Does Your CDL Transfer From State to State?

As a new truck driver, you’ll be crossing state lines regularly. Fortunately, an Ohio CDL will allow you to travel across the country without needing a different license for each state, thanks to the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986. However, if you plan to move permanently, the regulations differ. Here’s what you need to know.

Will a CDL Transfer Over After Moving?

You may need to pay a fee, fill out paperwork, and take tests to transfer your CDL if you relocate to a new state; you’ll have 30 to 60 days to do so. However, in some states, there’s no need to replace a commercial driver’s license until the old one expires.

How Does the Transfer Process Work?

truck driverWhile each state has different regulations, the process is similar across the board. First, you’ll need to visit the DMV in the area you moved to. Once you’re there, present proof of the new residence, such as a utility bill, mortgage contract, or bank statement. In some states, truck drivers are required to take portions of the CDL exam again, particularly the written part. In other areas, you’ll need to take the road and roadside signage exams, so make sure to practice, review, and study the relevant materials. Additionally, a fee may need to be paid. 

Bring along a DOT physical form, which is a certificate from a qualified professional that states that you are medically permitted to operate a commercial vehicle. Make sure the document is less than a year old. Also, be prepared to take an eye exam at the DMV. If you are applying for a HAZMAT endorsement—which allows drivers to transport hazardous materials—provide a background and fingerprint check, as well.

Finally, bring your current out-of-state CDL (not an abstract), passport or certified birth certificate, Social Security card or most recent W-2, and proof of legal status if you aren’t a U.S. citizen; the DMV won’t accept photocopies of any of these documents.    

Keep in mind that it’s best to take all the necessary steps to transfer the CDL within the first two months of a move, including paying fees, taking the tests, and filling out all the paperwork. In some states, failing to do so can result in fines or your license being revoked. Because the laws differ from state to state, call the local DMV to find out about the timing regulations.  

How to Pass the Medical Examination

If your DOT physical form has expired (this document is generally good for two years), you’ll need to get a new one to transfer the CDL. This exam is required because the state wants to make sure drivers are healthy enough to operate a truck, which requires long periods of sitting.

The test starts with a health history form that needs to be filled out. Mention any surgeries, medications, and on-going health issues, such as chronic pain or diabetes. Next, a medical professional will examine each body system, testing your blood pressure, reflexes, hearing, pulse, and vision. Finally, they’ll do a urinalysis to check for substance abuse. 

truck driverIf you’re worried about passing, there are several ways to increase your chances. For example, wear corrective lenses to the exam (if you need them), and make sure your prescription is up to date. Additionally, avoid running out of any prescribed medications before the physical to ensure the results aren’t impacted negatively. Also, take your meds at the correct times during the days leading up to the exam; this will prevent inaccurate readings.

Eat healthy foods throughout the week leading up to the physical, including fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Avoid caffeine, sugar, junk foods, and alcohol.

Finally, bring along paperwork related to your health. For example, come with these documents:

  • Medication List: Include the dosage and doctor who prescribed each medication.
  • Health Conditions: Write down chronic conditions you have, such as high blood pressure or pain, and include any related paperwork, such as test results or MRI scans.
  • Medical Records: Contact your primary care doctor and have them send over your records to the medical professional doing the physical.

Tips for the DMV

Waiting at the DMV to transfer a CDL can be a challenging experience; however, you can avoid long waits and frustration by preparing beforehand. Rather than going to the DMV on a random day, save hours of time by scheduling an appointment. If you can’t make it, you could cancel and rebook with no penalties. Additionally, avoid busy times, such as days around holidays, at the beginning or end of the month, and Mondays and Fridays.  

Double-check with the first clerk to make sure you have all the proper paperwork so you don’t have to wait in the queue again. Make sure to explain the details of your situation. Additionally, many DMVs don’t accept credit, so take a couple of checks and $200 in cash with you.

While preparing will help, you should still expect to wait in line for at least a half-hour. Rather than feeling like you’re wasting time, read a book, listen to a podcast, or master a new skill that will be helpful on the road. For example, use a smartphone to learn about trucking workouts, vehicle maintenance, or staying healthy during trips.   

Preparing for the Written Exam

truck driverSince you may need to take the written portion of the CDL exam again, it’s worth reviewing the materials you learned in trucking school. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Review the Main Topics: Start by going over the primary subjects on the exam, such as transporting cargo, handling the air brakes, and dealing with hazardous materials.  
  • Focus on Weaker Subjects: Once you’ve reviewed the main topics, determine which areas you need more work on and focus on those.
  • Talk to Friends: Connect with colleagues who recently took the exam or find other test takers via online forums. Talking to someone with first-hand experience will allow you to bond over shared goals and ask questions.
  • Take Practice Tests: There’s no better way to become familiar with the exam questions and verbiage than practicing on past tests. Look for exams online or ask the local DMV if they have any.
  • Explain What You’ve Learned: While reviewing, regularly reiterate the content to a friend. This will help you feel more confident and retain the material.

Are You Allowed to Have Two CDLs?

To obtain a new CDL, you’ll need to surrender the old one. In fact, it’s illegal to use the former one once you have access to the license from the state you moved to.

truck driverIf you still have a regular license, keep in mind that any tickets or violations you receive can affect your ability to get a CDL. For example, a drunk driving violation can get your license revoked, and you won’t be able to get a commercial license. Also, if your truck operator status is suspended in one state, you won’t be able to get a new CDL in another.

Finally, be careful when driving your own vehicle once you have a CDL, as a crash or other incident can affect the commercial license, potentially preventing you from operating a truck. Practice defensive driving, including avoiding distractions, watching out for cars changing lanes, keeping blind spots in mind, lowing the speed at intersections, and maintaining a safe following distance at all times.      

Are There Tax Implications?

When transferring a CDL, keep the tax implications in mind. Once you switch the license to the new state, you’ll need to pay state and local taxes there. Fortunately, you’ll still be able to deduct expenses related to tires, fuel, license fees, repairs, truck washing, and insurance.

When you’re ready to become a truck driver, contact Hamrick School. Serving all of Ohio, including Akron and Cleveland, they have over 30 years of experience helping over 10,000 graduates enter lucrative careers in truck driving. They provide personalized instruction in small classes to ensure that their students excel. Call (330) 239-2229 to speak to a team member, or visit them online to learn more about becoming a truck driver.

  • OH Reg. #2057
  • ODPS License #1439-2369