Operating large commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) like 18-wheelers, buses, and utility vehicles in Indiana requires a special license known as a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This license is proof that you have the skills and knowledge to safely handle these larger rigs, whether they are carrying passengers or chemically reactive cargo.

Driving these heavy-duty carriers comes with a unique set of challenges, so to ensure you are up for the task, there are several requirements you must meet.

Person with a Helmet Talking to Truck Driver

What is Required for a CDL in Indiana?

The basic conditions for an Indiana CDL are relatively straightforward:

  • You must be at least 18 years old; if you plan to drive passenger vehicles or cross state lines, you must be 21.
  • You must have held an Indiana driver’s license for a minimum of one year.
  • You must prove your legal status in the U.S. as well as your residency in Indiana (via documents like your passport, birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, bank statements, utility bills, etc.)
  • The state of Indiana also requires all CDL applicants to submit a request to the Indiana State Police for a thorough review of any past vehicle crashes. This allows the law enforcement agency to ensure you have a clean driving history.
  • You must also pass a health exam by an FMCSA-approved doctor, prove your physical fitness for driving CMVs, and get a Medical Examiner’s Certificate.

Before You Apply for a CDL

Before you can obtain your commercial driver’s license, you need to get a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). Here is what you will need to do:

  • Show proof of being a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, along with evidence that you reside in Indiana.
  • Bring along the proper medical paperwork.
  • Pass an eye exam demonstrating at least 20/40 vision in each eye.
  • Inform the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) about any states where you have held a driving license in the past 10 years.
  • Pay the $17 fee for the CLP.
  • Complete the written knowledge tests for your desired CDL class and any special endorsements you need.

As per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), while holding a CLP, you are only allowed to drive on public roads under the supervision of a full CDL holder. The CLP is valid for 180 days and can be renewed up to three times within a two-year period. Before taking the skills test for your CDL, you need a minimum of 14 days of practice with your CLP.

CDL Classes And Endorsements in Indiana

Commercial driver’s licenses are categorized into different classes based on the size and type of vehicle the license holder is permitted to operate. In Indiana, these are:

Class A CDL

A Class A CDL is needed for operating tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, tank vehicles, livestock carriers, and flatbeds. It allows you to drive any combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds.

Class B CDL

A Class B CDL allows driving single vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more or towing vehicles under 10,000 pounds. This includes buses, box trucks, and dump trucks with small trailers.

Class C CDL

You need a Class C CDL for small HazMat vehicles, passenger vans, and combination vehicles not covered by Class A or B, but that are used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or transport hazardous materials in quantities large enough to require placards.

In addition, CDL holders in Indiana also need specific endorsements based on the types of vehicles or types of materials to be hauled.

  • Endorsement H (Hazardous materials): Needed for transporting placarded substances classified as “hazardous” by federal law (49 U.S.C. 5103).
  • Endorsement N (Tanks): For driving vehicles with tanks carrying over 119 gallons (liquids or gasses) individually or 1,000 gallons in total.
  • Endorsement P (Passenger transport): For vehicles transporting 16 or more passengers, including the driver.
  • Endorsement S (School bus): For driving vehicles that transport students to and from school or school-related events.
  • Endorsement T (Doubles or triple trailers): For driving a vehicle with two or three trailers.
  • Endorsement X (Combination of tank vehicles and hazardous materials): For driving tank vehicles with harmful substances; you need to pass the tests for both N and H endorsements.

Additional (New) CDL Requirements

The FMCSA has issued new Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) regulations, which came into effect on February 7, 2022. These rules are to make sure that commercial drivers have a higher level of training to ensure they are well-prepared for the responsibilities that come with operating large, heavy vehicles.

You will need to complete the new training if:

  • You already have a Class B CDL and want to upgrade to a Class A CDL
  • You are applying for a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time
  • You want to obtain a School Bus (S), Passenger (P), Or Hazardous Materials (H) endorsement for the first time

If you received your CLP or CDL before February 7, 2022, you are not subject to these new ELDT requirements.

There is another prerequisite for first-time CDL applicants as of July 1, 2023. As part of the Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) initiative to combat human trafficking, CDL applicants now must be equipped with the knowledge and tools to handle situations where they might come across such victims. Every first-time CDL applicant must watch an instructional video about recognizing, preventing, and reporting human trafficking.

Semi driving on a normal road

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