To legally operate a vehicle in the United States, drivers must be licensed by their home state. Separate licenses are issued for drivers of automobiles and commercial vehicles, such as school buses or limousines. Automobile drivers are granted standard driver’s licenses, while commercial drivers are issued commercial driver’s licenses, or CDLs. Both types of licenses are only given after a candidate has passed both a written test and a hands-on driving exam.
Eligibility to take either type of exam varies in every state. Most auto drivers must be at least 16 years old, though some states issue licenses to drivers as young as 14. Some states require drivers to be 17. Nationally, commercial drivers must be 21, though some states make exceptions and will license commercial drivers as early as 18 for driving that only occurs in the home state.
Automobile drivers first must qualify for a learner’s permit, which is granted after the successful completion of a written exam. The written test usually includes multiple-choice questions about public road laws, signs and other information. Once a candidate has passed the written test, they are issued a permit and may practice driving before taking the driving portion of the exam.
During the actual driving test, a driver’s license candidate drives with an exam administrator in the car. They will be asked to demonstrate basic driving skills, such as stopping at a stop sign and parallel parking.
The process is similar for commercial drivers. First, drivers take a written test that covers general road and safety knowledge. Drivers seeking endorsements for specific vehicles may have question that pertain to the particular endorsement.
Licenses in every state must be renewed every few years.