getting Your CDL in Illinois

You don’t have to keep on guessing what the next step is to get your CDL in Illinois. As such, here are steps to expect during your application process;

Check the Commercial Driver’s License Manual and User Guide

To move in the right direction in your Illinois CDL application, you will need a commercial driver’s license manual and user guide. By searching the NCDOT website you can easily download your CDL manual and user guide or visit the nearest state office to acquire one. Whether it is practice resources or a CDL handbook, an Illinois CDL manual will contain all the information you require.

Get the Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP)

Having a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) only allows you to practice driving on public roads while being accompanied by a qualified CDL holder. You must pass all the knowledge tests required for your CDL and, in addition, present the forms of identification accepted in Illinois to demonstrate your medical eligibility. DOT medical cards, which call for a DOT physical, are also necessary for the majority of commercial driving types.

Choose a CDL Class

When applying for your CDL in Illinois, you need to understand the different class types available based on the kind of vehicle you are going to operate. 

Class A: Combination vehicles with the minimum GCWR of 26,001 pounds, given that the vehicle being towed weighs not less than 10,000 pounds.

Class B: A single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, given that the vehicle being towed weighs no more than 10,000 pounds. 

Class C:  A single vehicle with a GVWR range of between 16,001 pounds and 26,001 pounds.

You can drive Class B and C vehicles if you have a Class A CDL and similarly, you can drive Class C vehicles if you have a Class B license. 

Class D: A single vehicle with a GVWR of not more than 16,001 pounds.

Additionally, you can acquire Class C, Class H, Class N, Class P, Class S, Class T, and Class X endorsements if you have an Illinois CDL.

Provide Proof of a Clean Driving Record

To apply for your Illinois CDL, you will be required to provide proof of a clean driving record. To do so, you can check with the NCDOT for your records. This information should be turned in when submitting your Illinois CDL application.

Take a Physical Exam and Get a DOT Medical Card

A Department of Transportation (DOT) medical card is also required when applying for your Illinois CDL. This is often acquired after getting a physical exam done to establish your ability to handle large vehicles without any restraints. In the event you are unable to acquire the DOT medical card, your application is reviewed to decide if you qualify to have a CDL.

Drug Test

A drug test is also taken and if passed, you are rewarded with a 2-year valid medical certificate.

Take the Written Test

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administration manual is used to generate a written test for all CDL applicants. You are required to pass this test and possibly take more tests for air-braked vehicles, hazardous materials, combination vehicles, and double or triple tractor-trailers.

Take the Road Skills Test

After passing your written test, you’re required to take a road skills test which is meant to ascertain if you are conversant with fundamental vehicle controls and pre-trip inspection, etc.


Along with your application, you will be required to pay for your Illinois CDL. You’re required to pay $50 for renewal or an original application for your commercial learner’s permit. A $5 fee is charged for removing, adding an endorsement, or restriction. A $60 fee is charged if you wish to renew, apply, or transfer your commercial driver’s license. You will also be charged a $4 fee for a school bus permit.

How to Prepare for Your Test

You’ll be asked to demonstrate a wide range of knowledge on your CDL test, so it’s crucial to prepare well. The following are tips to use while preparing for your test;

Don’t Wait for the Last Minute

Planning ahead is a wise strategy to follow when getting ready for your CDL test. You don’t want to be exhausted before your test and as such, avoid cramming as your solution to pass the test. Instead, you want to properly understand the areas that are often tested in different sections.  Look for practice tests online, download informational materials, or find a reliable course and take it.

Search for Essential Study Materials

You can get a CDL manual offline or online as well as compile all the required study materials. Whether it is obtaining a CDL test preparation book or searching for CDL style guides online, there are plenty of ways to find all the essential study materials you need for your Illinois CDL.

Narrow Down Your Study

You don’t have to study everything you find on the internet about acquiring a CDL. In order to pass your test and get your CDL, you can narrow down your study to fit the kind of CDL you are getting. For instance, if you’re getting a class A CDL make sure that you do your study around that so you don’t have to learn about other types such as class B and C.

Take Practice Tests

Another way to improve your preparedness for your CDL is to take practice tests. This will help you to self-diagnose yourself and find out about the different areas you need to study more on. You also get a better understanding of what the actual tests will look like so you don’t get any surprises when you get to sit for the actual exam.

Test Your Knowledge

There are different ways you could test your knowledge for your CDL exam. For instance, you can ask anyone around you to quiz you on different areas that are usually tested on the CDL exam. This way you’ll be able to easily identify where you need to put more work. 

Illinois CDL Disqualifications

If you commit two or more of the following offenses, you could lose your privilege of owning a commercial driver’s license for at least a year for a first offense and forever for a second. The following offenses must not be committed while driving a commercial vehicle with a placard for hazardous materials; failing to do so will result in a minimum 3-year loss of your CDL. You will also permanently lose your CDL if you use a vehicle to commit a felony involving the manufacturing, distribution, or dispensing of controlled substances. 

Further Illinois CDL disqualifications include;

  • Driving your motor vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident.
  • Drunk driving or operating any type of motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance.
  • Driving carelessly while operating a CMV and causing a fatality.
  • Having a blood alcohol content of 0.04 percent or higher while operating a commercial vehicle.
  • Operating a commercial motor vehicle while having your commercial driver’s license suspended, revoked, or canceled due to a subsequent conviction that you committed while operating a CMV.
  • Committing a crime while driving a vehicle, whether it’s a passenger or a commercial one
  • Refusing to submit to a legally mandated blood alcohol test while operating any type of motor vehicle.

How to Find a Job Driving Commercial Vehicles in Illinois

Once you have successfully applied for your CDL in Illinois, you will want to find a job driving commercial vehicles as soon as possible. If you are searching for truck driving opportunities in Illinois, the following are some tips that could help you:

Job boards

One way of finding available job listings within your state is through job boards. Most of these require you to set up an account whereby you are required to upload your resume as well as upload your work history. After updating your account you can quickly search for any available job listings and send your application.

Search Engine

You can also utilize your search engine to find commercial truck-driving jobs in Illinois. When you search for local CMV jobs, you will be presented with different search results that also include paid ads for such jobs. In addition to different paid ads, you will also be able to find trucking companies within your locality.

Social Media

Social media is often underrated and underused when it comes to finding jobs online. Platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook have been used to connect professionals in different industries. If you don’t have social media accounts, you can create them and use the platforms to find locally available trucking jobs in Illinois. Search for and join groups relevant to your career and try to connect with people on those platforms. Also, you can look out for any local trucking jobs in your area in such groups.

Resume Builders

You can create a resume using a resume builder and upload it on popular resume builders such as VisualCV. Usually, the people running these websites are familiar with the business and will most likely recommend you for any upcoming trucking positions. In addition, you can use them as recommendations.

Wrap Up

The state of Illinois will grant you your CDL once you pass the test. Getting a CDL is a major decision, so it’s important to adhere to the state requirements. A major perk of having a CDL is the countless possibilities it offers you to generate income. With the multiple types of vehicles you could drive with your Illinois CDL, you don’t have to stick doing the same thing for the rest of your life. You can always switch things up as you wish to keep your job as interesting as you want it to be.