So you live in the Sunshine State and want to be a truck driver? Step one of the process is the commercial drivers license. A CDL is required to operate any combination of vehicle(s) weighing 26,001 or more pounds or a vehicle designed to carry hazardous materials, or a bus or van carrying 16 or more passengers. Exceptions to these requirements exist for farm machinery used around the farm, military or emergency vehicles, RVs and personal property transports.

  • How do I get my CDL license?
  • What are the different classes?
  • What are endorsements?
  • CDL medical information

How do I get my CDL License?

You will be required to hold an existing standard drivers license in good standing with the State of Florida. You’ll need to be at least 18 years old to obtain your CDL and drive within the State of Florida. You must be 21 years of age or older if you wish to drive over the state line. Drivers between the age of 18 and 21 are restricted to INTRA-State operation only.

Step One: First things first, you’ll need a copy of the Florida CDL handbook, READ IT! It will contain everything in this post, as well as the knowledge required to pass the skills and knowledge tests.

Step Two: Obtain your DOT medical card. Contact a medical professional or care provider who is certified to perform a DOT physical exam. The doctor will review your health history, perform a urine test, perform a vision test, perform a thorough physical exam (turn your head and cough), and they’ll complete the Medical Examination Certificate for you.

Here are some DOT physical tips that can help you be ready and do your best.

  • Don’t drink coffee or smoke cigarettes 30 minutes before having your blood pressure measured.
  • Before having your blood pressure measured, sit for five minutes with your back supported and your feet flat on the ground. Rest your arm on a table at the level of your heart.
  • Wear short sleeves so your arm is exposed.
  • Eyeglasses? Contact lenses? Hearing aid? Whichever you use, bring it with you.
  • Bring a list of your current medications as well as the name and contact number of the doctor who prescribed them.
  • Complete the Driver Information and Health History sections of the Medical Examination Report form. Don’t forget to sign and date the form.
  • Supply your health care provider with medical records for conditions such as diabetes, cardiac disease, sleep disorders, neurological conditions, etc. If you take medications for pain, psychiatric conditions, attention deficit disorder, or smoking cessation for example, bring a letter from your treating doctor.

Failure to maintain current medical documentation on file may result in CDL disqualification.

Step Three: The knowledge and skills tests. All three CDL classes will require you to pass the following tests. Each license class will have it’s own tests that pertain to that particular class. In the State of Florida, all knowledge are offered in multiple languages and may be taken orally in English or Spanish. All skills and hazardous materials tests must be conducted and completed in English. You may not use an interpreter during the administration of any test. If you Google around, there are website with example and practice tests so you know what to expect.

  • Knowledge Tests
    • General Knowledge Test
    • Combination Vehicles Test
    • Air brakes test
    • And additional exams for desired endorsements
  • Skills Tests
    • Pre-Trip vehicle inspection
    • Basic vehicle control
    • On-Road test

Each basic knowledge test covers the 20 general areas outlined in 49 CFR 383.111(a). The knowledge test shall contain at least 30 items. A separate test for drivers seeking to operate CMV’s with air brakes in Florida must cover the 7 areas outlined in 49 CFR 383.111(b).

To pass the knowledge tests (general and endorsement); applicants must correctly answer at least 80 percent of the questions.

To pass the Florida CDL skills test, applicants must successfully perform all the required skills (listed in 49 CFR 383.113 through 49 CFR 383.123). The skills test must be taken in a vehicle representative of the type of vehicle that the applicant operates or expects to operate.

Federal standards require the state of Florida to issue CDLs to certain commercial motor vehicle drivers only after the driver passes the knowledge and skills tests administered by the State. The vehicle you take the CDL test in must also relate to the type of vehicle the driver expects to operate.

Restrictions are placed on a Florida CDL when a driver takes the Skills Test in a vehicle which lacks critical equipment present in particular types of CMVs. Therefore, to avoid restrictions, drivers should take the Skills Test in the same type of vehicle for which they are seeking a Florida CDL to operate.

Step Four: Make an appointment with your local Drivers License Service Center. Not all locations do this testing, make sure you call ahead to confirm they perform the testing at your local center. You can also utilize a third party skills test site from by non government entities. A current, active list of third party testing sites can be found here.

Step Five: Lastly, bring your new medical card, your certificate of knowledge test completion, multiple forms of ID, proof of residency, and completed application to a Drivers License Service Center where your CDL should be issued to you.

