A commercial driver’s license or CDL is needed to operate a large vehicle intended for use by an organization or company, otherwise referred to as a commercial motor vehicle. Some type of vehicles that require CDL certification include segmented buses, dump trucks, and box trucks, among others.
Operating large commercial vehicles requires more specific skills compared to driving a small personal vehicle, which is why a specialized license is needed to show that you have completed the necessary training to be efficient and safe behind the wheel of a commercial motor vehicle.
If you would like to become a school bus driver, truck driver, or operating other large vehicles for your career, you would probably have to acquire a CDL before being eligible to get the job. CDL requirements and steps might vary from state to state, but here is a brief breakdown of how to acquire a CDL.
How to Get a Commercial Driver’s License
The steps for obtaining your CDL will vary depending on your state, which is why you need to follow the instructions listed on your state DMV website. However, there are generally a few common steps you need to take when preparing to apply for your CDL:
- Understand the Age Restrictions in Your State
While some of the states allow drivers to get CDL certification at 18 years of age, others require that you be not less than 20 years old. Some states also allow drivers below 20 years of age to drive only within the state listed on the license. If you are an 18-year-old that’s applying for your CDL, you might have to take several more steps such as completing a driver’s education program that approved by your state.
- Prepare for the Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP)
To practice skills that you will be required to showcase during your CLP driving test, you must first obtain a Commercial Learner’s Permit or CLP. You may also be required to provide certain documentation such as medical proof that you are able to operate commercial motor vehicle, a clean driving record, among others, but this will depend on your state.
You will also be required to pass a written test prepared by your state and pay the associated fees. The CLP is great for practicing skills and maneuvers listed in the CDL manual for your state that will be required of you during the CDL skills test.
- Prepare for the CDL
Depending on the state you live in, you will probably be required to be in possession of your CLP for at least 2 weeks before you complete the CDL driving skills test. Once this period is over, you will probably have to complete a driving skills test and a written exam.
You might also be required to submit further paperwork or complete additional courses depending on the rules and regulations in your state. You might also be required to pay an additional processing fee, but this will most likely be during the final stages.
- Earn Any Needed Endorsements
You must also ensure that you earn the required CDL endorsements that are specific to the kinds of vehicles you will be driving. It involves completing a written exam and/or a driving skills test and paying an extra free, but this will depend on the endorsement.
Once you complete all the required courses, exams, driving tests, fees, and paperwork, you should ensure that you collect the CDL. Some states will give you the license in-person after passing the final exam while others will send it to you via mail. Once you receive it, review carefully for any mistakes or updates listed on the license to make sure that it is ready to take on the road.