Wisconsin - WI CDL License Guidebook, Test Prep, and Requirements

Wisconsin - WI CDL Overview

A Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is a driver's license required by Wisconsin to operate any sort of vehicle which

  • has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 lb or more for commercial use
  • transports portions of hazardous supplies that require warning placards under Department of Transportation laws
  • is designed to move sixteen or more passengers, together with the driver. This includes (but is not limited to) tow trucks, tractor trailers, and buses.

The CDL is ruled by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986. The CDL laws are designed to insure highway safety by requiring that truck drivers and drivers of tractor trailers and buses meet minimum standards.  The Act also allows the removing of drivers which are deemed unsafe or unqualified. States such as Wisconsin are given the authority to issue Commercial Driver’s Licenses, however the minimal federal government requirements should be met.

Prepare for your WI CDL examinations with our free Wisconsin CDL practice tests

Wisconsin CDL License Groups - WI CDL Classes

Commercial Driver’s Licenses are issued by Wisconsin in accordance with the CDL License classes specified below.
Group A (Combination Vehicle) CDL License

Any vehicle or combination of vehicles that has a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.  In case you have a Group A CDL license, you are allowed to drive any vehicle or combination of vehicles of any size.

Group B (Heavy Straight Vehicle) CDL License

Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle lower than 10,000 pounds GVWR. With a Group B CDL license, you might be allowed to drive any single vehicle regardless of weight. As well as, you're allowed to tow a trailer if the trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is less than 10,000 pounds. If the trailer you might be towing has a GVWR of greater than 10,000 pounds, and the combined vehicle weight rating is greater than 26,000 pounds, you will need a Class A CDL.

Group C (Small Vehicle) CDL License 

A Class C CDL license is intended to cover any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that doesn’t meet the Group A or Group B definitions, but that either is designed to transport 16 or more passengers (together with the driver), or is intended to move Hazardous Materials (HazMat).

With a Group C CDL license, you may drive any vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers, together with the driver, if the GVWR is less than 26,001 pounds and you have a passenger endorsement. As well as, a Class C CDL also lets you operate any vehicle used to transport hazardous supplies if the GVWR is less than 26,001 pounds and you have the right endorsement.

Wisconsin CDL Examination Overview

Tests for the WI CDL License include both skills exams and knowledge tests.

The CDL Knowledge Exams consist of a general examination, one or more endorsement examinations, and an air brakes test.  The tests that you'll take rely upon the license classification that you're obtaining (Class A, B, or C) and the type of vehicle that you will be driving (e.g., Tanker, Double/Triple, Passenger Bus).

Please consult with our free Wisconsin CDL practice exams that can help you prepare for your WI CDL exams.

General Exam Overview

Drivers of each CDL class need to pass a General Knowledge exam which contains questions about driving safety, vehicle inspection, highway signs, traffic legal guidelines and other information it's proper to find out to drive a commercial vehicle in Wisconsin.

Endorsement Exam Overview

Along with the general knowledge exam, you should also take and pass numerous endorsement examinations depending on the type of vehicle that you may be operating.  The endorsement examinations are described below.

  • Tankers endorsement - to drive a commercial tank vehicle (over 26,000 pounds) designed to move any liquid or gaseous materials inside a tank that is permanently or temporarily connected to the vehicle or chassis. Transportable tanks having a rated capability under 1,000 gallons are not required to have this endorsement.
  • Double and triple trailer endorsement - to pull double and triple trailers.
  • Passenger endorsement - to drive any vehicle, besides a school bus, designed to carry sixteen or more individuals, together with the driver.
  • School bus endorsement - required to drive school buses designed to carry sixteen or more individuals, including the driver that is transport students to or from school and authorized school activities. Additionally, a driver must acquire a passenger endorsement before obtaining a school bus endorsement.
  • Hazardous materials endorsement - to drive any vehicle carrying hazardous materials.  Hazmat supplies are recognized by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services and require a Hazmat placard.

Air Brakes Examination

When you plan on driving any commercial vehicle that has air brakes, it's necessary to take and pass the air brakes examination to take away the air brakes restriction from your CDL.  The air brakes test is totally different than the endorsement exams because the air brakes exam works as a restriction instead of an endorsement.  If you do not pass the air brakes exam, your CDL will bear a mark of restriction which means that you are not licensed to drive a commercial vehicle with air brakes.

Wisconsin CDL License Requirements and WI CDL General Qualifications

In accordance with federal regulations, a CDL operator is qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle in Wisconsin if they:

  • Are no less than 21 years old.
  • Can read and speak English enough to talk with the general public, to know highway traffic signals and indicators, to answer official inquiries, and to make reports and records.
  • Are physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Have a currently valid commercial motor vehicle operator’s license issued by just one state.
  • Have given out their employer an inventory of violations or the certificates as required
  • Are not disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle
  • Have successfully passed a driver’s road exam and related knowledge tests and have been issued a commercial driver’s license by the state of Wisconsin

More detailed Wisconsin CDL Requirements can be found in the WI handbook link found within the section below.

Wisconsin CDL Handbook and Resources

Wisconsin CDL Handbook- offers WI CDL requirements and application info

Wisconsin CDL Agency - Wisconsin Division Of Motor Vehicles

Phone contacts for all service centers are handled through our phone centers in Madison. That number is (608) 264-7447.

This information applies to the entire state of Wisconsin as well as the cities of: Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine, Appleton, Waukesha, Oshkosh, Eau Claire, Janesville.