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How to Handle an Expired CDL
Mariah Barr
8 mins read

You’re probably well aware of the waivers put in place by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of which involve the extension of the validity of commercial drivers licenses (CDLs) and commercial learner’s permits (CLPs). 

According to the most recent extension declaration from the FMSCA, most CDLs and CLPs with expiration dates on or after March 1st, 2020, are now extended through May 31st, 2021, unless they were already renewed. The extension applies to all CDL types and endorsements in any U.S. state, minus CDLs with a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) endorsement. 

Even though this extension is convenient, it doesn’t mean you should continue to put off renewing your CDL. You may be worried about how complex the renewal process might be if you haven’t done it before or if your CDL expired prior to March 1st, 2020. 

So, when does a CDL expire? 

Depending on the state in which it is issued, a commercial driver’s license is typically valid for 4 to 8 years before it needs to be renewed on or before your birthday; however, if time has slipped through your fingers (along with the validity of your CDL), you need to know how to go about renewing it. 

What happens if you let your CDL expire? 

To start, you can usually renew your CDL online only if you do not have a HAZMAT endorsement. If you have a Class A, B, or C license with a HAZMAT, you’ll have to renew it by mail or by making an appointment at your local DMV or driver’s license office. We recommend visiting the DMV website to find the most convenient location and exactly what you need to bring with you to your appointment.  

Some DMV offices are currently sending renewal notices to CDL holders. These letters serve as reminders to renew commercial licenses as soon as possible and give specific instructions on how to renew them by mail. No matter if you received a notice or not, you are still responsible for renewing your CDL in a timely manner. 

In most states, if your commercial driver’s license has expired, and you have not received a renewal notice, you may mail the following documents to your local DMV office:  

  • Your Medical Examiner’s Certificate, Form MCSA-5876, (if applicable) 
  • A completed Vision Test Report if your Medical Examiner’s Certificate is more than one year old 
  • A check or money order payable to the correct institution 
  • A photocopy of your license 
  • Photocopies of proof of legal presence documents 

Keep in mind, a late fee may also apply to the regular renewal rate. It’s also common for the DOT or DMV to require a vision exam before any renewal request is approved. The exam may not be needed for each renewal, but every other. 

Additional testing may be required when it comes time to renew. If you have a HAZMAT endorsement, you will always be required to successfully pass the knowledge test with each renewal, regardless of the state that your license is held. Further testing may be necessary for other endorsements, like the school bus endorsement. 

What do you do if your CDL expired over a year ago? 

If your CDL has been expired or revoked for more than one year (before March 1st, 2020), you may need to complete all knowledge and road skill exams initially required to obtain your CDL class and endorsements. Some states may also require you to complete all proper forms including the new Medical Certificate. If your CDL has been expired for more than two years, Federal law requires that you fully recertify. 

Every state handles this situation differently. Below are two examples of how Texas and New York State maneuver through renewing expired CDLs. 

Texas CDL Expirations 

In Texas, you can still renew your CDL online, in person, or via mail if it expires in less than two years or has been expired for less than two years. You must also meet the following requirements: 

  • You previously renewed your driver’s license in person at a Texas driver’s license office. 
  • Your vision and your physical and mental conditions have not changed in a way that affects your ability to drive safely since your last renewal. 
  • Your medical certificate on file is valid and not expired. 
  • Your license is not suspended or revoked, and you do not have any warrants or unpaid tickets. 
  • You are a citizen of the U.S. 
  • Your Social Security Number (SSN) is on file. 
  • You are younger than 79 years of age. 

If your CDL expired more than two years ago, the state of Texas does not allow you to renew it. If this is the situation you find yourself in, you must: 

  • Verify your eligibility to apply for a driver’s license on the Texas license eligibility website. 
  • Meet all the requirements for a new ID card or driver’s license (including taking the knowledge and driving tests). 
  • Apply in person as a new applicant at a driver’s license office.  

New York CDL Expirations 

The state of New York allows you to renew your license for up to two years after it expires. Doing so will not change the expiration date of your license or the fees associated with renewal. Just as you would with a typical license renewal, you’ll need to provide proof of legal residence in the U.S., complete the MV-2CDL form, have a valid Medical Examiner’s Certificate on file, and have no open suspensions or revocations. 

If your commercial license has been expired for two years or more, you must apply for a new license. You must pass the vision, knowledge, and driving tests, as well.  

Remember, all driver training must be provided from FMCSA-approved training programs. 

Steer Clear of CDL Expirations & Late Fees 

Of course, renewing a CDL before it expires in the first place is the easiest way to avoid dealing with the steps mentioned above. Foley can help you keep track of your fleet’s CDL renewal dates, as well as other important documents, using our exclusive electronic file management system. Each driver’s records are conveniently stored in their own driver qualification file, including their CDL, Medical Examiner’s Certificate and most recent MVR. 

If you’re still juggling paperwork and struggling to organize all your driver files, we will transfer them to electronic files without skipping a beat. You’ll also be prepared for any offsite audits that come your way since the FMCSA now requires those files to be submitted digitally. 

Our automated system helps you stay ahead by sending you immediate notifications when any action is required, such as an upcoming license expiration. Prepare for the future by turning to Foley today! 

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