Moving to Florida and already have an out of state CDL?: Florida reciprocates out of state and Canadian commercial licenses. Out of state applicants with a Hazmat endorsement will be required to reapply for the Hazmat endorsement, which will require a new background check, appropriate tests and fees.

Already have a military CDL?: Military or prior military applicants requesting to be issued a CDL due to qualifications of experience while serving on military duty must:

  • Pass all required knowledge and endorsement tests for the CDL license class and endorsements they are applying to obtain, and
  • Present the Certification for Waiver of Skill Test for Military Personnel form completed by their commanding officer or designee while on active duty or within 90 days of separation from service in order to be exempt from taking the skills tests.
  • The process must be completed and the CDL issued within 120 days of separation from service.
  • My CDL expires soon. What will I need to renew my license?
    • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations now require all drivers obtaining an original CDL, or renewing their CDL, to certify with the driver license office in one of four categories. Drivers certifying in non-excepted interstate or non-excepted intrastate commerce must also provide valid medical documentation. Certification categories are listed above.
  • I am not currently using my CDL and do not have a current Med Card. I want to keep my commercial license in case I hire on with a company that may require me to have one. What do I need to do?
    • CDL holders can no longer claim exemption from medical certification requirements because they are not currently operating in non-excepted interstate or intrastate commerce. If not specifically included in category B or D, you must maintain your medical certification or downgrade to a non-commercial license.
  • If my current job only requires me to operate intrastate, but I want the option to operate interstate, can I certify in Category A instead of C as long as I have a current Med Card?
    • Yes. Drivers operating only in intrastate commerce are advised to consider self-certifying in the non-excepted interstate category (Category A) if eligible. Drivers not eligible to certify in Category A include drivers under 21 years of age and drivers with certain medical conditions who do not have a federally issued medical variance. Drivers self-certifying in Category C who are not eligible to self-certify in Category A will have restrictions to intrastate commerce placed on their CDL.
  • I recently renewed my license and was required to provide medical certification at that time. My CDL is valid until 2022, but my Med Card expires in 2019. Will I be required to submit a new Med Card before my next renewal?
    • Yes. You are required to maintain current medical documentation on file. Failure to do so may result in CDL disqualification.
  • Once I provide the driver license agency with my Med Card, will I still need to carry my Med Card?
    • No. Once you have provided the Med Card to the driver license agency you are not required to carry the Med Card.  We suggest carrying your Med Card for at least 15 days after submission to ensure the driver record has been updated.
  • I am an independent operator who works for two different companies, a long haul trucking firm and a company involved in Apiarian Industries (beekeepers seasonally transporting bees – exempt from providing medical certification). Which category should I certify under?
    • Since you will be operating, at times, in non-excepted interstate commerce for a long haul trucking firm, you must certify in Category A – Non-excepted Interstate, and you must have a valid Med Card.
  • I am a CDL holder in the military who has been deployed overseas and my medical certificate is going to expire prior to my return. What will I need to do?
    • All CDL holders required to have a valid medical certificate must comply with the regulations in Part 383. The regulations provide no exceptions to service members on active deployment. If a service member can provide an acceptable medical certificate, his/her medical certification will continue. Otherwise, the state will have to begin the downgrade process.

What are the different CDL classes?

  • Class A: A license to operate trucks or truck combinations weighing 26,001 lbs or more, and towing a vehicle/unit over 10,000 lbs.
  • Class B: A license to operate straight trucks and buses weighing 26,001 lbs or more.
  • Class C: A license to operate vehicles transporting placarded amounts of hazardous materials or vehicles designed to transport 16 or more people including the driver, with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of less than 26,001 lbs

What are CDL endorsements?

Endorsements are proof of knowledge and authorization from the State of Florida to operate certain types of vehicles, transport certain types of property, or a certain number of passengers. All endorsements can be applied to Class A, Class B and Class commercial drivers licenses.

  • Placarded Hazmat (H) – Issued to those who have passed the required written test and who will transport placarded hazardous materials.
  • Tank Vehicles (N) – Issued to those who have passed the required written test and who will drive tank vehicles.
  • Passengers (P) – Issued to those who have passed the required written and skills test and who will drive passenger vehicles. A passenger vehicle is any vehicle designed to transport more than 15 persons including the driver.
  • School Bus (S) – Issued to those who have passed the required written and skills test and who will transport pre-primary, primary or secondary school students from home to school, from school to home, or to and from school-sponsored events (does not include a bus used as a common carrier). The P endorsement is also required.
  • Double/Triple Trailers (T) – Issued to those who have passed the required written test and who will drive double or triple tractor- trailer vehicles. Triple trailers are not allowed on Florida roads.
  • Placarded Hazmat & Tank Vehicles (X) – Issued to those who qualify for the H and N endorsements.

