Wisconsin CDL Overview

Obtaining a CDL in Wisconsin

To apply for a CDL in Wisconsin, you must be at least 18 years old and 21 for operations in interstate commerce or hazardous material endorsement. More information can be found at the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation website.

CDL Classes

  • Class A - Allows you to operate any combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of more than 26,000 pounds, and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is more than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B - Includes single or combination vehicles where the GVWR of the single vehicle is more than 26,000 pounds. The vehicle being pulled must not be more than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class C - Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that either is designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver, or is used in the transportation of materials found to be hazardous.

CDL Endorsements

  • T - Double/Triple Trailers
  • P - Passenger Vehicles
  • N - Tank Vehicles
  • H - Hazardous Materials
  • X - Tank Vehicle/Hazardous Materials Combination
  • S - School Bus

CDL Restrictions

  • L - If the driver does not pass the Air Brakes Knowledge Test, does not correctly identify the air brake system components, does not properly conduct an air brake systems check, or does not take the Skills test in a vehicle with a full air brake system, the driver must have an "L" no full air brake restriction placed on their license.
  • Z - If the driver takes the test in a vehicle with an air over hydraulic brake system, then they will have a "Z" no full air brake restriction placed on their license. In either case the driver is not authorized to operate a CMV equipped with full air brakes.
  • E - If the driver takes the Skills Test in a vehicle that has an automatic transmission, then an "E" no manual transmission restriction is placed on their license.
  • O - If the driver takes the Skills Test in a Class A vehicle that has a pintle hook or other non-fifth wheel connection, they will have an "O" restriction placed on their license restricting them from driving any Class A vehicle with a fifth wheel connection.
  • M - If a driver possesses a Class A CDL, but obtains his or her passenger or school bus endorsement in a Class B vehicle the State must place an "M" restriction indicating that the driver can only operate Class B and C passenger vehicle or school buses.
  • N - If a driver possesses a Class B CDL, but obtains his or her passenger or school bus endorsement in a Class C vehicle; the State must place an "N" restriction indicating that the driver can only operate Class C passenger vehicle or school buses.
  • V - If the State is notified by the FMCSA that a medical variance has been issued to the driver, the State must indicate the existence of such a medical variance on the CDLIS driving record and the CDL document using a restriction code "V" to indicate that there is information about the medical variance on the CDLIS record.

Minimum Requirements For Getting A CDL In Wisconsin:

  • Already have a valid, non-CDL driver's license.
  • Be at least 18 years old, or 21 to operate a CMV outside Wisconsin
  • Proof of legal presence
  • Current DOT medical certificate
  • Testing of commercial drivers, who must pass a knowledge test and driving skills test in the type of vehicle they drive.
  • Driving Record

Physical Requirements For Getting A Wisconsin CDL:

To drive in intrastate or interstate commerce, you must have passed a medical examination, within the past 2 years, in accordance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations 49 CFR 391, Subpart E, as defined in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) Medical Examination Report.

  • Vision in both eyes as well as each eye individually needs to be 20/40, with visual improvement devices, such as glasses or contacts allowed.
  • Needs to be able to distinguish colors is necessary.
  • Should be able to perceive a forced whisper at a distance of at least 5 feet.
  • Maximum allowable blood pressure is 160/100. Use of prescription medication to achieve this threshold is permitted.
  • An applicant can have diabetes which is controlled through diet or medication. Diabetes which is controlled though insulin injections is not permitted.
  • Blood sugar may not be higher than 200.
  • No use of a Schedule 1 drug, amphetamine, narcotic or any habit forming drug is permitted.

Fees For Getting Your CDL In Wisconsin:

  • Commercial Learner Permit (CLP) (Class A, B, C) (180 days) - $30
  • Original (Class A, B, C) (prorated for time remaining on existing Wisconsin driver license) - $74
  • Renewal (Class A, B, C) (8 year) - $74
  • School bus endorsement (when renewing CDL with an existing S or transferring a CDL from another state with an existing S) - $5 + CDL fee
  • School bus endorsement (when adding S for the first time) - $10
  • Duplicate - $14
  • Hazardous Material Endorsement (HME) - $44
  • Hazardous fingerprinting - $22.50
  • Class upgrades - $15 (one or more classes)
  • Endorsement upgrades - $5 (each) plus a $10 issuance fee
  • Lifting restriction - "No CMV operation in interstate commerce" - $14
  • Lifting restrictions - "No CMV operation with air brakes" - $14 (plus skills exam fee paid to 3rd party examiner)
  • Knowledge test - $0
  • CDL full skills test - $150 (third party examiners may choose to charge less

