An individual who wants to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to become a tow truck driver in Illinois must meet several requirements. They must be at least 18 years of age and have a valid Illinois non-CDL license as a base license. The base license has to be valid for the entire time that the individual has a 180-day commercial learner’s permit (CLP). The individual must also self-certify their intrastate or interstate medical driving status, pay the appropriate CLP or CDL fee and successfully pass the required written and skills tests.
Illinois CDL Tests
An individual is required to successfully pass the CDL general knowledge test, the written test and combination knowledge written test for a Class A license. If the driving vehicle is equipped with air brakes, and there are any applicable endorsement knowledge tests required to operate the vehicle, the individual must also pass the air brake knowledge written test.
An endorsement is an authorization to operate certain types of vehicles. Endorsement knowledge tests are written tests. The only endorsements permitted on the CLP in Illinois are tanker (N), passenger (P) and school bus (S).
CDL General Knowledge Written Exam
CDL applicants must pass the CDL general core knowledge written test with a minimum score of 80 percent. The exam contains 30 standardized multiple choice questions. A written knowledge test is valid for one-year maximum. Sections on the test include driving safety, which covers information on substance use and transporting cargo safely. The Illinois Secretary of State has a CDL study guide available on its website.
The cost to get a renewal or transfer of a CDL from another state is $60 and $50 to get an original or renewal of a CLP. The cost for a CDL or CLP upgrade or correction, such as a classification or adding or removing an endorsement or restriction, is $5.
Types of Vehicles Requiring CDLs
A vehicle or combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more requires a CDL, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds. Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing another that is not in excess of 10,000 pounds, requires a CDL.
Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more individuals, including the driver, requires a CDL. In addition, any vehicle, regardless of size, required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials requires a CDL.
Illinois Commercial Driver's License Skills Test
A driver with a CLP must pass the CDL skills test to be eligible for a CDL. An initial and upgrading CLP holder must hold the CLP for at least 14 days before conducting any CDL skills testing. A CLP holder may schedule an appointment in advance outside of the 14-day waiting period. An out-of-state CDL holder transferring to Illinois will not be given a CLP and is not required to fulfill the waiting period.
There are three parts to a CDL skills test: pre-trip, basic control skills and CDL driving test. The pre-trip inspection involves pointing to and explaining safety related items such as heater and defroster and trailer brakes. The individual must be able to perform the functions associated with certain items. Basic control skills involves demonstrating basic operations to maneuver the vehicle, such as backing up in a straight line.
The drive test involves actually driving the vehicle on the road. If an individual does not pass a portion of the skills test, they must retake that portion. They must complete all three sections of the test within the same CLP time frame.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.