CDL Medical Information

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require all Commercial Driver License holders to certify with the State’s Driver License Agency in one of the four categories below prior to the issuance or renewal of a CDL. Those certifying in non-excepted interstate or non-excepted intrastate commerce (Category A or C) must also ensure their medical examiner certificate (Med Card) is on file with the state issuing agency and that it remains current. Failure to present a valid Med Card, when required, will result in the denial of the issuance or renewal of the CDL. Failure to maintain current a valid Med Card on file may result in CDL disqualification. Visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/medical to learn more about medical requirements.

  • Non-excepted Interstate – I operate or expect to operate in interstate commerce and am required to maintain federal medical certification. (Med Card Required)
  • Excepted Interstate – I operate or expect to operate in interstate commerce, but engage exclusively in operations that qualify me for exception from the requirement to maintain federal medical certification.
  • Non-excepted Intrastate – I operate or expect to operate only in intrastate commerce and am required to meet state of Florida medical certification requirements. (Med Card Required)
  • Excepted Intrastate – I operate or expect to operate only in intrastate commerce, but engage exclusively in operations that qualify me for exception from state of Florida medical certification requirements.

CDL holders can no longer claim exemption from medical certification requirements because they are not currently operating in non-excepted interstate or intrastate commerce. If not specifically included in category B or D above, they must maintain their medical certification or downgrade to a non-commercial license.

Medical Certification FAQ

Hearing Requirements

A person is physically qualified to drive a CMV if that person: First perceives a forced whispered voice in the better ear at not less than five feet with or without the use of a hearing aid or if tested by use of an audiometric device, does not have an average hearing loss in the better ear greater than 40 decibels at 500Hz, 1000HZ and 2,000 Hz with or without a hearing aid when the audiometric device is calibrated to the American National Standard Z24.5-1951.

Vision Requirements

You must meet the following vision requirements:

  • A distant visual acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in each eye without corrective lenses or visual acuity separately corrected to 20/40 (Snellen) or better with corrective lenses;
  • A distant binocular acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in both eyes with or without corrective lenses;
  • A field of vision of at least 70 degrees in the horizontal Meridian in each eye;
  • The ability to recognize the colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard red, green, and amber.

Blood Pressure Requirements

  1. Your blood pressure needs to be under 140/90.
  2. Stage 1 hypertension, blood pressure between 140/90 – 159/99: 1-year medical certificate, must be renewed every 12 months.
  3. Stage 2 hypertension, blood pressure between 160/100 – 179/109: 3 month medical certification. Full disqualification if not under control after 3 months, until controlled. Will be required to renew every 12 months.
  4. Stage 3 hypertension, blood pressure at or over 180/110: Automatic disqualification, 6 month certification once blood pressure is under control, must be renewed every 6 months.
  5. Blood pressure can be controlled with or without medication.

Urinalysis Testing

Your urine sample will be tested in a lab for blood, sugar, and protein, which might indicate hidden health problems.

Physical Impairments

Drivers with physical impairments, which affect their ability to safely operate CMVs, must obtain a “variance” from the state of Florida in order to be approved to drive commercially. The variance document must be carried with the commercial driver whenever they are operating a commercial motor vehicle. A Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) is a special type of “variance” required for drivers with impaired or missing limbs (e.g., a hand or finger, an arm, foot, or leg). Drivers with missing limbs, if eligible, must obtain an SPE certificate. The commercial driver must always carry the SPE certificate at all times.

About The Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Program

The Skill Performance Evaluation program is for CMV drivers who drive in interstate commerce. The SPE certification allows drivers with missing or impaired limbs to drive CMVs across state lines if they have been fitted with (and are wearing) the right prosthetic device, and the driver can demonstrate the ability to drive the truck safely by completing on-and off-road activities. If the driver passes the Florida commercial vehicle driving test, he or she will receive a SPE certificate. Over the years, FMCSA has granted more than 3,000 SPE certificates to truck drivers who have shown that they can drive safely on the nation’s highways.