Testing for your Wisconsin CDL:

  • CDL Knowledge test - The knowledge test covers the applicant's knowledge of Wisconsin and Federal driving regulations, of which the applicant must score at least 80% to pass.
  • CDL Road Skills Test - After successful completion of the knowledge test, the applicant can then take the road test which consists of three parts: a Pre-Trip Inspection, Basic Vehicle Control, and Road Test. The Pre-Trip inspection includes a full walk-around of the vehicle and it requires the driver to point out vehicle components and explain what is being checked and why to the examiner. The Basic Vehicle Control test includes straight line backing, offset right or left backing and alley dock backing. The road test is conducted on streets and requires the driver to demonstrate his/her skills in normal traffic situations.

Wisconsin Disqualifications

Below we list the causes for a “major violation.” The first violation for a major offense, in a CMV or a non-CMV, results in a one-year disqualification (or a three-year disqualification if transporting hazardous materials required to be placarded). The second violation for a major, in a CMV or a non-CMV, results in a lifetime disqualification. The driver may be eligible for reinstatement under certain conditions after ten years. Major violations include:

  • Being under the influence of alcohol as prescribed by Wisconsin law.
  • Being under the influence of a controlled substance.
  • Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .04% or greater while operating a CMV.
  • Refusing to take an alcohol test as required by Vermont law under its implied consent laws or regulations.
  • Leaving the scene of an accident.
  • Using the vehicle to commit a felony.
  • Driving a CMV when, as a result of prior violations committed operating a CMV, the driver's CDL is revoked, suspended, or canceled, or the driver is disqualified from operating a CMV.
  • Causing a fatality through the negligent operation of a CMV, including but not limited to the crimes of motor vehicle manslaughter, homicide by motor vehicle and negligent homicide.
  • Using the vehicle in the commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance results in lifetime disqualification.

The first offense for a serious traffic violation does not result in a disqualification. A second serious violation within three years, results in a 60 day disqualification, and a third serious violation within three years, results in a 120 day disqualification. Serious disqualifications must be served consecutively. All serious violations in a CMV are included. Serious violations in a non-CMV must not be included, unless it results in the revocation, cancellation, or suspension of the CDL holder's license or non-CMV driving privileges.

  • Speeding excessively, involving any speed of 15 miles per hour or more above the posted speed limit.
  • Driving recklessly, as defined by Vermont law, including but, not limited to, offenses of driving a motor vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
  • Making improper or erratic traffic lane changes.
  • Following the vehicle ahead too closely.
  • Violating Vermont law relating to motor vehicle traffic control (other than a parking violation) arising in connection with a fatal accident.
  • Driving a CMV without obtaining a CDL.
  • Driving a CMV without a CDL in the driver's possession.
  • Driving a CMV without the proper class of CDL and/or endorsements for the specific vehicle group being operated or for the passengers or type of cargo being transported.

The first violation of a railroad-highway grade crossing (RRHGC) results in a disqualification of not less than 60 days. The second violation, within three years, results in a disqualification of not less than 120 days. The third and subsequent violations, within three years, results in a disqualification of not less than one year. RRHGC include:

  • The driver is not required to always stop, but fails to slow down and check that tracks are clear of an approaching train.
  • The driver is not required to always stop, but fails to stop before reaching the crossing, if the tracks are not clear.
  • The driver is always required to stop, but fails to stop before driving onto the crossing.
  • The driver fails to have sufficient space to drive completely through the crossing without stopping.
  • The driver fails to obey a traffic control device or the directions of an enforcement official at the crossing.
  • The driver fails to negotiate a crossing because of insufficient undercarriage clearance.

Violation of Out-of-Service Order while operating a CMV. Violating a driver or vehicle out-of-service order transporting hazardous or non-hazardous materials or while operating a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver.

There are a number of requirements that apply only to those with a commercial driver's license. Many of these requirements are set on the federal level. Drivers can also be penalized for the following CDL related offenses:

  • Overweight. Vehicles must have specific permits if they carry an oversized load. Permits can be issued annually or per-trip and cannot be transferred from vehicle to vehicle.
  • Log Books. CDL drivers must have a logbook that is up to date and that reflects hours driven. Falsifying or failing to keep a logbook can result in federal penalties and is punishable by up to six months in jail.
  • Speeding while towing a trailer. If driving above 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, this can result in suspension of a license.
  • Grade restrictions. A commercial driver who drives on a road where he or she is not permitted due to its grade (steepness) can be subject to penalties up to a 60-day license suspension for a first offense.
  • Drivers are also not allowed to have more than one CDL. If you are found having multiple CDLs from different states, you may be fined up to $5,000 and jailed. The court can also keep your home state license, and will return licenses from all other states.

