UPDATED 2021

The Transportation Test Guide

A license is required for anyone who wishes to drive an automobile, school bus, tractor trailer, motorcycle or any other road vehicle, as well as for those who wish to fly private or commercial airplanes, and in some states, drive or sail boats.

Every state requires automobile drivers to first take a written test that proves they understand the rules of the roads. Passing this test grants the driver a learner’s permit, which enables them to practice driving with an already-licensed driver. Once the driver is comfortable driving and confident in their ability, they can take the road test at an office of the state’s department of motor vehicles. Passing this test grants the driver a driver’s license.

Every state also requires drivers of commercial vehicles to have a commercial driver’s license. Commercial vehicles include large trucks, school buses, limousines and also, in some states, taxicabs. Exams for commercial drivers are similar to those for regular automobile drivers and include both a written and road test, and in some states, a physical exam. Commercial drivers get a standard commercial driver’s license, or CDL, plus endorsements that qualify them to drive particular vehicles.

Pilots of both commercial and private planes are also required to be licensed. The process to earn a pilot’s license is extensive. Aspiring pilots must first qualify for a student license, and then have to fly a certain number of hours with an experienced pilot before they can test for a license.

Sailors are not required to be licensed in all states, but most states recommend that anyone operating a watercraft take safety training classes. Some classes offer certification or proof of completion, often times verified through testing.