What is a Commercial Learner’s Permit?

April 4, 2024

Team ACV




What is a Commercial Learner’s Permit?

ACV facts & figures

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A truck driver holding steering wheel in busy shipping yard.

If you’re a truck driver looking to get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), you’ve probably discovered that the first step is to obtain a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). In this article, we will define what a CLP is, explain the steps it takes to get one, and answer some frequently asked questions. 

Explaining Commercial Learner’s Permits

A CLP is different from a CDL because of what it allows the driver to do. With a CLP, a driver can practice driving commercial vehicles on public roads when accompanied by a Commercial Driver’s License holder. On the contrary, a CDL allows you to operate these vehicles with no supervision and at a professional level.1 

6 Steps to Obtain a CLP 

1. Prove of Meeting the Age Requirements 

For intrastate driving, most states require drivers to be 18 years old. But, for interstate driving, drivers must be at least 21 years old. If you are under 21, you will not be allowed to cross state lines, even if you eventually hold a CDL.1 

2. Study Your State’s Commercial Driver’s Licensing Manual 

While there are minimum federal requirements for CLPs and CDLs, each state has some additional requirements that may vary. To be sure you cover your bases, get a copy of your state’s manual either in-person at the office location, or by downloading it online.2 The manual will detail any testing information or other paperwork/documentation you may need to bring with you to get your CLP. 

3. Choose Your Type of License 

As we outlined in our guide to getting a CDL, there are three types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses to choose from: Class A, B, or C. Each one is characterized by the type and size of the commercial vehicle you will be driving. Beyond that, each type might come with varying requirements in the licensing process, so before proceeding with your application, you’ll want to choose which license class to pursue. 

4. Schedule a Medical Exam 

In some states, and for some license class types, it is required to get a Medical Exam Certificate completed by a registered professional. Similarly, some states may require a Department of Transportation (DOT) medical card or physical exam. Look to your state’s manual for details on your specific license class. 

5. Fill Out a CLP application

In most states, the application is available both online and in person at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). For a smooth visit, be sure to make an appointment in advance. Typically, the CLP fee is around $20, but this fee can vary state-to-state. 

After filling out the application, your ID will be collected at the DMV for verification. Additional documentation to bring with you include: 

  • Proof of your Social Security number, whether that’s the SS card, paycheck, W2, etc. 
  • Proof of citizenship or lawful residency, like a birth certificate, U.S. passport, etc. 
  • Passed background checks. 
  • A list of states where you’ve been licensed to drive in the past 10 years. 
  • No license suspensions or revocations. 
  • Not subject to any disqualifications under FMCSA regulations. 
  • Not having a driver’s license in more than one state. 
  • Speak and read English in order to take the exam.3
  • Any other documents required in your state. 

6. Complete the CLP Exam 

You must pass an information exam before getting your CLP, and in order to pass, you need to score 80% or higher. There will be three sections on the test: 

  1. General Knowledge: 50 questions about driving and cargo transport basics. 
  2. Air Brakes: Up to 25 questions about truck air brake systems. 
  3. Combination Vehicles: Up to 25 questions about the safe driving of tractor-trailers.1 

CLP Frequently Asked Questions 

How long is a CLP valid? 

CLPs are valid for 180 days from the day they are issued. This may be extended depending on the state. 

Do I need to have experience to get a CLP?

Beyond the necessary license training and testing, you do not need a track record of any other experience. 

How long do I need to wait between getting a CLP and testing for my CDL? 

You must hold a CLP for at least 14 days before beginning the testing for a CDL.4 

What are the restrictions when I have a CLP? 

  • You must always have someone with a CDL present when operating a commercial vehicle. 
  • You cannot operate a vehicle designated for hazardous materials. 
  • You cannot operate a vehicle/bus that has passengers beside the CDL supervisor. 
  • You cannot operate a vehicle that you don’t have a CLP for. 
  • You cannot transport any property in a commercial vehicle.1 

Partner with ACV Transportation

Once you have your CDL and are looking for trucking jobs, partner with ACV Transportation to get access to opportunities across the country.  ACV works with thousands of car dealerships across the country delivering automotive inventory. With ACV transporters get a dedicated account manager, fast payment, and a Preferred Carrier Program. Reach out to us to learn more or get started today. 


  1. The Schneider Guy. “What is a Commercial Learner’s Permit and how do you get one?” Schneider. Retrieved March 22, 2024. https://schneiderjobs.com/blog/what-is-commercial-learners-permit 
  2. FMCSA. “How do I get a Commercial Driver’s License?” FMCSA. Retrieved March 22, 2024. https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/commercial-drivers-license/how-do-i-get-commercial-drivers-license 
  3. TruckStop. 2024. “How to get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).” TruckStop. Retrieved March 22, 2024. https://truckstop.com/blog/how-to-get-your-commercial-drivers-license-cdl/ 
  4. The Trucker. “Requirements to get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP).” The Trucker. Retrieved March 22, 2024. https://www.thetrucker.com/truck-driving-jobs/resources/requirements-to-get-commercial-drivers-licenses-cdl-and-commercial-learners-permits-clp