As a transportation logistics leader, Rowe Transfer is a highly sought-after employer for truck driving jobs. Additionally, with trucking driving shortages continuing to exacerbate shipping costs, the salaries for truck drivers continues to rise in step. If you have been considering a career in transportation, this blog will help you learn about obtaining a truck driving CDL and successfully completing all the requirements necessary to land a career in truck driving.
Types of CDL License
To begin your journey of obtaining a commercial driver’s license, you’ll need to decide what type of freight you want to haul. There are several types of commercial driving licenses with the most common being the Class A CDL which is required to drive vehicles that weigh 26,001 lbs. or more, including towed vehicles that are heavier than 10,000 lbs.
The Class B CDL is subject to the same weight standards, but is required when transporting individuals on busses, driving dump trucks or straight trucks, or when driving a delivery or courier truck.
Class C CDL is required when transporting hazardous material (HAZMAT), passenger vans with 16+ passengers, or vehicles not described as Class A or B.
Outside of classes, additional written and road driving tests may be required in special circumstances. These extra qualifications, known as endorsements, include the N endorsement required to operate tank vehicles, and the T endorsement which is necessary to tow a double or triple trailer. X Endorsements are required for anyone hauling HAZMAT in a tank vehicle.
The CDL Process
The Commercial Driving license process isn’t necessarily difficult, but does require organization, a strong desire to learn, and is above and beyond what you’d go through for your non-commercial driver’s license application. There are some general “across the board” requirements that are adhered to in all 50 states for individuals wanting to obtain their CDL and include:
- CDL Drivers must be at least 18 years old and must be at least 21 to transport hazardous materials or to drive interstate freight. Your state may have other requirements so make sure you check with your local DMV and to also obtain your state’s CDL manual.
- To obtain your CDL, you must first pass and obtain a valid US driver’s license
- As a professional truck driver, safety is always the top priority. Thus, you can’t have been convicted for DUI within the past 5 years prior to filing out your CDL application.
- You must be able to pass a DOT medical exam (physical) and a drug screen.
If you meet these basic requirements, the first three steps in the CDL process are to review the CDL handbook from the DMV, obtain your DOT medical exam, and fill out your application for a learner’s permit. You are required to wait at least 14 days before you can sit for the Commercial driver’s license test.
Just like when you got your first license, your journey towards obtaining your CDL is to go to your local DMV and ask for a CDL application. You’ll need to bring at least two forms of government issued id, something proving your address (utility bills are great for this, proof of citizenship and residency (birth certificate). Depending on which endorsements you are seeking, you may need to bring medical certifications or background documents. You should also be aware that there is a fee associated with obtaining your CDL. You can check your local DMV’s website or call them to find out more about the costs.
The Commercial License Test
Once you’re ready to get your actual Commercial Driver’s License, which consists of a written knowledge test and a road skills test, you’ll make an appointment with the DMV. This may not be absolutely necessary if you live in a more rural area, however, calling ahead can save time.
Studying for the written part of your CDL test will dramatically improve your success rate, and in addition to studying the CDL manual, there are numerous practice tests available online that can be taken for free. The CDL written test is designed to test your knowledge in three key areas of truck driving: general knowledge, combination vehicles, and air brakes. Passing this series of written exams means obtaining a passing score of 80% or better.
Your road skills set is the practical portion of the testing process where you’ll be expected to demonstrate your driving abilities in a real live rig. Make sure you pay attention to the pre-trip inspection portion and familiarize yourself with all the processes involved in a pre-trip inspection. You’ll also be expected to perform an alley docking and angled backing to ensure you can operate the truck safely.
Additional CDL Endorsements
Adding additional CDL Endorsements as needed requires that you perform additional written tests and pay additional fees but can drastically increase the types of loads you may transport. Many times, your truck driving employer will pick up the costs of these CDL endorsements if required to transport their freight. Additional endorsement such as the N endorsement or X endorsement, which are needed for transporting HAZMAT, require you go through a federal background check. There is a fee for a TSA Bankruptcy check and also requires a face-to-face meeting with a TSA agent in addition to reviewing your criminal record for the last 10 years. Speaking of security checks, you’ll also need to obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC) for picking up or dropping off freight at any United States maritime facility or harbor.
Truck Driving Scholarships, Grants, and Financial Aid
Applying for and obtaining your CDL does involve a number of fees, whether you attend a certified trucking school or not. Luckily, there are numerous resources available to those wanting to get their CDL which includes scholarships, state and federal grants, and, failing these, financial aid. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) offers a number of Commercial Driver License (CDL) grants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Pell Grants are also funds available to individuals wanting to pay for their truck driving education. You can find out what student grants you specifically qualify for by filling out a Federal Application For Student Aid (FASFA). You can also inquire more about scholarship opportunities with the specific truck driving school you plan to attend.
Looking for Truck Driving Jobs
As a final note, the process for obtaining a CDL can vary if you are employed by a trucking or transportation company that is certified to train drivers. Truck drivers are needed more than ever in our country to increase safety and decrease the costs of goods you and your family purchase every day. We consistently hire truck drivers who are career minded and who bring a clean safety record. You can apply through our online career portal by filing out a new driver application along with a history of your driving experience.