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Home / Getting Your CDL License: What You Need To Know To Get Started!

Getting Your CDL License: What You Need To Know To Get Started!


There’s no question that many jobs have suffered due to automation or outsourcing, but you just can’t replace the need for capable and competent commercial delivery truck drivers. Just like it was 20 years ago or 40 years ago, getting a CDL license is a great investment into those looking for a reliable solid paying job and a better future.

While the demand is certainly there for new drivers, and there are plenty of companies even paying for the training and education process to help students get their license and get on the road, some people who are interested are intimidated because they don’t know about the process. While getting behind the wheel of a big rig for the first time can be as intimidating as it is exciting, that’s no reason to let fear stop you from pursuing a commercial driver’s license.

This isn’t a “throw them to the wolves” type of training. There is a long and very well-developed training process and while the exact requirements are going to vary in many states there is a federal framework that helps make sure every student is more than ready before receiving their CDL and hitting the open road.

General Requirements
In many ways getting a CDL license mirrors the process of getting a regular driver’s license. Early on studying is required to learn the ins and outs of traffic laws regarding commercial trucks. After making sure to learn this information, there will be a series of written tests that need to be passed. This doesn’t get you the CDL, but it does allow you to get the equivalent of a CDL “learner’s permit.”

This is the Class A restriction of a CDL, and will allow you to take official training towards getting your actual full CDL license. In most states the most common three areas of knowledge that are going to be on the permit test are Air Brakes (a very important topic, after all), Combination Vehicles, and finally General Knowledge to cover the rest.

Four Step Process
While individual states will often have additional requirements that must be met before being granted an unrestricted CDL, and there are additional tests and certifications if you are going to be hauling hazardous or potentially hazardous materials, which makes sense.

However the standard four step process that is at least the minimum base for getting a CDL is the same everywhere and it goes as follows:

1: Review the Base Minimum CDL Requirements

There are certain requirements that must be met before even attempting to work for your commercial permit or CDL. These can vary a bit state to state but many of them include things like a minimum age, minimum fitness level met via doctor’s physical, etc. These base requirements need to be met before starting the process.

2: Get Your CDL Permit

As mentioned earlier, this is the commercial equivalent of a learner’s permit and is an absolute necessity in order to get the driving and training time needed. This Class A will then allow you to take driver’s courses and get the practice you need to master driving a big rig and get the certifications necessary in order to take your CDL test and get the full commercial driver’s license.

3: Look at Additional Training (Endorsements)

The base license allows you to drive commercially, but there are certain types of materials that require an “endorsement.” For anyone driving with hazardous materials (Haz-Mat) from propane to gasoline to sulfuric acid, anything that is considered HazMat requires additional training, additional written tests, additional driving tests, in addition to generally requiring a background check, as well.

This endorsement training is going to be crucial for certain commercial drivers while remaining relatively unimportant for those who aren’t interested in HazMat transport at all.

4: 3-Part CDL Exam

The final test is in three parts and thoroughly tests the skills of the driver to make sure they are ready for real world driving situations. Once this test is passed the driver can immediately received a CDL from whatever state they are in and start driving commercially.

CDL Training School
In some places this is handled by a local community college or technical school, while in some other places there are schools and programs specifically designed to focus jut on trucking skills. That being said, if a local college or school has a CDL training program, that means they are fully qualified to help train you through the process to get you to where you need to be.

CDL training schools are the most common way to receive training and some students go there first while others look to apply with a company and then are paid to go through the training. There are plenty of options for getting in and getting the necessary training to eventually get a CDL.

Full Requirements Vary By State
While the base requirements are the same, most states add a little bit extra or have their own little quirks or add-on requirements. Anyone looking to get their CDL needs to do their research and understand the specific rules and additional work that needs to be done in order to fully qualify for a CDL in the state that they are training in. Once you have a CDL that is good across state lines, but to get it you are going to have to meet all of an individual state’s requirements.

In Conclusion
CDL licenses do take some work but no one looking at this as an option should be intimidated. Remember, instructors and hiring companies want you to pass and want you to pick up the skills to not only be able to go on the road but also to do so safely.

This process has been tested over decades and just like any other job or getting education for a degree, it’s usually far more intimidating up front. Once the actual work begins the entire process is much easier from start to finish. The end reward of a CDL, for many people, is also their best ticket to economic freedom and a better life.

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