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Types of Drivers Licences

As a Tennessee motorist, you require a drivers license in order to operate a motor vehicle. Depending on the type of vehicle you drive and your specific circumstances as a driver, you may require a specific type of Tennessee Drivers License. There are licenses for teen drivers, commercial drivers and motorcycle riders.

A drivers license is intended to only allow those who know how to operate a motor vehicle to be on the road. This is to ensure the safety of others sharing the road. If you or a loved one was involved in an accident with an unlicensed driver, you may be able to recover damages related to the accident.

Teen Drivers

Teens under the age of 18 are required to go through the Graduated Driver License Program. Under the Graduated Driver License Program, teens must obtain a learner permit, an intermediate restricted license and an intermediate unrestricted license before apply for a graduated driver license (GDL).

  • Learner Permit: In order to obtain a learner permit, the driver must be at least 15 years old and pass a knowledge test. Once a driver meets these requirements, they are only allowed to drive between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. and must be accompanied by a licensed driver of at least 21 years old.
  • Intermediate Restricted License: A driver must have a learner permit for 180 days with a clear record before they can apply for an intermediate restricted license. Additionally, drivers must be at least 16 years old and their parent or legal guardian must submit a completed Certification of 50 Hours Behind the Wheel Experience form. In order to obtain an intermediate restricted license, drivers must pass a driving skills test. Upon receiving the license, they are only allowed to drive between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., unless accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or licensed driver at least 21 years old.
  • Intermediate Unrestricted License: A driver must be at least 17 years old and have had an intermediate restricted license for one year. Teens must keep their intermediate unrestricted license until they are 18 years old.
  • Graduated Driver License: Once a teen has had a learner permit, intermediate restricted license and intermediate unrestricted license and have turned 18, they are able to obtain a GDL or a regular Class D driver license.
  • Hardship License: A hardship license, also called a Class H license, is given to teens between the ages of 14 and 16 in special family hardship circumstances only. This license is only valid for passenger vehicles (Class D) and motorcycles (Class M).

Commercial Drivers (CDL)

A Commercial Drivers License (CDL) is required for anyone who operates a commercial vehicle in Tennessee. The first step in obtaining a CDL is to get a CDL learner permit (Class PA, Class PB or Class PC). CDL learner permit recipients are subject to the same requirements and knowledge tests as required of a regular CDL.

In order to obtain a Tennessee CDL, a driver must be at least 21 years old, unless they are operating intrastate and within 100 miles of their job. If this is the case, a driver can obtain a Class A or B CDL at 18 years old.

Additionally, drivers must obtain a valid DOT medical card and cannot have a suspended or revoked drivers license. The following motorists are exempt from obtaining a CDL:

  • Military personnel
  • Emergency vehicle operators
  • Farmers and nurserymen who only drive within 150 miles of the farm or nursery
  • Recreational vehicle operators
  • Those who operate vehicles only to transport personal property

Motorcycle Drivers

Obtaining a motorcycle license is similar to obtaining a drivers license for other vehicles in Tennessee. There are five types of motorcycle licenses:

  • Motorcycle Learners Permit (Class P-M): A permit is valid for one year. Once a motorcyclist turns 16, they can upgrade the permit to a regular motorcycle license. In order to obtain a motorcycle learners permit, the driver must be at least 15 years old. Those with a learners permit are only allowed to operate a bike with a 650 cc cylinder or smaller, can only ride during daylight hours, can only drive within 20 miles of their home, can never have passengers and are not allowed to ride on the highway.
  • Motorcycle Only (Class M): This type of motorcycle license allows you to operate any two or three-wheeled vehicle with a 125 cc or greater cylinder and is valid for four years. In order to obtain a Class M license, a driver must be at least 16 years old and pass vision, written and on-cycle skills tests.
  • Motorcycle-Secondary (Class M): This type of license is added to and will expire at the same time as another type of license, most commonly a regular Class D license. To obtain this license, a motorcyclist must already possess another type of operator license and pass vision, written and on-cycle skills tests.
  • Motor-Driven Cycle (Class M Limited): This license is only valid for four years. To obtain a Class M Limited license, a motorist must be at least 15 years old, operate only two or three-wheeled vehicles with no more than 125 cc cylinders between the hours of 4 a.m. and 8 p.m. and within 20 miles of their home (if between 15 and 16 years old) and must comply with the restrictions set forth by the Examiner (if 16 years old or older).
  • Motorized Bicycle: You do not need a special license to operate a motorized bicycle, but you must already have an operator license. If a driver is between 15 and 16 years old and does not have a valid drivers license, they may be able to apply for a restricted license in order to ride a motorized bicycle. Additionally, a motorized bicycle does not need to be registered or titled.

Contact an Experienced Knoxville Auto Accident Attorney

At Greg Coleman Law, we are committed to fighting for the rights of anyone who has been injured by the actions or negligence of another driver sharing the road. When the responsibility party is not properly licensed to operate the vehicle they are driving, an injury lawsuit can become extremely complex.

It is important to consult with an attorney well-versed in Tennessee law when involved in a car crash due to no fault of your own. In an effort to ensure that all injury victims are able to afford access to top legal counsel, our firm operates on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not pay us anything unless we obtain a favorable outcome for your claim, whether by a jury verdict or through a settlement with other parties involved.


For more information on the legal rights which may be available to Tennessee auto accident victims and their families or to schedule a confidential, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys, please complete the Free Case Review form on this page.

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