Experienced commercial drivers can earn an average of $87,539 per year. While a lucrative career choice, navigating CDL license requirements and commercial driving jobs can be confusing. Some jobs even offer 2-4 week training programs for their new hires. You can read more CDL drivers jobs here.
In this article, we offer our best tips on how to get a commercial driver’s license. From understanding CDL permit requirements to learning from other commercial drivers, we explain it all. Continue reading if you want a successful career in commercial driving.
Understand Your State’s Requirements
If you want to start commercial driving, you need to first understand how to get a commercial driver’s license. Each state has its own laws and guidelines for commercial drivers.
Start by checking the eligibility requirements for your state. For many states, you must meet the criteria below.
- Hold a valid non-commercial driver’s license
- Meet an age requirement (typically 18-21)
- No criminal history
- Clean driving record
While these are some of the standard requirements for many states, it’s important to check local requirements for your state. There may be additional requirements or variations of the above requirements. For example, Illinois motorcycle laws might be different from other States.
Understand Potential CDL Disqualifications
In addition to the above requirements, you may also have to remove other potential barriers to your CDL permit and license. If you have a criminal history, you should learn how this could affect your ability to obtain a commercial driver’s license.
Those with certain medical conditions or taking certain medications might consider obtaining a doctor’s approval before pursuing. This mainly applies to those with conditions that may affect their ability to perform the job.
Take Your Commercial Driving Education Seriously
Once you’ve determined your eligibility and resolved any potential causes of disqualification, you can start pursuing your education. How to approach your education depends on your state’s requirements and your limitations.
Some states require the completion of a formal program with a commercial driving school such as a private training academy or community college. However, other states allow you to obtain your CDL permit and license if you pass the necessary tests.
Find the Right Commercial Driving School
If your state requires a commercial driving school, make sure you choose the right one. The best schools will help ensure you get a passing score on your test for commercial drivers.
To find a quality commercial driving school, start by looking for one with a good reputation. Online reviews or feedback from former students is helpful for this.
However, you should also weigh other factors such as program length, travel distance, hours, and tuition. The right school is going to be the one that works best for your schedule and also helps ensure you meet all CDL license requirements.
Get Your CDL Permit
Once you’ve enrolled in your commercial driving school (if applicable), you can start studying for your general knowledge exam. Passing this exam is one step toward obtaining your CDL permit.
We recommend getting a CDL manual from your state in addition to any coursework that you may be using.
Drive with Licensed Commercial Drivers
After obtaining your permit, you need to log a certain number of commercial driving hours. This needs to be completed under the supervision of licensed commercial drivers.
Develop Knowledge of Basic Repairs
Whether you enroll in a commercial driving school or commit to self-studying to prepare for your commercial driver’s license, you should develop a knowledge base of basic repairs.
As a commercial driver, you’ll spend a lot of your driving time in the middle of nowhere on long stretches of highway. If your trucker were to break down, having this basic knowledge could help you get to the next town or back to cell reception.
Choose the Right Job
After fulfilling all CDL requirements and obtaining your commercial driver’s license, you’ll need to find a job. If you enroll in a commercial driving school, you may get the benefit of job placement. These programs ensure you’ll have a job when you graduate.
However, if this doesn’t apply to you, you need to make sure you find the right job. These jobs help you hone your skills and gain valuable experience. Some jobs even offer 2-4 week training programs for their new hires.
Develop Good Habits
If you want to have a long and successful career in commercial driving, it’s important to develop good habits. While many good driving behaviors are learned throughout your education, they don’t become habits unless you commit to them.
The more experience you gain, the more you’ll realize why these habits are so important, especially when other drivers make costly mistakes without them.
Paying attention is one of the most important habits you should form. While seemingly a general suggestion, it applies to almost every aspect of your commercial driving career.
Commercial drivers are responsible for their safety, the safety of other drivers, and the safety of their cargo/equipment. The more you realize this, the easier it will be to stay focused on any of your tasks for commercial drivers.
Get Out and Look
Whether parking for the night, unloading, or whatever else, you should always get out of your rig and look. It might be easy to assume that you have enough space or that you’re lined up correctly, but never underestimate the power of seeing with your own two eyes.
Take Inspections Seriously
You should always perform a pre-departure inspection of your rig. Even as this becomes a tedious routine, it’s essential for commercial drivers. For that reason and others, always complete your pre-departure inspection and always be thorough.
It helps you catch problems early and keep your rig in good condition. Don’t forget to always reference a physical checklist. Trying to commit your checklist to memory may result in a costly or dangerous oversight.
Start Your Journey With Commercial Driving
Whether you enroll in commercial driving school or focus on test prep, understanding CDL license requirements will put you ahead of the game. Use the above tips to get started on your commercial driving journey.
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Founder Dinis Guarda
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