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How to Get Your CDL in Tennessee and South Dakota

CDL
Written by Sheryl Posnick

If you live in Tennessee or South Dakota and want to learn about getting a CDL, this article will guide you through the process. For information on all other states, TheJobNetwork has put together a great guide on applying for a CDL in all states.

Tennessee

The following people need to apply for a CDL:

  • Operators of any vehicle or combination of vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds.
  • Anyone transporting hazardous materials
  • Anyone transporting more than 15 passengers including the driver
  • Anyone operating a vehicle used as a school bus

CDL applicants must bring the following documents when applying for a license:

  • a valid DOT Medical Card
  • proof of a Social Security Number
  • a Tennessee driver’s license or ID, or a valid driver license or CDL from another state.
  • proof (2 documents) of domicile in Tennessee
  • proof of U.S. Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Resident Status
Obtaining a CDL learner's permit

To obtain a permit, you must take and pass the CDL general knowledge test. Driver Service Centers throughout the state offer this  and the knowledge tests for any endorsement needed.

Knowledge Test

You will need to take a knowledge test or tests, depending on what class of license and what endorsements you need.

  • The general knowledge test is taken by all applicants.
  • The passenger transport test is taken by all bus driver applicants.
  • The air brakes test is taken if your vehicle has air brakes, including air over hydraulic brakes.
  • The combination vehicles test is required if you want to drive combination vehicles.
  • The hazardous materials test is required if you want to haul hazardous materials as defined in 49 CFR 383.5.
  • The tanker test is required if you want to haul a liquid or liquid gas in a permanently mounted cargo tank rated at 119 gallons or more or a portable tank rated at 1,000 gallons or more.
  • The doubles/triples test is required if you want to pull double or triple trailers.
  • The school bus test is required if you want to drive a school bus.
Skills Tests

If you pass the required knowledge test(s), you can take the CDL skills tests, which include pre-trip inspection, basic vehicle control, and on-road driving.

  • The pre-trip inspection test involves a pre-trip vehicle inspection on your own vehicle. You will be tested to see if you know whether your vehicle is safe to drive, and explain to the examiner what you would inspect and why.
  • The basic vehicle control part tests your skill controlling the vehicle. You will be asked to move your vehicle forward, backward, and turn it within a defined area.
  • The on-road test asks you to safely drive your vehicle in a variety of traffic situations. The situations may include left and right turns, intersections, railroad crossings, curves, up and down grades, single or multi-lane roads, streets, or highways.

South Dakota

You must have a South Dakota CDL to operate:

  • A single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001+ pounds
  • A trailer with a GVWR of 10,001+ pounds if the gross combination weight rating is 26,001 or more pounds.
  • A vehicle designed to transport 16+ people (including the driver)
  • Any size vehicle that requires hazardous materials placards or is carrying material listed as a select agent or toxin

The following people cannot get a South Dakota CDL:

  • Anyone under the age of 18
  • Anyone who has a license under suspension, revocation, cancellation, or disqualification
  • Anyone who isn’t a resident of South Dakota
  • Anyone who has accumulated child support arrearages of $1,000 or more
Commercial Drivers Learner’s Permit (CLP)

You can obtain a CLP if you are at least 18 years old and hold a valid Class 1 or Class 2 operator’s license. A CLP is valid for no more than 180 days from the date of issuance and may be renewed once in the 1-year period from the issuance date for an additional 180 days without requiring the CLP holder to retake the general and specialized knowledge tests.

A 14 day waiting period is required between the issue date of the CLP and to the date it can be converted to a CDL.

Obtaining a CDL

After passing the required knowledge test(s), you can be issued a CLP and then take the CDL skills tests. Your CLP must contain all endorsements and restrictions necessary to complete the skills test. There are three types of general skills that will be tested: pre-trip inspection, basic vehicle control, and on-road driving. You must take these tests in the type of vehicle for which you wish to be licensed.

  • The pre-trip inspection test involves a pre-trip vehicle inspection on your own vehicle. You will be tested to see if you know whether your vehicle is safe to drive, and explain to the examiner what you would inspect and why.
  • The basic vehicle control part tests your skill controlling the vehicle. You will be asked to move your vehicle forward, backward, and turn it within a defined area.
  • The on-road test asks you to safely drive your vehicle in a variety of traffic situations. The situations may include left and right turns, intersections, railroad crossings, curves, up and down grades, single or multi-lane roads, streets, or highways.

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