How to Get a Wisconsin CDL License

According to Wisconsin state law, all drivers who operate vehicles exceeding a gross weight of 26,000 pounds, school buses, passenger vehicles carrying 16 or more individuals, and vehicles designated for transporting hazardous materials need to possess a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Through the Division of Motor Vehicles, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is responsible for managing and administering CDL licenses. All drivers that are interested in applying for a first-time CDL license should continue reading to learn the appropriate steps to legally receiving one. Drivers that already hold a CDL from another state may forego these steps by applying for a transfer at a local Wisconsin DMV office.

Wisconsin CDL License Requirements

Instead of going through the hassle of applying and being rejected, it is important to make sure you satisfy all licensing requirements before application. In Wisconsin, commercial drivers must be at least 18 years of age to drive within the state and 21 years of age to travel between states. Drivers must be able to read and speak English fluently enough to understand road signage, communicate with the public, and prepare written reports. To be eligible for a CDL license, drivers must possess a clean driving record.

In the interest of public safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also requires that commercial drivers are deemed medically fit for operating these large vehicles safely. You will be required to undergo a comprehensive physical examination every two years and carry a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) medical certificate at all times. Federal law also mandates that drivers seeking Hazmat endorsements pass thorough background checks and provide fingerprints to put in the database file.

Wisconsin CDL License Training

The most crucial first step is gaining access to a copy of the excellent two-part Commercial Driver’s Manual, either online or at a local Wisconsin DMV service center. Read through all of the detailed rules, regulations, procedures, and endorsements carefully, since all of this information is fair game for testing. Once you feel prepared, go to a Wisconsin DMV office to take the written knowledge test at any time without an appointment. General knowledge tests consist of 50 questions, while endorsement tests are comprised of between 20 and 30 questions each. If you receive a passing grade of 80 percent or more, you will receive a Wisconsin CDL permit to begin practicing.

Although there are no minimum federal training requirements, Wisconsin commercial drivers must be trained professionally before taking the skills test. Even though many basic skills can be learned in the manual, it is vital for drivers to gain real behind the wheel experience to have a chance of passing the test. Since your new permit is valid for six months, take advantage of the time to join a training program, enroll in a driving school, or receive training from an employer. All training must take place with a qualified instructor, or a CDL driver who has a valid license above the level of your permit.

Wisconsin CDL License Process

When you are ready, you must schedule the skills road test with an approved third-party tester within the state of Wisconsin. Some third-party testers rent vehicles for the road test, but often times you will need to supply your own vehicle or one from a training school. In the first section of the road test, the examiner will have you go through a routine pre-trip inspection to test the safety of the vehicle. It is recommended that you go slowly and cover everything, since this portion is not timed. Next, the basic skills driving test section will examine your skills for parallel parking, backing, and other certain maneuvers in a closed course. Finally, the examiner will guide you along a pre-planned route for the on-the-road driving skills test.

After you pass the skills test, you will be granted a certificate from the tester, which you will need to take to the Wisconsin DMV office in your local area. You will be required to present your current license, medical card, application, and skills test certificate, as well as pay the fees. The Wisconsin CDL license cost is $74 for Class A, B, or C. School bus endorsements are $5, but Hazmat endorsements are $44. The permit will also cost $30 and the driving skills exam $20. Although the costs certainly add up, CDL licenses in Wisconsin remain valid for eight years.