Washington CDL License Requirements – 2021 Guide

| Last Updated: October 9, 2021

Joining the Washington State trucking industry as a truck driver can be a great career move for the independence, job security, and earning potential you will enjoy. 

But how do you get started? To help you out, this article will show you the necessary Washington CDL license requirements to make your entry into the state's trucking industry easier.

Let's get to it!

How to Get a CDL in Washington

You will need a commercial driver's license (CDL) to operate most commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in Washington State. The state requires you to earn a valid CDL before you kickstart your career in the trucking industry. For this, you must meet all the requirements. 

Basic Requirements for a Washington State CDL

Washington State expects you to fulfill the following requirements for your commercial driver's license:

  • Age Requirements: You must be at least 18 years of age to apply for an intrastate CLP and CDL, and at least 21 years old to apply for an interstate CDL and transport passengers and hazardous materials.

  • Driving Experience and Existing License: You must have a valid Washington State driver license in good standing, with no lifetime disqualification.

  • Proof of Residence and Identity: Each CLP and CDL applicant must prove their identity and residence in Washington State. You must also prove US citizenship or lawful permanent residence in the country. 

    Some accepted proof documents include your Social security number, current license, government-issued birth certificate, US military ID, valid US passport, valid permanent resident card, consular report of birth abroad, and certificate of naturalization.
  • Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP): Each CDL applicant must first obtain a commercial learner’s permit to allow them to start training as a commercial driver. You must hold the CLP for at least 14 days before scheduling your skills test. 

    A knowledge test is required to obtain the CLP. The test is now offered in English, Serbian-Croatian, Spanish, and Russian.

    The general knowledge test for Class A, B, and C CDL has 50 questions, 40 of which you must answer correctly to pass the test. You may take a 20-question CDL combination test for Class A.

    If you want to add endorsements, you can take tests that contain 20-30 questions with a minimum pass requirement of 80% for passengers, air brakes, school buses, HazMat, and doubles/triples endorsement. 
  • Medical Certification and Self-certification: Self-certification is required before getting your CLP and CDL. If you are unsure about the type of commercial driving you will be doing, you should certify yourself as a non-excepted interstate driver. 

    Other types of self-certification include intrastate excepted, intrastate non-excepted, and interstate excepted.

    The type you choose determines the kind of medical document you should submit between the Medical Examination Report, Federal Skills Performance Evaluation Certificate, Medical Examiner's Certificate, and Intrastate Medical Waiver. 
  • CDL Training Requirements: Washington State is very particular about how you conduct your CDL training, which you can do through your employer if they are a registered training provider, or through a registered CDL training school

    Class A CDL requires a minimum of 160 total hours, and Class B and C require 80. The HazMat endorsement requires 16 total hours, 30 for passenger and school bus combined, 30 for a school bus, and 14 for the passenger endorsement. 

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  • Skills Test: Obtaining your CDL in WA requires you to take and pass a 3-part skills test that lasts about two hours. The test comprises Pre-inspection, Basic Controls, and a Road Test. Failing the pre-inspection discontinues you from taking the remaining two until later. 

    You must take the skills test in the type of vehicle you have a CLP for, and which must be unloaded and in safe operating condition. You must also provide proof of insurance or a letter from the vehicle owner acknowledging that they have authorized you to use it for the test. 

How Much Does It Cost to Get a CDL in Washington?

Several factors affect how much you pay to get a CDL in Washington, such as the type of CDL and endorsements you want. You'll pay $35 for the knowledge test, $250 for the skills test, and $40 for the CLP. The cost of CDL school training is $3,000-$5,000. 

How Long Does It Take to Get a CDL in Washington?

It takes seven weeks on average to obtain a CDL if you attend a program for truck driving training on a full-time basis. 

Commercial License Types & Classes in Washington

Washington State classifies commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and the CDL licensing into three groups based on vehicle size and weight. Let's take a look at each class. 

Class A CDL 

A Class A CDL is required to operate a combination vehicle whose GCWR (gross combined weight rating) is 26,001 pounds or more, provided the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of the towed vehicle/vehicles is more than 10,000 pounds. 

Class B CDL

You will need a Class B CDL to drive any single vehicle whose GVWR is 26,001 pounds or more or any vehicle that tows a trailer whose GVWR is 10,000 pounds or less.

Class C CDL 

A Class C CDL allows you to operate any vehicle designed to carry 16 or more passengers, with the driver included, or one that carries hazardous materials for which a placard is needed. 

Washington CDL Endorsements

Besides the three CDL classes, you can also obtain the following endorsements in Washington State:

  • Passenger (P) for carrying passengers

  • School Bus (S) for driving a school bus of any size

  • Tank Vehicle (N) for CMV that transport gaseous or liquid materials

  • Doubles/Triples (T) for double trailers and triple trailers, although the latter is not allowed in the state

  • Hazardous Material (H)

  • Combination (X) of hazardous material and tank vehicle 

Why Is Washington a Great Place to Start a Truck Driving Career?

