If you’re thinking about starting a new career in trucking, then you’ve probably been learning about how to enroll in CDL classes. The Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is what the Department of Transportation requires all drivers to obtain before being able to drive trucks professionally. CDL training usually lasts several weeks and includes behind-the-wheel training and classroom preparation. Drivers will then take a series of written exams and skills tests to be officially granted a CDL permit. The permit is the first step to finding your first driving job with a trucking carrier.
What is a CDL?
Students who want to become professional truck drivers must earn a Class A CDL. There are many other classes of the CDL., and the type of CDL you obtain will determine what kinds of trucks you’re permitted to drive. The first step is to make sure you qualify. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets the minimum standards that states must follow regarding the CDL, so some of the requirements vary some state to state. Each state is in charge of the application process, license fee, renewal procedures, and renewal cycle.
There are some universal requirements in order to qualify for the CDL. Applicants must be 18 years old and must have a valid driver’s license from the state where they are training. They must also submit driving records from the past 3-5 years. Different states may have slightly different physical requirements to evaluate medical fitness before applicants can qualify for the CDL.
This means no speeding tickets, DUIs, accidents, or suspensions in that time. Some companies will be more lenient than others and may encourage you to reapply in the future. Applicants must also pass a drug screening, physical examination, and background check.
CDL classes will provide a mix of classroom studies and hands-on driving training. Students are expected to gain familiarity with the machinery and concepts on the road. Driving topics and techniques that are covered include close quarters driving, city driving, highway driving, road signs and rules, turning and backing-up the truck, and others. Classes will also cover a range of other helpful topics such as trucking industry information, safety and first aid, materials and cargo, state and federal laws, trip planning and routing, managing logbooks, and more. Coupling and uncoupling a trailer is another unique skill you might learn in most programs. Finally, understanding pre- and post-trip inspections is another essential skill you’ll learn.
Finding a good CDL program
In order to complete CDL classes, you need to find a solid program. You’ll need to consider the quality of training and the cost and practicality of the program before you apply. Most CDL classes are offered by dedicated truck driving schools or community colleges. Some carriers may offer to help you obtain your CDL in return for committing to working there for a period afterwards.
Location and cost are definitely factors- ideally you want to find classes close to you, but if there is a better program further away, it may be a better choice. The cost of a good program is considerable- you can expect to pay between $4,000 to $10,000 for CDL training. There are plenty of grants and other financial aid options available since there is a shortage of drivers, so be sure to do your research before dropping a pretty penny.
Taking the tests
Once you’ve completed your training in CDL classes, it’s time to proceed to the exams. You’ll get the Class A CDL by passing a series of written exams, which differ by state. In most states, these include tests on General Knowledge, Air Brakes, and Combination vehicles. In addition, you must pass a CDL driving test. Usually this is a three-part exam which includes a pre-trip inspection test, basic control skills test, and driving test. This skills test must take place at either a state CDL test site or an approved third-party test site in the testing state. Once the skills test has been passed, a driver can be issued an actual CDL license from that state.