The Educational Requirements of Being a Commercial Truck Driver

There are many benefits to becoming a professional truck driver.  Drivers spend a lot of time on the road so they’re constantly getting a change of scenery.  They get to travel to places they never thought they would.  There are sometimes points of interest along the way, so it can be a fun way to see and do new things.

The pay is great, and companies are constantly giving bonuses to truck drivers, especially long-haul drivers.  In some cases, truck drivers can make more than certain college graduates because they’re so rare to find.   Most companies offer benefits to their employees as well, including medical, dental, life insurance, vision, and retirement plans.  Some companies can even offer holidays off and paid vacations.

There’s more flexibility with this career choice, so drivers can usually pick what kind of hauls they’d like to drive. There are decisions to be made on whether you’d like to drive locally or long-distance runs.

So, if you’re interested in becoming a truck driver, you’ve made a great choice.  You might be wondering what kind of educational requirements you need for this career.  There are several questions you might be asking yourself: do requirements change depending on the state that you live in? How long do the requirements take to complete? How much do these requirements cost?

Luckily, there are answers to these questions below.  Get started on becoming a truck driver today.

What is a CDL?

A CDL is a commercial drivers’ license.  This is an additional driving requirement for your regular drivers’ license that will allow you to drive commercial vehicles, as is required for becoming a truck driver.  There are several steps involved in securing your CDL.

First of all, obtain a copy of whatever state you’re in’s Commercial Driver’s Licensing (CDL) Manual.  You can get this in a field location or you can go the website, download it, and print it off.   Each state has specific requirements for getting the CDL.   After you get your CDL manual, you must make a decision on which type of vehicle and which branch of driving you’ll be doing.  There are three main classes of CDLs with specific endorsements for each specialized qualification.  This includes vehicles such as tank trucks, buses, tractor trailers, and more. Every type of CDL will require that you complete a skills test. Sometimes you may have to pass a specific written test as well.  It’s important that you make sure to pass the various required testing so you do not have restrictions listed on your drivers’ license.

Once you’ve become completely informed and made your decision on what sort of license you want to have, there’s two main steps to obtaining your CDL.

Getting the Commercial Learners Permit (CLP)

A commercial learners’ permit is a permit that will only authorize you to practice driving on certain public roads while an already qualified driver is in the passenger seat.  Getting the permit will require more than just acing any of the written tests for the specific class of driving that interests you.  You make sure you are eligible first. This requires having your driving record checked for the last ten years in every state.  You will also need to present proof (whatever your state will accept) that you are in fact medically sound to drive.  This will mandate a DOT medical card, which you can get through a DOT physical.

Your state may also require that you bring in documents that will prove that your name and proof of address and residency is correct and sound. There are certain fees for obtaining the CLP.  Read and follow the instructions provided by your CLD manual to make this process easier.

Getting the Commercial Drivers License (CDL)

It is required to have your CLP for at least fourteen days before you can take a skills test.  Certain states mandate the completion of the CDL training before you begin testing.  Whether or not this is a requirement, you should still get practice for the inspection tests as well as the various maneuvers listed in the CDL manual that will be tested on with a qualified driver before you show up to your test. There are three parts to the skills test:

There is the vehicle inspection test, the basic controls test, and the road test.  Certain states may let you test while using their ‘training aid’ to help remember the different points on the vehicle inspection list.  However, taking the skills test is not a one hundred percent guarantee of passing. So remember that before you show up.

After you’ve completed the skills test, then you will need to go to the counter with all documentation for processing.  Certain states will grant you the CDL on the day, whereas others will choose to send it via the mail.  Make sure you have everything presented properly before leaving the counter.

Specific Training By State

Depending on which state you live in, the educational requirements may vary.  Some states (such as Ohio) will require 160 hours of classroom and on the road training.  You may obtain this training by completing a qualified CDL training program through a truck driving school.  These programs will specialize in teaching new truck drivers the appropriate skills to properly and safely drive a truck.  This can include map reading, trip planning, and compliance with the US Department of Transportation laws.  It can also include, backing, turning, hooking a trailer, and road driving.

The Cost of Driving School

The cost of a CDL truck driver training class is usually between $1500 and $8000.  As opposed to colleges that will charge per credit hour, truckers’ schools will charge you once for the whole program.  Prices do not reflect on if the education is better.  It could just mean that the school has new, state-of-the-art equipment that you can learn on, while other schools may not have the latest trucks.

Some of the reasons behind truck driving school can include reputation (organizational memberships and reviews), the technology that is available for student training, the experience and expertise of the instructors, the intensity of the classwork (such as double booked sessions and night and weekend sessions), accuracy in job placement services, if you’re getting a CDL A, B, C, or any combination of these, and extra endorsements.

There are several ways that you can pay for your CLD school.  These include tuition endorsement.  You may receive a monthly installment as long as you are employed by the company that you went to school through. This can be a great way to off-sent the cost of driving school, as you’re probably looking into getting a job after receiving your CDL.

There are also veteran affairs education benefits.  If you served in the military for any length of time, you may be eligible for VA benefits that can help cover the cost of your truck driving school education.  If you are not a veteran, you might be qualified for federal student aid, which is accepted as either partial or full payment by certain schools.

There is also the workforce innovation opportunity act which provides funding to help promote training and employment opportunities for people who face barriers to employment.

There is also paid CDL training programs that you can look into.  Certain companies partner with truck driving schools throughout the country that will pay for your driving school in exchange for an employment agreement. It is a great way to cover upfront costs and reserve a job for yourself after you graduate, which can be in as little as two weeks.

You can also pay for driving school yourself, and be responsible for the upfront cost. Just remember that many companies will reimburse you for your schooling in exchange for an employment agreement.

Whatever route you choose to pay for driving school, there are options that will get you certified and on the road.  Then you can begin your career as a truck driver and begin reaping the benefits that were mentioned above.   Being a truck driver can be a fulfilling, well-paid career, and as there is a shortage of qualified truck drivers, you may be looking at a high-paying profession that will give you job security as well as many on the road adventures!

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