Hardship License (Class H or XH)

What is a Class H (Hardship) Driver License?

A hardship license (Class H) may be issued to a minor who is 14 years old to operate either a Class D passenger vehicle or Class M motorcycle or both. This license is only issued in cases of family hardship and are limited to specific needs.

Proof of hardship must be mailed with a Hardship License application to the Driver Services administrative office for evaluation. Each application is reviewed and evaluated on an individual basis. Less than one percent of all licenses issued to minors are hardship licenses. If approved, the applicant will receive a letter authorizing application for a hardship license.

Applicants who are approved to apply for a Class H hardship license must pass a vision screening, knowledge test, and road test to operate a Class D passenger vehicle. However, to drive a Class M vehicle, the applicant will also be required to take the Class M knowledge and driving test in addition to the Class D knowledge test. Upon being licensed, operation of the Class M vehicle is limited to 125 cc.

The Class H license is valid only for daylight hours and for travel to authorized locations as specified in the approval letter.

Drivers with a hardship license who are at least fifteen (15) years old are extended the same privileges as those holding a Class PD license, when they are accompanied by any of the responsible adults listed for the Class PD.

Regardless of age at time of approval, a Hardship License will expire on the applicant's 16th birthday.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are approved for a hardship license and it is less than 6 months until your 16th birthday, you will be required to renew a Class PD upon expiration of your hardship license. You will need to hold the learner permit until you have attained a total of 180 days driving experience between the two license types and meet the Graduated Driver License Requirements as outlined in the Driver License Handbook.

If the holder of the hardship license/certificate is at least 15 years of age, the Class H license/certificate may be used as an instructional permit for Class D vehicles, as long as all other requirements pertaining to appropriate Learner Permit license/certificate are met.


  1. Applicant must be a Tennessee resident and at least 14 years old.
  2. For a first-time license, an applicant must be in compliance with the Compulsory School Attendance and Satisfactory Progress Law.
  3. Applicants for a Hardship License must meet the same eligibility standards for Class D License.
  4. Applicants who are 14 years of age, or those who have not held a Learner Permit for at least 3 months, must show proof of successful completion of a State approved Driver Education/Training Course.


  1. Persons holding a valid hardship license may operate Class D (passenger vehicle) or Class M (motor-driven cycle) vehicles only. However, to drive a Class M vehicle, the applicant will be required to take the Class M knowledge test and Class M driving test in addition to the Class D knowledge test.
  2. Hardship licenses are valid only for daylight hours (No earlier than 5:00 a.m. and no later than 7:00 p.m. No exceptions!).
  3. Hardship licenses are valid only for travel to pre-authorized locations that are specified on the approval letter.
  4. Passengers are limited to immediate family members only.
  5. Hardship license will be approved for the most direct route only with a mileage limitation of 25 miles, one way.
  6. Persons holding a valid hardship license are not allowed to tow other vehicles or trailers.
  7. Destinations that will be considered for approval with the appropriate justification include:
    • School - only if no bus transportation is provided. This requires a letter from the Principal/Headmaster on school letterhead verifying no bus transportation is provided from home to school and/or verifying participation in the school sponsored activity and/or accredited course.
    • Work – This requires letter from employer verifying employment. Job must assist in financially supporting the family.
    • Medical – If medical reason applies to applicant, this requires a letter from the attending physician verifying medical condition and frequency of visits. If medical reason applies to someone other than the applicant, they must submit a medical statement from the attending physician verifying condition and stating how it affects that person’s ability to drive. Immediate family members may include parents, grandparents, stepparents or legal guardians if living in the same household as applicant.
  8. Provide all required documentation.

PLEASE NOTE: If a driver is found to be driving before or after hours, on an unapproved route, or with non-approved passengers, their license can be suspended.

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