Do you Have to Speak English to Get a CDL?

Hispanic truck driver (40s) standing in front of semi-truck with clipboard.

When you are first thinking about switching to the exciting career of truck driving, the first requirement is simple: you must have a Commercial Driver’s License, also known as a CDL. However, what exactly are the requirements for a CDL? Do You have to speak English to get a CDL? What are the physical requirements? How old do you have to be?


Understanding the requirements to get a CDL can be tricky at first, but it is an important first step toward a new career in a growing industry.

Do You Have to Speak English to Get a CDL? And Other CDL Requirement Questions, Answered


 Each state has its own distinctive rules and requirements for getting a CDL. They all have their individual fees, forms, and application processes. However, every state must adhere to federal requirements set up by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA.


Here is a breakdown of some of the most commonly asked questions about these federal requirements to get a CDL, including, “Do you have to speak English to get a CDL?” and others.

Do you Have to Speak English to Get a CDL?


To have your CDL, you must be able to speak and read English at a sufficient level. Sufficient is defined as speaking and reading English well enough to converse with the general public, understand traffic signs and highway signals in English, respond to official inquiries, and make reports and records in English.

How Old Do You Have to be to Get a CDL?


To get a CDL, you must be at least 18 years old to drive intrastate, meaning within the state in which your CDL license was issued. To drive out of state or transport hazardous materials, you have to be at least 21.


Do You Have to Have a Non-Commercial License to Get a CDL?


You must have a valid, non-commercial driver’s license to get a CDL, and in many states, you must also have at least one to two years of driving experience under your belt.

What are the DOT Medical Exam Requirements? 


To get a CDL, you must provide a Department of Transportation (or DOT) medical card, which means getting a DOT physical. There are many parts of the DOT physical. The physical is meant to assure that the individual can unload and load freight. Drivers also must be able to handle driving long hours and deal with sleep deprivation. Drivers must be mentally ready to handle high-stress situations, along with mental wear.


The DOT medical exam checks several aspects of an individual’s health, including vision, hearing, and others.



The visual acuity measurement must be at least 20/40, with or without corrections – meaning as long as it is 20/40 with glasses, you are fine. Drivers also must have at least 70 degrees of peripheral vision.



Drivers must be able to hear a forced whisper from five feet away, although hearing aids are permitted to meet this requirement.

Sleep Apnea


Sleep apnea which is considered moderate to severe may be a reason for disqualification from getting a CDL. This is because sleep apnea can affect sleep, therefore affecting daytime alertness.


However, individuals can show that they have been successfully treated for sleep apnea and gain their status to drive with a CDL.


Blood Pressure


If you have high blood pressure, then you may have shorter certifications than a driver with average blood pressure. This goes in stages based on federal requirements:


  • At 140/90, drivers will be certified with a two-year card.
  • At 140-159/90-99, which is considered stage one high blood pressure, drivers will be certified with a one-year card.
  • At 160-179/100-109, which is considered stage two high blood pressure, drivers will be certified a temporary three-month certificate.
  • Stage three high blood pressure (greater than 180/110) is an automatic disqualification.


Do I Have to Be a Citizen to Get My CDL?


To get your CDL, you must be a citizen or be able to prove lawful permanent residency. This can be done with a social security card, birth certificate, valid passport, or a green card.

What do I Have to Do Before Getting a CDL?


To get your CDL, you must complete classroom hours and supervised driving hours. The Truck Driving Institute helps you go from 0 to a new career in just 15 days. This includes the process of getting your ELDT or entry-level driver training


Entry-level driver training is a new federal requirement as of February 2022.  The ELDT requires drivers to demonstrate proficiency in theory training and behind-the-wheel training. While individuals have the option to take up to a year to complete their ELDT training, TDI’s intensive class was developed to get everyone on the road and successfully employed in less than a month.


The training is required for anyone: 

  • getting their Class A or Class B CDL for the first time.
  • upgrading from a Class B to a Class A CDL class.
  • receiving their school bus (S) endorsement.
  • obtaining their passenger (P) endorsement.
  • Acquiring their hazardous materials (H) endorsement.


 It is required that the ELDT training is done with a FMCSA registered training program provider, which includes TDI.

How Can I Find My State’s CDL Requirements?


As we mentioned, each state has slightly different CDL requirements. However, this comprehensive list of CDL handbooks can help. You can also pick up a hard copy of your state’s CDL manual and requirements by visiting your local DMV handbook.


Do You Have to Speak English to Get a CDL? And Other CDL Requirement Questions, Answered


Now that you know about the CDL requirements, you may have an easy next question: how do I get started with TDI? The Truck Driver’s Institute offers 11 locations across the country across seven states, meaning everyone can find a CDL school nearby. If you want to learn more about how you can start your new career in less than a month, contact TDI today!


Get Started

Get your Class A CDL in our friendly, supportive CDL training program. TRAIN with experienced instructors – multiple good-paying, secure job choices with benefits available for eligible graduates. EARN $700 – $1000+ / week to start as a truck driver. Get started today by filling out the form below. We look forward to hearing from you!