Driver’s License Examination
Every applicant for any type of license or learner’s permit must pass a written examination that tests the applicant’s ability to read and understand highway signs as well as the applicant’s knowledge of traffic laws and must demonstrate actual ability to exercise ordinary care in the operation of a motor vehicle. All applicants must also submit to an eye exam (20/40 visual acuity required).
The knowledge and skills tests may be waived for a non-resident who is licensed in another state and has established residency in Tennessee, or an applicant with a valid driver license from a approved foreign country.
An applicant who presents evidence that the applicant has completed a driver education and training course offered for Class D vehicles at a public school or commercial driver training school is deemed to have satisfactorily completed the licensing examinations required by the department.
Graduated Driver's Licensing
Tennessee has a system of graduated licensing for novice drivers.
At age 15, individuals are eligible for a learner’s permit.
- Individuals with a learner’s permit are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving.
- A permit holder may only drive when supervised and may not drive between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- Permit holders must accumulate 50 hours (10 at night) of parental/guardian supervised driving.
At age 16, after holding a permit for 6 months, drivers are eligible for an intermediate license as long as they do not accumulate 6 or more points on the permit.
- Individuals who move to Tennessee are eligible for an intermediate license if they have held a valid learner’s permit for at least 180 days in another state.
- Intermediate driver’s license holders may not operate a motor vehicle between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or by a licensed driver who is at least 21 and has been designated by the person’s parent or guardian.
- Intermediate driver’s license holders may not operate a motor vehicle with more than 1 passenger unless: 1 or more passengers are 21 or older and possesses a valid unrestricted license; or the additional passengers are siblings of the driver.
At age 17, drivers who have held an intermediate license for at least a year, have maintained a safe driving record with no less than 6 points, and have not contributed to an accident are eligible for an unrestricted license.
Safety belt use is mandatory for all GDL license holders and passengers 4 to 17.
Driver’s License Issuance/Application
Every application for any type of license or instruction permit must be accompanied by a birth certificate or other proof of the applicant’s date of birth, and the applicant’s name, sex, county of residence, address, height, weight, hair and eye color, and social security number.
A license bears an assigned number, as well as the licensee’s date of birth, address, full name, signature, and a brief description and a color photograph of the licensee.
Whenever a licensee moves, the licensee must notify the DOS within 10 days of a change of address.
Licenses must be in a person’s immediate possession when in operation of a motor vehicle and must be displayed upon demand of a police officer.
Prohibits the issuance of driver licenses to anyone who is not legally in the United States.
Driver’s License Renewal
Every driver’s license is valid for 8 year, excluding Class P licenses which expire 1 year from the date of issuance.
Until January 1, 2016, if a licensee is under the age of 18, the license expires on the licensee’s 21st birthday.
Licenses are renewable on or before their expiration date upon application and payment of the appropriate fee.
An application for renewal that is filed more than 30 days carries a late renewal fee and if a license is expired for more than 5 years, the license holder must apply as for an original license.
Licenses may be renewed up to 12 months before the expiration date.
Licenses issued to people age 65 and older do not expire. Fees are reduced for drivers age 60 and older.
A driver’s license issued to someone who is on active military duty and stationed outside of Tennessee does not expire “so long as such person’s service continues and such person is stationed outside this state.” Military personnel (not military dependents) may have a “Code 30” added to their license which will give it a non-expiring status.
Types of Driver's Licenses
Class A: Valid for the operation of any combination of motor vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight (GCW) rating in excess of 26,000 lbs., provided the vehicles being pulled have a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) rating in excess of 10,000 lbs.; and for the operation of Class B, C, and D vehicles.
Class B: Valid for the operation of any vehicle with a GVW rating in excess of 26,000 lbs., or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 lbs. GVW; also valid for the operation of Class C and D vehicles.
Class C: Valid for the operation of any single vehicle with a GVW rating of 26,000 lbs. or less or any combination of vehicles with a GCW rating of 26,000 lbs. or less and includes vehicles requiring a placard for carrying hazardous materials and vehicles designed to transport more than 15 passengers; and for the operation of Class D vehicles.
Class D: Valid for the operation of vehicles with a GVW rating of less than 26,000 lbs. or any combination of vehicles with a GCW rating less than 26,001 lbs. except vehicles in Class A, B, or C.
Class H: Issued to a minor between 14 and 16 years of age and restricts the holder to operation of a passenger car, Class M motorcycle, or both, during the hours of daylight and only for travel to and from authorized destinations.
Class M: Valid for all motorcycles for drivers age 16 and older.
Class P: Issued as an instruction permit in conjunction with another class and is valid only for operation of that class of vehicle; the holder of a class P permit must be accompanied at all times by a parent or guardian or certified instructor, who is at least 21 years of age and has been licensed in the state for at least 1 year.