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In order to obtain a Wisconsin CDL there are a list of requirements that must be met, and getting your Wisconsin CDL involves several steps. There are medical requirements and residency requirements, along with knowledge and skills requirements. The basic requirements for getting your cdl in Wisconsin include:

  • You must be at least 18 years old to hold a Wisconsin CDL and drive a commercial vehicle within the state of Wisconsin.
  • You must be at least age 21 to drive a commercial motor vehicle across Wisconsin state lines, carry hazardous materials, or transport any passengers.
  • You must not have more than one driver’s license, and your driving privileges must not be suspended, revoked, canceled or disqualified in Wisconsin or any other state.
  • You must meet the medical requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
  • You must pass a set of written exams to obtain your Wisconsin Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP). You can study for these exams using our High Road CDL Training Program.
  • You must prove citizenship in the state of Wisconsin and have permission to work in the United States, showing legitimate personal identification which may include a Social Security Card, a Birth Certificate, or a Green Card
  • You must certify that you are not subject to any of the CDL disqualifications for drivers (listed below)
  • You must be able to speak and read the English language

Below we will list more general requirements, qualifications, disqualifications, and restrictions for getting a CDL in Wisconsin.

Who Is Required To Hold A Wisconsin CDL?

You will need a CDL to operate any of the following vehicles:

  • A single vehicle with a GVWR over 26,000 lbs.
  • A combination vehicle with a GVWR over 26,000 lbs, towing a unit over 10,000 lbs GVWR.
  • A passenger vehicle designed to carry 16 or more people, including the driver.
  • Any size vehicle requiring hazardous material (Hazmat) placards, or carrying a select agent or toxin listed in 42 CFR Part 73.

What Are The Different Classes Of CDL In Wisconsin?

  • Class A:

    Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight of 26,001 pounds or more, with trailer(s) weighing 10,000 pounds or more.

  • Class B:

    Any single vehicle having a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing another weighing 10,000 pounds or less.

  • Class C:

    Any vehicle or combination of vehicles not meeting the definition of Class A or Class B, designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded to carry hazardous material:

  • Class D:

    Many states issue a "Class D" license, which is not part of the FMCSA standards. Some use it to classify regular, passenger car drivers licenses, while some use it to classify specific weights or types of vehicles. This varies from state-to-state.

Knowledge And Skills Test Requirements For Getting A CDL In Wisconsin

Each basic knowledge test covers the 20 general areas outlined in 49 CFR 383.111(a). The knowledge test shall contain at least 30 items. A separate test for drivers seeking to operate CMV's with air brakes in Wisconsin must cover the 7 areas outlined in 49 CFR 383.111(b).

To pass the knowledge tests (general and endorsement); applicants must correctly answer at least 80 percent of the questions.

To pass the Wisconsin CDL skills test, applicants must successfully perform all the required skills (listed in 49 CFR 383.113 through 49 CFR 383.123). The skills test must be taken in a vehicle representative of the type of vehicle that the applicant operates or expects to operate.

Federal standards require the state of Wisconsin to issue CDLs to certain commercial motor vehicle drivers only after the driver passes the knowledge and skills tests administered by the State. The vehicle you take the CDL test in must also relate to the type of vehicle the driver expects to operate.

Restrictions are placed on a Wisconsin CDL when a driver takes the Skills Test in a vehicle which lacks critical equipment present in particular types of CMVs. Therefore, to avoid restrictions, drivers should take the Skills Test in the same type of vehicle for which they are seeking a Wisconsin CDL to operate.

Drivers are required to obtain and hold a CDL in Wisconsin if they operate in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce and drive a vehicle that meets one or more of the classifications of a CMV are also described below.

Military Skills Test Waiver Program

The state of Wisconsin has the authority to substitute two years of experience safely operating trucks or buses equivalent to civilian commercial vehicles for the skills test portion of the Wisconsin commercial driver license (CDL) test. U.S. Military drivers must apply within one year of leaving a military position requiring operation of a commercial vehicle. The latest information (February 2017) indicates that more than 19,000 current and former military have taken advantage of the Skills Test Waiver, making them immediately eligible for employment.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 49 CFR 383.77, requires the applicant to certify to an SDLA:

  • His/her safe driving experience;
  • That he or she has not held more than one license (except a U.S. Military driver’s license) in the past two years;
  • Has not had his/her Wisconsin driver license suspended, revoked or cancelled; and,
  • Has not had convictions in any type of motor vehicle for the disqualifying CDL offenses listed elsewhere in the regulations.

