CDL Driver Licensing in Washington

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. You must get an Washington commercial driver’s license (CDL) to be able to drive commercial vehicles in Washington. In order to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), an applicant must pass both skills and knowledge testing geared to these higher standards. Serious traffic violations committed by a CDL driver can affect their ability to maintain their CDL certification.


Driving a commercial motor vehicle is a big responsibility. It requires special skills and knowledge. 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 addition, special endorsements may be required if you or your company drivers will be driving any of the following vehicles.

You need an Washington CDL when you operate the following vehicles:

  • CLASS A – Applies only to “combination” vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) more than 26,000 pounds, and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is more than 10,000 pounds. A driver with a Class A CDL (plus any appropriate endorsements) can also operate all vehicles included in Class B, C, and D (below).
  • 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. A driver with an Washington Class B CDL (plus appropriate endorsements) can also legally operate all vehicles in Class C or D.
  • CLASS C – Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that meets neither the definition of Group A nor that of Group B as contained in this section, but 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 for the purposes of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and which require the motor vehicle to be placarded under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR part 172, subpart F).
  • CLASS D – Private passenger, regular operator.

Contact your State licensing bureau (e.g., Department of Licensing) for details.

Scheduling Appointments With the Tacoma Department of Licensing Office

Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) offices are an extremely useful resource on your to become a fully licensed driver, but let’s face it: they can often be an unbearable chore. With long wait times, perpetually busy office locations, and seemingly endless amounts of paperwork, every quick trip to a DOL office inevitably turns into a day-long excursion. Fortunately, there are ways to expedite your time at the DOL office and ensure you get in and out in a timely, efficient manner. One of the best ways is to make an appointment.

Appointments at the Washington DOL

Making an appointment at a DOL location is perhaps the easiest, fastest way to get all of your driving matters sorted physically. Unfortunately, appointments are only available for those looking to schedule a driving test at a DOL training and testing location. You can do that by visiting the DOL website and browsing for a location near you.

How Can I Save Time at the DOL?

Even without the ability to schedule appointments, there are other ways to expedite your time at the DOL and minimize wait times. One of the best ways to do this is to pre-apply online if you’re applying for a Washington instruction permit or driver’s license. This cuts down on the amount of paperwork you’ll have to fill out at an office, making the process run a lot more smoothly.

If you’re looking to renew or replace your driver’s license or ID card, you don’t even need to leave your house – the DOL has online services (deemed License Express) so you can take care of your driving affairs from your computer.

When’s the Best Time to Go to the DOL?

It’s important to realize that most DOL locations have certain periods of peak business, in which wait times can balloon and crowds can gather. Try to avoid DOL locations at these times:

  • Lunch hour around noon. Most people typically try to slip out during their lunch break to get their licensing matters sorted.
  • Mondays and Fridays, or the first and last days of the week when they’re open. This is when those who have immediate needs tend to visit the DOL.
  • Days before extended holidays and office closures. Procrastinators often wait till these crucial points before they finally take care of their driving-related chores.

Try going to your nearest DOL office during these periods:

  • Tuesdays through Thursdays are usually slower than Mondays and Fridays.
  • Go first thing in the morning to beat crowds and minimize time spent waiting in line.
  • The middle of the month is slower compared to the first and last week of the month.

Ultimately, it’s not too difficult to spend as little time in a DOL office as possible. With a little planning (and a bit of luck), you can save yourself a large amount of time.

Resources for Washington CDL Requiremen

Visit the Washington State Department of Licensing website for more information.