In this series, we look at the steps and missteps involved in obtaining and maintaining your CDL.
Well, now that you’ve learned a little bit about the trucking industry, you say you’re even happier with your idea to pursue driving as a career.
Now, it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts of preparing for your CDL test and getting behind the wheel. Be patient, though, because this isn’t going to happen overnight.
Before taking another step, find a copy of your state’s CDL manual. You should be able to pick one up at an area testing site — or even better, download one from the internet. Be aware that each state has its own nuances in the process of obtaining a CDL, so don’t think one size fits all in this step.
Next, you’ll need to decide what type of truck you want to drive and what you expect to haul. To drive a tractor-trailer, you’re going to need a Class A CDL; that’s the “top of the food chain” in trucking. Depending on what you plan to haul, you may need some endorsements. These “add-ons” to your CDL will allow you to haul cargo such as hazardous materials and other specialized commodities. Of course, you could start out as a general driver and not test for any endorsements. However, if you want to expand your employability, endorsements are always a feather in your cap.
The next step is perhaps the most important to date: You need to get your Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). At its basic level, a CLP is much like the driver’s permit you got in high school. It allows you to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), provided a CDL holder is also in the vehicle.
Driving as a profession is a little more complicated that high school though, so before you can obtain your CLP you have a few hurdles to jump.
First, you have to pass all the knowledge tests for the type of driving you have chosen. In addition to the general CLP test, you’ll haves separate tests for any type of endorsements you’d like to eventually have on your CDL.
Also, be aware that your previous driving record will be checked in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Don’t expect that speeding ticket a couple years back to be ignored. When your record is checked, officials will be looking back as many as 10 years. Hopefully you have at least a somewhat clean record with no major violations.
Your state will also want to see proof that you’re medically fit to drive a CMV. You might as well get used to this. Throughout your career, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is going to require routine physicals as a condition of maintaining your CDL. Various medical conditions can put restrictions on your driving.
Right now, sleep apnea is a major concern with the DOT. Having sleep apnea doesn’t necessarily disqualify you as a driver, but it does give the DOT reason to monitor your health more closely.
Finally, of course, you can expect various fees and charges to go along with each of these steps. You’ll have to check with your state to see what all this entails.
Now, you’ve researched, studied and earned your CLP? That’s fantastic! Next time, we’ll discuss driver training.
To find truck driving schools in your area, click here.
Check back next week for the next installment in The Trucker’s “So, you want to be a truck driver” series. To read Part 1 of the series, click here.
Since retiring from a career as an outdoor recreation professional from the State of Arkansas, Kris Rutherford has worked as a freelance writer and, with his wife, owns and publishes a small Northeast Texas newspaper, The Roxton Progress. Kris has worked as a ghostwriter and editor and has authored seven books of his own. He became interested in the trucking industry as a child in the 1970s when his family traveled the interstates twice a year between their home in Maine and their native Texas. He has been a classic country music enthusiast since the age of nine when he developed a special interest in trucking songs.