Here you will find the Application for Military Skills Test Waiver form

Medical Requirements For Obtaining A Wisconsin CDL License

All commercial drivers of vehicles in interstate commerce with a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 pounds are required to obtain and maintain a valid Medical Examiner's Certificate (ME Certificate). CDL holders in Wisconsin must provide their SDLA with a copy of their ME Certificate.

Self Certification

All Wisconsin CDL holders must declare to their State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA) that they only operate or expect to operate commercially in 1 of 4 possible categories with their CDL. This process is called self-certification. The four categories are:

  • Interstate non-excepted: You are an Interstate non-excepted driver and must meet the Federal DOT medical card requirements (e.g. – you are "not excepted").
  • Interstate excepted: You are an Interstate excepted driver and do not have to meet the Federal DOT medical card requirements.
  • Intrastate non-excepted: You are an Intrastate non-excepted driver and are required to meet the medical requirements for the state of Wisconsin.
  • Intrastate excepted: You are an Intrastate excepted driver and do not have to meet the medical requirements for the state of Wisconsin.

Hearing Requirements

A person is physically qualified to drive a CMV if that person: First perceives a forced whispered voice in the better ear at not less than five feet with or without the use of a hearing aid or if tested by use of an audiometric device, does not have an average hearing loss in the better ear greater than 40 decibels at 500Hz, 1000HZ and 2,000 Hz with or without a hearing aid when the audiometric device is calibrated to the American National Standard Z24.5-1951.

Vision Requirements

You must meet the following vision requirements:

  • A distant visual acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in each eye without corrective lenses or visual acuity separately corrected to 20/40 (Snellen) or better with corrective lenses;
  • A distant binocular acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in both eyes with or without corrective lenses;
  • A field of vision of at least 70 degrees in the horizontal Meridian in each eye;
  • The ability to recognize the colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard red, green, and amber.

Blood Pressure Requirements

  1. Your blood pressure needs to be under 140/90.
  2. Stage 1 hypertension, blood pressure between 140/90 - 159/99: 1-year medical certificate, must be renewed every 12 months.
  3. Stage 2 hypertension, blood pressure between 160/100 - 179/109: 3 month medical certification. Full disqualification if not under control after 3 months, until controlled. Will be required to renew every 12 months.
  4. Stage 3 hypertension, blood pressure at or over 180/110: Automatic disqualification, 6 month certification once blood pressure is under control, must be renewed every 6 months.
  5. Blood pressure can be controlled with or without medication.

Urinalysis Testing

Your urine sample will be tested in a lab for blood, sugar, and protein, which might indicate hidden health problems.

Physical Impairments

Drivers with physical impairments, which affect their ability to safely operate CMVs, must obtain a "variance" from the state of Wisconsin in order to be approved to drive commercially. The variance document must be carried with the commercial driver whenever they are operating a commercial motor vehicle. A Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) is a special type of "variance" required for drivers with impaired or missing limbs (e.g., a hand or finger, an arm, foot, or leg). Drivers with missing limbs, if eligible, must obtain an SPE certificate. The commercial driver must always carry the SPE certificate at all times.

About The Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Program

The Skill Performance Evaluation program is for CMV drivers who drive in interstate commerce. The SPE certification allows drivers with missing or impaired limbs to drive CMVs across state lines if they have been fitted with (and are wearing) the right prosthetic device, and the driver can demonstrate the ability to drive the truck safely by completing on-and off-road activities. If the driver passes the Wisconsin commercial vehicle driving test, he or she will receive a SPE certificate. Over the years, FMCSA has granted more than 3,000 SPE certificates to truck drivers who have shown that they can drive safely on the nation's highways.

Implied Consent to Alcohol Testing

Any person who holds a Wisconsin CDL is considered to have consented to such testing as is required by the state of Wisconsin or any State or jurisdiction in the enforcement of being under the influence of a controlled substance or using alcohol, be under the influence of alcohol, or have any measured alcohol concentration or detected presence of alcohol, while on duty, or operating, or in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle. Consent is implied by driving a commercial motor vehicle.

Prescription Drugs

Although the driver has a legal prescription, he/she may be disqualified if the medication could adversely affect the driver's ability to drive a CMV safely.

Who Is Exempt From Getting A Wisconsin CDL?

