The booming truck and freight industry is a great source of jobs, and earning your trucking license can enable you to participate in this workforce. Truck drivers can be an employee in someone else’s company or work as an independent driver, but both routes require the same license.
Each state issues its own licenses for driving commercial vehicles. If you’re interested in driving a truck, start by checking the minimum requirements for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in your state. These requirements usually include identity documentation, age limits, and educational and residency requirements. If you fit all of the requirements in your state, follow these steps to earn your CDL:
1: Get Prepared
CDLs are issued by the same state agency that issues regular driver’s licenses. In order to apply for a CDL, you must first hold an ordinary passenger car driver’s license from the state where you plan to apply.
Once you have your regular license, pick up or download a free copy of the CDL Driver’s Handbook published in your state. This booklet is usually published in several languages and is similar to the regular Driver’s Handbook. It details the laws and regulations you must be familiar with in order to pass the written CDL test.
2: Get Your Permit and Get Experience
A provisional or learner’s permit is required for a CDL, just as it is for a regular license. To get your CDL permit you will have to pass one or more written exams that cover the information in the CDL Driver’s Handbook. The tests cover subjects such as:
General driving knowledge
Federal highway laws
Apply for your CDL driver’s permit through the state licensing agency. There is a fee for applying, and the cost varies from state to state.
Once you have a CDL permit, you need to get experience behind the wheel under the supervision of someone with a valid, full CDL. Many people attend a truck driving school. Find an accredited school in your state with a good reputation, course work and practice vehicles, including the types of CDL endorsements you want to get.
3: Apply for Your CDL and Take the Test
After you have completed and received a certificate from a truck driving school (or gained acceptable experience in another way), you can apply to take your state CDL written and road tests to get your full CDL.
During testing, you will need to pass one or more individual tests for any endorsements you are seeking. Some endorsements, such as hazardous materials transport, may include a criminal and personal background check. After all written tests and endorsement tests are completed, you must take the state CDL road skills test. This covers:
Pre-trip vehicle inspection
Basic driving skills
Advanced driving skills
Road tests can usually be taken at the state motor vehicle agency or approved third-party testing facilities. After passing these tests and paying all associated fees, your state will issue you a full CDL, meaning you are fully licensed to drive a truck.