Do you need a CDL to drive a tow truck? If YES, how do you get it and what’s the cost? Here is a 7-step guide on how to get a CDL for your tow truck business.

Driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) requires a higher level of knowledge, experience, skills, and physical abilities than that required to drive a non-commercial vehicle. Most drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) through their home State (it is illegal to have a license from more than one State).

In order to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), an applicant must pass both skills and knowledge testing geared to these higher standards.

CDL holders are held to a higher standard when operating any type of motor vehicle on public roads. Serious traffic violations committed by a CDL holder can affect their ability to maintain their CDL certification.

Why You Need a CDL as a Tow Truck Driver

Training to become a tow truck driver is necessary, as there are many laws and standards based on the state in which you will be working. A lot of companies offer on-the-job training if you are willing to start as an apprentice or if you work part-time with the company.

But one of the best ways to get started as a tow truck driver is to talk to other tow truck operators in your area and find out which companies and driving firms offer the best training opportunities. Even after a truck driver has experience, additional training will take place any time he or she changes employer.

After you become a tow truck driver, consider taking extra classes to get ahead. Not all tow truck employment opportunities require a CDL, but the united states Department of Transportation does require this specialized license for anyone operating a truck and cargo that weighs more than 26,001 pounds.

While a light duty truck weighs about 14,000 pounds, a medium duty truck weighs at least 26,000. Once a towed vehicle is added, the total easily passes the limit needed for a CDL.

Do You Need a CDL To Drive A Tow Truck In The United States?

Yes, you will need a CDL to drive a tow truck in the United States. The federal government creates regulations that are supposed to define when a commercial driver’s license is required. The Department of Transportation, through its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) division, is mandated to implement the registration.

(You can look up the rules for yourself in the Code of Federal Regulations, 49 CFR Part 383.) Below is a detailed guide to put you through when looking to obtain a CDL.

How to Get a CDL to Drive a Tow Truck

  1. Review Your State’s CDL Requirements

First, you will have to review the CDL requirements section of your state’s drivers manual to determine if you qualify for a CDL. Each state has its own age, residency, and medical requirements. But according to federal law, you must at least be 18 years old to qualify for a CDL, and 21 years old if you plan to drive across state lines.

Some states also require you prove you have been a resident of the state for a specific time. Meeting these requirements, although they differ according to states, will make sure things go smoothly throughout the entire process.

  1. Obtain a CDL Permit

This is much like getting a regular drivers license. You can get a Class A CDL permit by passing few written exams. You will fund a CDL handbook or manual at the testing site of each state.

The handbook will provide you with adequate knowledge of documents you will need for your CDL application. Depending on the CDL endorsement you obtain, you might also need to pass the written CDL endorsement test. Consult the CDL endorsement section of the handbook for additionally information.

  1. Submit your CDL Application

At this point, submit your CDL application with all required documents in person at your state designated submission office. You can bring along documents that proves your residency, identity, experience and anything that can help.

Different states require different documents when submitting the application. So do well to research extensively before taking this step. Some states will also require that you schedule an appointment if you are seeking for a new CDL.

  1. Attend a CDL Training School

Attending a CDL training school is a wonderful way to prepare you for the rigorous process involved with obtaining a CDL. A lot of people keep trying to do these themselves, but sooner or later you learn not to compare an 18 wheel semi tractor trailer to a four wheel Mercedes Benz. Additionally, through this training you will also get the classroom information needed to pass the CDL written exam.

  1. Pass The Written And Skills Exam

Before you can get your CDL, you have to prove you properly understand commercial vehicles and the rules of the road. You will have to pass a 3-part exam that includes pre-trip inspection test, basic control skills test, and driving test at either a state CDL test site or an approved 3rd party test site in the testing state.

Many states also require you drive with your permit for a certain period of time. Some also require that you clock a particular number of driving hours before scheduling a skill test.

  1. Get Your CDL

Once you pass the written and skill tests, you can be issued with a CDL from your state. Each state differs in terms of mode and time of receiving your license. Once you get your license, take your time to ensure all the information and details are correctly spelled. Get the errors changed as soon as possible or they might cause problems later.


As the economy continues to grow, so will the demand for qualified tow truck operators rise. People’s disposable incomes are increasing, which means they are driving more and relying less on public transportation.

With more vehicles on our roads, more unfortunate instances of car accidents, breakdowns and illegal parking will require the response of a qualified tow truck driver. Note that states can create their own CDL laws that apply to intrastate transport, but they are mandated to respect the rules of other states.

Joy Nwokoro