FMCSA regulations specifically exempt only military personnel with comparable safe-driving experience from getting CDL's. States are authorized to provide exemptions for the rest of the following at their own discretion:

  • Wisconsin Military Vehicle Operators:

    The state of Wisconsin must exempt individuals who operate vehicles for military purposes from the requirements for CDL drivers. This exemption includes active military, reserves and members of the National Guard. This exception does not apply to U.S. Reserve technicians.

    Service members who are or were employed within the past year (12 months) in a military position requiring the operation of a military motor vehicle equivalent to a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) and who want to drive CMV's in civilian life can apply for a Skills Test Waiver to get their CDL.

    See Also: Military Skills Test Waiver

  • Wisconsin Farm Equipment Operators:

    Covering actual farm-to-market operations, not commercial grain haulers. Drivers must be 21 years old, and vehicle must have farm plates. Farm workers are not required to have a CDL to operate vehicles:

    • Controlled and operated by a farmer, a member of his family, or an employee.
    • Used to transport farm products, equipment or supplies to or from a farm.
    • Used within 150 air miles of the farm.
    • Used in a nursery or agricultural operations.
    • Not used in the operations of a contract motor carrier.
  • Wisconsin Firefighting Equipment Operators:

    Those who operate CMV's necessary to preserving life or property, or performing emergency governmental functions, have signals that can be seen and heard, and are not subject to normal traffic laws. These include fire trucks, foam or water transport trucks, police SWAT team vehicles, ambulances and any other emergency vehicles.

  • Wisconsin Recreational Vehicle Operators:

    Drivers operating recreational vehicles (RV's) for their own non-commercial use can be exempted from CDL requirements.

  • Wisconsin Township or Government Workers Exemptions:

    Many states will have specific CDL exemptions that apply to workers in smaller towns or to state and local government employees in general. You will have to check with your specific state regulations.

Wisconsin CDL Disqualifications

The FMCSA regulations specify certain circumstances that will disqualify a driver from legally operating a CMV, temporarily or permanently.

Issues resulting in disqualification apply only to CDL or CLP holders, or those required to have a CLP or CDL in the vehicle they are operating. Tickets, DUI or DWI, and other legal issues that happened before a driver was issued a CDL or CLP, or to non-CDL or CLP holders, who were not required to have one, will affect drivers only as far as company policy, with the exception of getting the Hazmat endorsement.

See Also: TSA Disqualifying Offenses & Factors

In extreme cases, the FMCSA may disqualify drivers deemed to be an "imminent hazard", and remove them from the road.

See Also: Disqualification of drivers determined to constitute an imminent hazard.

Some circumstances will result in a lifetime disqualification from operating CMV's, with some being eligible for reinstatement after 10 years. A driver who uses a CMV in the commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance is disqualified for life with no possibility of reinstatement.

Disqualification For Major Offenses

  • Being under the influence of alcohol as prescribed by State law.
  • Being under the influence of a controlled substance.
  • Having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater while operating a CMV.
  • Refusing to take an alcohol test as required by a State or jurisdiction under its implied consent laws or regulations
  • Leaving the scene of an accident.
  • Using the vehicle to commit a felony, other than felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance.

CDL Driver Disqualification For Serious Traffic Violations:

  • Speeding excessively, involving any speed of 15 mph or more above the regulated or posted speed limit.
  • Driving recklessly, as defined by State or local law or regulation.
  • Making improper or erratic traffic lane changes.
  • Following the vehicle ahead too closely.
  • Violating State or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control.

CDL Driver Disqualification For Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Offenses:

  • The driver is not required to always stop, but fails to slow down and check that tracks are clear of an approaching train.
  • The driver is not required to always stop, but fails to stop before reaching the crossing, if the tracks are not clear.
  • The driver is always required to stop, but fails to stop before driving onto the crossing.
  • The driver fails to have sufficient space to drive completely through the crossing without stopping.
  • The driver fails to obey a traffic control device or the directions of an enforcement official at the crossing.
  • The driver fails to negotiate a crossing because of insufficient undercarriage clearance.

CDL Driver Disqualification For Violations Of Out-Of-Service Orders:

An out-of-service order stipulates that a CDL or CLP holder not drive a commercial vehicle for a certain period of time, or until such time as they are re-instated to service.

In addition to disqualification, drivers who violate out-of-service orders will be fined a civil penalty of at least $2,500 for the first offense, and $5,000 for any additional offenses.

Follow this link to learn more about CDL Driver Disqualifications

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