Truck drivers are a crucial link in the supply chain since they transport food, cars, and other items throughout the country. Although everyone sees trucks on the road, they transport around 70% of the freight in the US. However, to be able to drive on the road, all long-haul truck drivers require a commercial driving license (CDL).
State-specific requirements for acquiring a CDL vary but often involve passing a driving exam and a knowledge test. So, in this article, we will discuss how you can get a CDL to become a truck driver and the best schools where you can get the appropriate training.
Aspiring truck drivers usually enroll in training programs at specialized truck driving schools to become eligible for a CDL. They learn to control big vehicles on roads or through congested streets. Also, during training sessions, drivers learn about federal laws and rules regulating interstate truck driving. However, becoming a truck driver may take a few weeks or months.
In addition to education and competence requirements, there are medical and residency requirements to apply for a commercial driving license. Moreover, you must be at least 21 years old to lawfully operate a commercial motor vehicle interstate.
So, here are the steps to acquire a CDL to become a competent truck driver.
One can obtain a CDL at age 18 in many states. However, most trucking firms only work with drivers at least 21 years old. This is because truck drivers must be at least 21 years old to cross state boundaries. Those under 21 are only permitted to drive within a single state.
You can practice operating semi-trucks if you have a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). Thus, before beginning their program, some truck driving schools demand that you have a CLP. However, other schools assist you in obtaining the permit while you are enrolled.
A commercial learner’s permit (CLP) only allows you to practice driving on public roads while a certified CDL holder is seated next to you. Passing all the knowledge tests required for the kind of driving you wish to conduct is only one part of getting your CLP.
Besides, your driving history from the last 10 years is inspected to ensure that you are qualified in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. To demonstrate your eligibility medically, you must present the documentation that your state recognizes. Most commercial driving scenarios call for a DOT medical card, which necessitates a DOT physical.
Also, your state might want to see particular papers to verify your identity and residency. However, you’d have to pay specific fees to get a CLP. For better knowledge of the entire process, follow your state-released CDL Manual.
To become eligible for the CDL exam, you must enroll in a truck driver training program at community colleges, private truck driving schools, or trucking firms. However, ensure that you are familiar with your jurisdiction’s BMV or DMV requirements because some states have their audits and accreditation procedures.
Drivers who receive a CLP on or after 7th February 2022 and seek their Class A or Class B CDL for the first time must complete entry-level driver training with an authorized training provider before taking the exam. Beyond the federal training requirements, certain states could have additional requirements.
However, the CDL training programs at private institutions and community colleges might cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 or even more.
CDLs are categorized as A, B, or C. These categories usually depend on the weight and size of your vehicle. CDL-A is the most flexible option for drivers hauling heavy freight. On your license, you could additionally require an endorsement code. Endorsements are crucial for school buses, tankers, and other specialized vehicles. They specify the permitted transport quantity or material.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has detailed the various classifications and endorsement codes. However, you should consult your state’s BMV or DMV to be sure about it. Many states’ BMV or DMV systems charge fees for the CDL application, test, and license. The licensing cost varies in price from $20 to $120.
To qualify for the CDL skills exam, you must have the CLP for 14 days and have completed the relevant entry-level driver training.
The 3 tests that make up the skills test include the road test, the basic controls test, and the vehicle inspection test. You must pass them all to get your CDL. To aid in your memory of the things on the car inspection checklist, your state could even permit you to use their “training aid.”
You must bring the paperwork to the counter for processing after passing the skills exam. While some states will mail you your CDL, others will hand it to you on the same day. Whatever the case, double-check everything before you leave the counter.
Best CDL Schools
It may be challenging for truck driving aspirants to choose the schools that provide them with the finest training experience. There are so many to select from and a wide variety of program pricing. So, to help you, we have gathered the top options.
These are fantastic possibilities for those who wish to choose heavy machinery driving as their lifelong profession. You’ll learn how to operate huge vehicles, such as tractor-trailers or large automobiles. You can list these skills on your CV when applying for a job in the industry.
So, if you plan to join a CDL training program, check out the following schools.
1. Yuma Truck Driving School
The Yuma Truck Driving School offers various truck driver programs. They provide a flexible timetable, allowing students to fit the classes into their hectic schedules. Class A and B CDL training, expedited CDL programs lasting 4 weeks, an 8-week program for commercial drivers, refresher courses, road tests, and third-party CDL testing are all available for students.
The organization also works to provide students with useful abilities. So you can develop the caliber of skilled drivers businesses are looking for. The Arizona Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Division has granted the school a license. Besides, the Commercial Vehicle Training Association and the Better Business Bureau recognize Yuma Truck Driving School as a member.
2. American Truck Training (ATT)
American Truck Training (ATT) is a commercial truck driving school in Oklahoma City, established to meet the endless demand for new and experienced drivers. Their program prepares candidates to obtain their Commercial Driving License through CDL classes.