Several unique aspects of Washington State will make you want to start your trucking career in it more than in any other state. Here are just a few reasons. 

Tax-Friendliness

Washington State is one of the nine very tax-friendly states. The state doesn't tax your personal income, meaning that you will be keeping a lot more of your truck driving earnings. 

Geographic Location

Washington State is strategically situated as one of the most beautiful Pacific Northwest states. Your time on the road will be worth it with all the scenic views. 

You can also enjoy a vibrant outdoor life doing fun activities like fishing, ocean viewing, mountaineering, camping, kayaking, and surfing. 

High Earning Potential

You can make as much as $74,678 in annual salaries in Washington, an amount 10 percent higher than the national average as of September 2021. 

Job Outlook and Salary for Truck Driving in Washington

The tax-friendliness of Washington State makes it a favorite business location for many companies, making trucking jobs plentiful for truck drivers. 

What is the Demand for Truck Drivers in Washington?

Washington State trucking companies are expected to hire more than 4,000 experienced and inexperienced truck drivers by 2024 due to continued economic growth and a glaring aging workforce dilemma. 

You can quickly get a truck driving job with top trucking companies in the state, such as Swift Transportation, Paschall Truck Lines, Western Express, Action Resources, Mercer Transportation Company, and Melton Truck Lines. 

How Much Do CDL Drivers Make in Washington?

According to Indeed.com, the average annual truck driver salary in Washington State as of September 2021 is $74,678. CDL drivers with less than one year of experience make up to $70,119, while those with over ten years of experience make up to $84,322. 

Conclusion

Once you meet all Washington CDL license requirements and obtain a valid commercial driver's license, you can go ahead and enjoy lots of independence, job security, and earning potential with no income tax! 

Be sure to obtain your CDL the right way since fraudulent acquisition in the state will cause your license to be canceled, and you will have to wait for one year to apply again.

Photo credit: daf.com via GIPHY

People Also Ask

Keeping tabs on everything you need to know about obtaining a CDL can be a challenge that leaves you with tens of burning questions. Here are some questions people often ask about CDL requirements in Washington. 

Do You Need a CDL to Drive a Truck With Air Brakes in Washington?

You need a CDL to drive a truck with air brakes in Washington State, provided the vehicle falls within the state's CMV classifications of 26,001 pounds or more in GCWR or GVWR, carrying 16 passengers with the driver included, or placarded to haul hazardous materials. 

Who Is Required to Hold a Washington CDL?

You must have a Washington CDL if you operate any of the following vehicles:

  • Any single vehicle with a vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, or any combination of vehicles whose gross vehicle weight rating is 26,001 pounds or more, and the GVWR of the towed vehicle exceeds 10,000 pounds

  • Any towed vehicle whose weight rating is less than 10,000 pounds, and a combined vehicle gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more

  • Any vehicle meant to carry 16 or more passengers, with the driver included

  • Any school bus, regardless of its size

  • Any vehicle that requires a Hazardous Material (HazMat) placard

You must also have a CDL and appropriate endorsements in the state if you are an occasional driver, such as a truck salesperson or mechanic who test drives any of the vehicles above on a public roadway

What Weight Requires a CDL in Washington State?

You will require a Washington CDL license for commercial motor vehicles in the following weight categories:

  • Any single vehicle whose manufacturer's weight rating is 26,001 pounds or more

  • Any combination of vehicles whose GVWR is 26,001 pounds or more 

  • Any trailer whose manufacturer's weight rating is 10,001 pounds or more.

Who Is Exempt From Getting a Washington CDL?

You don't need a Washington CDL if you fit any of the following descriptions:

  • You are a firefighter or law enforcement officer operating emergency equipment if you carry the certification card that proves you have completed the Emergency Vehicle Accident Prevention Program (EVAP)

  • You drive a recreational vehicle (RV) for non-commercial purposes, including horse trailers and 2-axle rental trucks.

  • You are a military commercial driver driving the proper military vehicle with a military license from your service branch.

  • You are a farmer whose vehicle is: operated by you or a farm employee to transport farm supplies, equipment, or products; not used to operate a contract or common motor carrier; used within 150 miles of your farm.

  • You are a driver of a vehicle with air brakes but one that doesn’t fall in the category of commercial vehicles.

See you on the road soon!



After spending years on the road, I had a lot of time to think about the hardships that came with the trucking industry. I realized there was an opportunity to lend a hand a create a resource for truckers by truckers. With the help of my tech-savvy son, I built Trucker Geek as a way to show people that becoming a driver doesn’t need to be a stressful headache.