Illinois’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

The requirements to obtain an Illinois CDL and the reasons for disqualification.

The operation of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in Illinois requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Each CDL has specific endorsements and restrictions applicable to the CMV operated. However, a CDL can also be revoked for certain criminal convictions and rule violations. This article outlines the process for obtaining a CDL and the consequences of rule violations.

When a Illinois CDL Is Required

Illinois requires a CDL for any vehicle weighing 26,001 or more pounds or designed to carry hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers. CMVs operated for recreational, military, or emergency response purposes are exempt from CDL requirements. Farmers, snowplow operators, and propane deliverers can also be exempt under certain circumstances.

CDL License Classes

There are three classes of CDLs based on the weight of the truck and/or trailer(s).

Combined Weight

Tractor Weight

Trailer(s) Weight

Class A

26,001 or more pounds

26,001 or more pounds

Over 10,000 pounds

Class B

26,001 or more pounds

26,001 or more pounds

10,000 pounds or less

Class C

26,000 pounds or less

26,000 pounds or less

10,000 pounds or less

The license limits must meet or exceed the carried weight. So, a class A CDL can be used to haul any weight of CMV.

Endorsements. Endorsements are listed on the CDL and authorize the holder to operate different CMVs such as school buses. Endorsements require additional testing and often include special restrictions.

Medical certificate. CMV operation also requires a medical examination to ensure the driver is physically fit enough to operate a CMV. All drivers must hold and maintain a valid medical examiner’s certificate.

CDL Testing

Prior to taking the driving test, CDL applicants must obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). The CLP requires a valid driver’s license, a written CMV-knowledge test, and proof of residency. The CLP can be used to practice driving a CMV under the supervision of a licensed commercial driver. After 14 days, the CLP holder can take the driving test for a CDL. A CDL holder must be 18 years old to operate intrastate and 21 years old to operate interstate.

Waiver. The CDL written examination may be waived for drivers with recent military-CMV experience. Farmers can also be exempt from testing but will be limited to operating on or near the farmstead. Family members over 21 years can be authorized to operate a tractor-trailer within 150 miles of the farm without taking the driving examination.

Special requirements. Each CDL license type has unique requirements and testing. For example, a hazmat endorsement has a special test covering hazardous materials safety and requires TSA-clearance.

Report. Applicants must submit to a driving history check prior to testing. Even after receiving a CDL, drivers must report all suspensions and traffic violations to the state and to their employer.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

The improper use of a CDL or the commission of certain criminal violations will result in license revocation or disqualification. License disqualification can be reviewed and appealed in court.

Serious Traffic Offenses

The commission of multiple “serious traffic violations” within three years will result in license revocation. A “serious traffic violation” includes speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, erratic lane changes, following too closely, texting while driving a CMV, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. Holding multiple driver’s licenses and driving a CMV without a proper license or endorsement is also considered a serious traffic violation. Having two serious traffic offenses results in a minimum two-month disqualification and having three or more violations results in a minimum four-month disqualification.

Out-of-Service Order

Law enforcement is authorized to issue temporary out-of-service orders (OSOs) to drivers or vehicles that may be unsafe. For example, driving with any amount of alcohol or drugs in your system will result in a 24-hour OSO. An OSO can also result in a class A misdemeanor and $2,750 to $25,000 in fines for the driver’s employer. The driver will face a $2,750 to $25,000 fine and the following license penalties:

  • First offense in ten years. Six-month license disqualification (one-year if in CMV designed for hazmat or 16 or more passengers).
  • Second offense in ten years. Two-year license disqualification (three-year if in CMV designed for hazmat or 16 or more passengers).
  • Third offense in ten years. Three-year license disqualification (five-year if in CMV designed for hazmat or 16 or more passengers).

Railroad Crossing Rules

Illinois has special rules for operating a CMV near or over railroad tracks. CMVs must always stop or slow down prior to crossing tracks and must obey all railroad signals. A railroad track violation will result in a 60-day, 120-day, and one-year license disqualification for a first, second, and third violation in a three-year period. An employer that knowingly permits a driver to violate a railroad rule can be charged with a class A misdemeanor and fined up to $10,000.

Major Offenses

Certain criminal convictions or rule violations will result in a minimum 12-month disqualification. This includes chemical test refusal, DUI (driving under the influence), driving a CMV with a .04% or more blood alcohol content or any amount of drugs, leaving the scene of an accident, using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony, driving a CMV while revoked, and causing a fatality due to a CMV traffic violation. The driver will be disqualified for three years if the violation occurred in a hazmat CMV. A second or subsequent major offense will result in lifetime disqualification, though reinstatement is possible after ten years. A third major violation or the production or transportation of controlled substances using any motor vehicle will result in lifetime revocation without the possibility of reinstatement.

Implied Consent

All CMV operators are considered to have given consent to a test of their blood, breath, or urine to determine the presence of drugs or alcohol. An officer with probable cause to believe a CMV operator has any of these substances in his or her system can request a chemical test. Refusal of the test can result in license disqualification, an OSO, and further testing.

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