Commercial truck driving is becoming an increasingly popular career choice. And no wonder. You get to travel the country, meet amazing people, and enjoy job security all while earning excellent pay. While there are specific medical and residency requirements along with skill and knowledge requirements, if you want to drive a commercial vehicle in the United States, you will need to get your commercial driver’s license (CDL). The requirements to get a CDL will vary from state to state, but these steps will serve as a basic guideline on what to expect. For more detailed information, you will need to research your state’s specific requirements. Here’s how to get your CDL.
Familiarize Yourself with State CDL Requirements
The first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with your particular state’s CDL requirements to determine if you qualify. While some of the requirements will vary slightly from state to state, most basic requirements are the same. Some of these include:
- Age – you must be 18 or older to acquire a CDL license, and 21 years or older to drive across state lines and haul hazardous materials.
- Current driver’s license – you must hold a valid, non-commercial driver’s license.
- Driving experience – you must have one to two years of driving experience.
- Clean driving record – you must have a good driving record without any suspensions, DUIs/DWIs, traffic violations, failures to appear in court, or failures to pay child support.
- Clean criminal record – no previous felons.
- Clean background check – you must be able to pass a background check.
- Proof of citizenship – you need to be able to prove your citizenship with a birth certificate and/or social security card.
- English fluency – you must be able to read and speak English fluently.
- Physical and medical – you must meet certain physical and medical standards that are put in place by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration).
Decide Which Class CDL You Want
When it comes to truck driving, there is a variety of vehicles and types of driving jobs out there. For example, there’s long haul driving, short haul driving, regional driving between depots with mixed loads, and many more. Then there’s the type of vehicle you want to drive such as tractor trailers, tank trucks, school buses, and so on.
Because of this, there are different types of CDL classifications based on the size and type of vehicle you will be legally allowed to operate. These include:
- Class A CDL – this one has the least restrictions. It enables you to drive tractor-trailer combinations, as well as vehicles of all sizes and weights over 26,001 pounds.
- Class B CDL – will allow you to drive single vehicles over 26,001 pounds.
- Class C CDL – this one enables you to drive vehicles that don’t meet the criteria for Class A or Class B, but either carries hazardous materials or sixteen or more occupants including the driver.
Each type of CDL and endorsement requires you pass a skills test and in many cases a written test. And it’s vital that you pass them all or you risk having restrictions on your CDL.
Obtain Your CDL Permit
Just as with a regular driver’s license, you must first obtain your CDL permit license before you can move forward with the CDL driving test process. To get your CDL permit, you will need to pass a series of written exams. And if you want to add specific endorsements, such as the Hazardous Materials (HazMat) endorsement, you will have to pass additional written tests.
One of the best ways to learn everything you need to know to pass these exams is by attending a truck driving school. A truck driving school will help you with every step of the process from getting your CDL permit to taking the actual CDL driving test to find a job once you graduate. Many states actually require that you successfully complete a training course at an approved school before you can get your CDL. Many trucking companies will also require this, as well.
Take the CDL License Test
When it comes time to take the CDL test, you will have to pass the CDL driving test. This includes a three-part exam consisting of a pre-trip inspection test, a basic control skills test, and a driving test. The driving test is most often at either a state CDL test site or approved 3rd party test site in the testing state.
Once you pass this skills test, and you pay the necessary fee, you will be issued your actual CDL license.
If the thought of driving a big rig appeals to you, with some studying and hard work, you can be on the road to becoming part of an exciting, prosperous career as a truck driver.