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What is a CLP and How Do I Get One?

Updated: Mar 12


If you've ever dreamed about a career on the open road, driving commercial vehicles across states or even countries, you've probably come across the term CLP, or Commercial Learner's Permit. This permit is a fundamental step on your journey towards becoming a commercial vehicle driver. Let's break down exactly what a CLP is and how you can obtain one.


What is a Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP)?

A Commercial Learner's Permit, more commonly known as a CLP, is a permit that allows beginner drivers to practice driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). Think of it as the first step in the ladder towards becoming a professional truck or bus driver. It's like the learner's permit you receive when you first learn to drive a car, but for larger commercial vehicles such as semi-trucks, tractor trailers, passenger buses, etc.

The CLP is important because it allows you to gain valuable hands-on experience in operating a commercial vehicle under the supervision of a commercial driver's license (CDL) holder. This step is crucial in preparing you for your eventual CDL examination.


Requirements for a CLP

The process and requirements for obtaining a CLP vary by state, but there are several common federal requirements set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, these include:

  1. Age: You must be at least 18 years old to apply for a CLP to drive within your state (intrastate) and at least 21 to drive across state lines (interstate), or to carry hazardous materials.

  2. Residency: You must be a resident of the state where you are applying for a CLP.

  3. Medical Certification: You need to meet certain physical qualifications, and must obtain a medical examiner's certificate by passing a physical examination.

  4. Driver’s License: You must have a valid driver's license in your state of residence.

  5. Knowledge Tests: You need to pass general knowledge tests and any other tests for the specific type of vehicle you plan to drive.

  6. Application: A completed application form is required, which includes self-certifying the type of vehicle you intend to drive and the type of commerce you plan to conduct.

How to Obtain a CLP

Now that we've covered what a CLP is and the basic requirements, let's dive into the steps you need to take to obtain one:

  1. Study the Manual: Your first step should be to study your state’s commercial driver’s manual. These manuals are usually available online on the DMV or equivalent agency’s website. The manual covers rules of the road and safety regulations specific to commercial vehicle operations.

  2. Take an Online Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) Course: Before you can obtain a Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP), we recommend completing an FMCSA-approved Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) course. While you only need to get ELDT certification before your CDL, we recommend studying for your ELDT at the same time as your CLP. This online course provides the foundational knowledge required to safely operate a commercial vehicle. Upon completion, you'll receive your ELDT certificate, which is a prerequisite for obtaining a CLP.

  3. Apply for the CLP: Visit your local DMV or equivalent agency to submit your application. You'll need to bring proof of your age, identification, Social Security number, residency, and a valid driver's license. You will also have to provide the medical examiner’s certificate.

  4. Pass the Tests: You will need to pass the general knowledge test and any other required tests for the specific type of vehicle you wish to drive. These may include combination vehicle, air brakes, tanker, passenger, school bus, or hazardous materials. These tests are usually in a multiple-choice format.

  5. Obtain your CLP: After you successfully pass your tests, you will be issued a CLP. This permit is typically valid for 180 days, and can be renewed once before you have to start the application process over again.

Once you have your CLP, you must hold it for at least 14 days before taking your skills test for your full CDL. Remember, while practicing with your CLP, you must always be accompanied by a CDL holder who is qualified to operate the type of vehicle you are driving.

In conclusion, the journey towards obtaining your CLP is a significant commitment, but one that brings you a step closer to a rewarding career in commercial driving. The open road awaits!


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