How to get your CDL

Getting a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is a process that requires training, testing, and certification.

Overview

 This is going to be a 30,000-foot view if you will of a step-by-step guide:

 Determine your eligibility Before applying for a CDL, ensure you meet the eligibility requirements. These are strict because we have to be certified by the Federal government. 

  •  Step 1: You must be 18 years old to drive within your state. (this is a HUGE step. You used to have been 21)- or 21 years old to drive across state lines. You must also have a valid driver’s license and a clean driving record. (Massive importance. They are going to ask you about EVERYTHING so make sure you have all your dates and facts)
  • Step 2: Choose the type of CDL you need or want. There are three classes of CDL, based on the weight of the vehicle you’ll be driving and the type of cargo you’ll be transporting. You’ll need to choose the appropriate class for your intended use, as well as your comfort level just starting These are pretty stringent so pay attention to them. Class A: Required for combination vehicles with a total weight of 26,001 pounds or more, including the towed vehicle(s) weighing more than 10,000 pounds.Class B: Required for single vehicles with a total weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or a combination of vehicles with a total weight of fewer than 26,001 pounds.Class C: Required for vehicles that don’t fit the Class A or B categories and are designed to transport hazardous materials or more than 16 passengers.
  • Step 3: Get a Medical Examination. This isn’t your typical medical exam, this will include and not be limited to A drug test, urine or hair are both possible. This includes an eye test. Most of all, once you start this test if you can’t go to the restroom to give an accurate sample amount, you cannot leave the testing facility. Only certain people can give this type of exam. So you need to make sure that they are DOT certified. This is to ensure that you’re physically able to operate a commercial vehicle. You’ll need to carry a valid medical certificate with you whenever you’re driving a commercial vehicle.
  • Step 4: Study for the CDL exam. The CDL exam is divided into two parts: a written test and a skills test. You’ll need to study the CDL manual for your state to prepare for the written test. While this test can be challenging it will be similar to the one you take to obtain your permit to LEARN to drive the tractor. The manual is going to cover a wide range of topics. Depending on what type of CDL you want, you will need other endorsements as well.
  • Step 5: Apply for a learner’s permit. If you are going through school they will advise you to do this before you start your first day. Once you’ve studied the CDL manual, you can apply for a learner’s permit at your state’s DMV. This will allow you to practice driving a commercial vehicle with a licensed CDL driver in the passenger seat. This is a huge deal, be proud of it. Continue to study, you will have lots to learn.

  • Step 6: Practice driving a commercial vehicle. This is usually done during school. During this stage, you should practice driving a commercial vehicle with a licensed CDL driver in the passenger seat. Listen to your instructor and be teachable. It is important since they are experts in the field. This will help you gain experience and confidence behind the wheel.
  • Step 7: Take the CDL skills test. This is usually scheduled for you and ONLY AFTER you have completed the required number of classroom hours. You are usually offered a time frame and day that is available. It is not usually when it is convenient for you. The skills test includes a pre-trip inspection, a basic control skills test, and a road test. You’ll need to bring your own vehicle to the test, which must meet the requirements for the class of CDL you’re testing for, however, usually, the school will allow you to use the tractor and trailer you have been practicing with. Most schools are really fantastic with making sure you are totally prepared for this test.
  •  Step 8: Receive your CDL. If you pass the CDL skills test, you’ll receive your CDL from the DMV. This actually takes about a day and a half for verification. But Congratulations are definitely in order. You’re now certified to drive a commercial vehicle. In summary, getting a CDL involves determining your eligibility, choosing the appropriate class of CDL, getting a medical examination, studying for the CDL exam, applying for a learner’s permit, practicing driving a commercial vehicle, taking the CDL skills test, and receiving your CDL from the DMV. By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a professional commercial driver.

You DID it, congratulations. Next up where to work?

4 Comments

  1. This is a very informative article.  I am retired, but one of my sons has been thinking about getting a commercial driver’s license.  I don’t know what class he is thinking about but your advice to think this through is important.  He must have made a decision because he is getting the medical part of things out of the way.  I think he is working for a local company that haul’s gas for stations and farms.  I would think this would have very special requirements.  The one question I have is whether or not it is possible, once a learner’s permit is obtained, to work to get the practice necessary to pass the driver’s test written and driving.  I am going to forward your article to him to make sure that he covers all the steps necessary.

    Jim

    1. Are you asking if with his permit the company he hauls for would allow him to drive the truck he would normally drive? I am thinking the answer is no due to insurance reasons. It is really hard to make sure you are covered legally in a semi. If he has any questions please feel free to reach out to me on here or in email and I will help in any way I possibly can. It is a rewarding job for me and I love it!!

  2. Very thorough and informative.  Thank you.

    I used to be a cab driver in Chicago, about a million years ago.  I was thinking about getting my CDL, but in the end, it just seemed too complicated and I let go of the idea.  i mean, Cab Class took 5 months and a lot of misery.  I just couldn’t see having to submit to even more intense regulatory stuff. I’m glad I didn’t do it.  

    But this article was great.  Was like a trip down memory lane, in a lot of ways.  Sometimes, we have to look back in order to see that we did, indeed, take the right route.  You know?

    Thanks,

    Anna

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