Essential CDL Requirements: 5 Things to Know
If you’re ready to transition to a career in trucking, you not only need to buy a quality truck, it’s important to be aware of the CDL requirements. Commercial driving licenses come in different types, and regulations may vary depending on the state. Additionally, ensure that you meet the fundamental prerequisites and conduct research on driving schools. Preparing in advance will set you off on the right foot for a successful start in the trucking industry!
1. Who needs a CDL?
Individuals who operate large commercial vehicles, including truck drivers, are required to possess a commercial driving license (CDL).
CDLs are categorized into three main types: A, B, and C.
- CDL A: For drivers who want to operate vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds with a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 pounds. That includes tractor-trailers.
- CDL B: For drivers who want to operate a vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds with a towed vehicle of less than 10,000 pounds.
- CDL C: For drivers who want to operate a commercial vehicle with a GVWR that is less than 26,000 pounds and transports hazardous materials or 16+ passengers.
Class A licenses are the most universal license type. Drivers with a CDL A are also qualified for CDL B and CDL C jobs. A CDL A is a bigger time and money investment than the other license types, but the payoff is well worth it for many semi truck drivers.
2. Basic Requirements
Before enrolling in a CDL program, there are a few essential requirements to consider. First, you must hold a non-commercial driver’s license and possess some prior driving experience. Additionally, you must be at least 18 years old to obtain a CDL. However, if you intend to operate semi trucks across state lines or transport hazardous materials, you must be at least 21 years old. Apart from age and licensing criteria, drivers must meet specific physical and medical standards. It’s important to note that different states may have their own regulations, so it’s crucial to review the requirements specific to your state. Effective February 7, 2022, entry-level driver training has also become a mandatory CDL requirement for drivers.
3. Do I Need a Driving School?
When it comes to obtaining a CDL, the decision to acquire the license through a driving school is one that individuals have to make for themselves. However, it is important to note that while not technically mandatory, most people choose to attend driving schools. This is because driving schools offer comprehensive training beyond just obtaining a CDL. They provide instruction on crucial skills such as understanding regulations, mastering maneuvering techniques, and completing logbooks accurately, among others.
If you opt for a CDL driving school, there are additional factors to consider. You can decide between attending a school affiliated with a specific carrier or a general CDL driving school. Regardless of your choice, thorough research is essential before making a final decision. Choosing the right school is a significant financial and personal investment. A reputable CDL school will not only help you prepare for obtaining your license but may also offer assistance in finding your first job. Devoting time to research at the outset will yield long-term benefits.
4. Passing the CDL Test
One of the final requirements to obtain a CDL and start driving on the road is to successfully pass a written and practical test. The process is similar to the non-commercial driving test, where you must accumulate practice hours with a learning permit before taking the written exam. To earn your CDL, you will need to achieve a minimum pass rate of 80%. The written test typically consists of multiple-choice questions and is often conducted on a computer.
To prepare for the written CDL test, it is recommended to study in advance. State CDL manuals are excellent resources to begin your preparation. Additionally, taking advantage of free online practice tests can help ensure that you are fully prepared for the actual exam. Usually, after passing the written test, you will proceed to a skills test. This test evaluates your ability to perform a pre-trip inspection and maneuver a semi-truck correctly.
5. Should I Get Endorsements Right Away?
Many novice CDL drivers start their careers by hauling Dry Van or Reefer (refrigerated) loads. These types of loads typically do not require any endorsements and provide valuable opportunities to gain experience in the industry. If you’re uncertain about the specific type of job you want, beginning with a position that doesn’t require endorsements is a recommended approach.
However, if you have a clear idea of the type of cargo you eventually want to transport, such as operating a semi-truck, and it requires a specific endorsement, you can pursue the necessary certification right away. Acquiring the appropriate endorsement allows you to handle specialized cargo and opens up more job opportunities in your desired field.
There are six types of CDL A endorsements, including:
- Passenger Vehicles
- School Bus
Each endorsement allows the semi truck driver to handle a specific type of specialized load. Determine which endorsements are necessary for the type of driving you aspire to do, and then decide the best timing for acquiring those endorsements.
Obtaining your commercial driving license opens up numerous exciting opportunities! Once you grasp the CDL requirements, you are ready to embark on your trucking journey. And DRS Truck Sale will always help you purchase a quality and serviced truck to start your career. Contact us and we will be happy to help you make the right choice, for your business.
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