In addition, ATT assists all students consistently with job placement so that they never lack work. 91% of their students pass their programs. 98% of their students receive job opportunities while still enrolled in school, while some bag jobs after graduating.
3. Rosedale Technical College
It is a private, not-for-profit institution that offers a comprehensive CDL truck driving program. The 10-week CDL truck driving curriculum of Rosedale Technical College benefits significantly from its 70 years of expertise and depth of knowledge.
They collaborate with local businesses that hire truck drivers to offer job opportunities to their students. Among the students enrolled in the program, 86% of them complete it.
4. Northern Industrial Training
Northern Industrial Training offers different truck driving training programs in Alaska. Students can develop their abilities on the school’s safe grounds at its Palmer, Alaska, campus.
The main emphasis of their course is on safety abilities, with defensive driving receiving a lot of attention. 3 programs with durations between 160 and 360 hours are available all year round.
5. Phoenix Truck Driving Institute
Comprehensive classes, refresher courses, and road testing are all part of the CDL and truck driving training programs of Phoenix Truck Driving Institute. Each year, hundreds of students receive training here.
The institute is affiliated with the American Trucking Association (ATA), the National Safety Council, the Driver Employer Council of America, the Arizona Motor Transport Association, the Arizona Motor Transport Association Safety Council, and the ATA Safety Management Council.
6. Sunny Truck Driving School
Sunny Truck Driving School is one of the most prominent truck driving schools in the New York region. Each graduate is fully competent and experienced enough to advance quickly in the transportation industry because of their institution’s mix of flexible scheduling, affordable tuition, and a welcoming, small-class atmosphere.
The institute assigns a specific instructor to every student, giving them the personal attention and helping them improve their driving skills. Besides, aspiring students can choose from a wide range of financing and scholarship alternatives in this institute.
7. Jersey Tractor Trailer Training
Last but not least is one of the top driving schools in the nation, Jersey Tractor Trailer Training. This training Institute has a spotless record and some of the finest job placement rates.
It has been in the trucking business since 1965 and has been providing training since 1984. The institute offers CDL training in Classes A and B from their Lyndhurst site.
FAQs – CDL Schools
1. How long does it take to get CDL?
The time required to obtain a CDL might range from 3 weeks to 6 months. However, when enrolled in a full-time driver training school, the average duration to receive a CDL is around 7 weeks. Numerous variables may affect how long it will take to complete the training course. Classes, driving time, endorsements, full-time and part-time programs, and other factors are among them.
2. What is the cost of a CDL program?
Based on the lecturers’ backgrounds and other pertinent considerations, these programs typically cost between $1,000 and $8,000. Nevertheless, the average price of CDL training is $3000 to $7000. There will undoubtedly be a higher cost for private truck driving schools. It can even go up to $20,000. Besides, institutes may charge students a $10 to $50 premium per endorsement. They may also charge for a CLP, a skills exam, and other associated costs.
3. How frequently must your CDL be renewed?
Depending on your state of residency, a CDL may be valid for anywhere between 5 and 8 years. You will probably need to undergo an annual medical test to keep your CDL active to demonstrate that you are in good physical condition to continue the job.
Besides, the same rules apply to personal licenses and commercial licenses. So, your CDL must be timely renewed. While some states, like Michigan, require you to renew your commercial driver’s license the same day you first acquired it, others treat the renewal date as your birthday.
4. Is it necessary to enroll in a CDL program to become a truck driver?
No, it’s not necessary to avail of a CDL training program to become a truck driver. You can earn a CDL through self-study. However, most trucking companies prefer that you have attended one of the top CDL schools and completed an efficient educational requirement.
Soon after beginning a CDL training program, the truck driving school will assist you in getting behind the wheel so you can start driving and earning money. Getting a CDL is a must for applying for truck driving employment. But you must get a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) before undergoing appropriate instruction at a truck driving school.
5. Which CDL program is the shortest?
The Class B CDL program is the quickest to finish, taking just 3 weeks. You may drive a delivery truck, dump truck, tow truck, and more if you have a Class B CDL. Also, you can use a single-axle trailer to transport cargo under 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Besides, learners will oversee delivering items between destinations safely and effectively as Class B professional truck drivers.
6. Which CDL is the best to obtain?
If you want to pursue a long-term career as a truck driver, obtaining a Class A CDL will provide you with more opportunities and variety in your work. Also, interstate travel is possible with Class A CDLs if you enjoy exploring the nation.
Despite a persistent scarcity of drivers, the truck driving sector is expanding. By obtaining your commercial driver’s license (CDL), you can join a sector of the economy that is vital to the US. A regular driver’s license that is up to date and a high school diploma or a GED are often required to start a career in truck driving.
Afterward, you should enroll in a professional truck driving school that teaches you about the career, equips you with the necessary skills, and prepares you for your CDL licensing exam. It can be either as part of a combined curriculum or independently.