Driving as a professional truck driver is a rewarding and lucrative career opportunity for anyone and everyone looking to get out from behind a desk and embrace an exciting new lifestyle.
However, like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says, “Driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) requires a higher level of knowledge, experience, skills, and physical abilities than that required to drive a non-commercial vehicle.” As a result, professional truck drivers need to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) before they get behind the wheel.
Here are all of the CDL requirements you’ll need to become familiar with before taking your CDL skills test and successfully getting your CDL.
If you want to attain a commercial driver’s license, then you should get started by reaching out to your local state DMV and request a CDL manual. This manual will be your textbook and lifeline as you prepare for the written portion of your CDL test. After passing the written exam, you can begin training for your CDL skills test.
You’re also going to need to pinpoint what classification of CDL you want to acquire, as there are a few options to choose from that each come with different requirements. Here are the three types of CDL you can obtain, as seen on DMV.org:
- Class A License: Required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 lbs. or more.
- Class B License: Required to operate a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or heavier and/or any vehicle as described above that is towing another vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs.
- Class C License: Required if the vehicle you intend to drive does not meet the criteria for either a Class A or Class B license and is meant to transport at least 16 passengers (to include you, the driver) or any hazardous material (HAZMAT) as laid out by federal guidelines.
In almost every state, the CDL age requirement is 21, although some states allow applicants aged 18-20 to apply for a single-state CDL, which “allows the driver to only operate a commercial vehicle within the driver’s state of residence (intrastate driving).”
If you’re the proper age for a CDL in your state, and you’ve passed all of your written knowledge tests, then you can acquire your commercial learner’s permit (CLP). This permit means you can practice driving a CMV on public roads with a qualified CDL holder sitting next to you.
As part of the process of acquiring your CLP, your driving record for the last ten years will be checked in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and you’ll need to bring in proof that you’re medically qualified to drive a commercial vehicle. After that, however, you can hit the road in earnest and make strides towards your CDL-certification.
Taking the Skills Test
You must have your CLP for two-weeks before taking the Skills Test, and some states also require you to successfully complete your CDL training before taking the test itself. Either way, it is paramount that you practice all of the inspection tests and maneuvers included in your CDL manual, as these are parts of what you’ll be tested on before you even show up for the skills test.
The Skills Test consists of three parts: “the Vehicle Inspection Test, the Basic Controls Test, and the Road Test. Your state may even allow you to use their “training aid” to help you remember items on the vehicle inspection checklist.” After you pass all three of these tests, and the proper documentation that signifies your success is processed, you will be able to receive your CDL.
Some states give you your CDL at the time of your completion of the test, while others will send it to you in the mail. In either scenario, take some time at the counter to make sure everything is correct and in order. This will save you from having to deal with a costly mistake that could needlessly complicate things and prevent you from getting on the road.