Perhaps becoming a truck driver has always sounded like an appealing and exciting career option. Or maybe you need to get into a well-paying career relatively quickly. Whatever reason you have for wanting to start trucking, you need to get into a CDL training program before this career can become a reality.
And if you don’t really know the first thing about what a CDL is, why you need it, and what to expect from your training, then read on, the answers are waiting for you!
What Is a CDL License, and Why Is It Necessary?
Trucks are ginormous machines, and they take a certain amount of learned skills to be able to operate them. In order to drive a truck, you must have a CDL. A CDL is a specialized driver’s license proving you’re knowledgeable in these vehicles’ ways. There are three types of CDLs available: CDL Class A, B, and C.
- CDL Class A: This license allows you to operate most types of trucks, single or combined with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more with a towing weight of 10,000 pounds or more. It includes all license classes.
- CDL Class B: You able to operate single or combined vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001, but what you’re towing must be under 10,000 pounds. You can also operate class C vehicles.
- CDL Class C: You are able to drive a vehicle carrying a total of 16 passengers, including you, only if it is under 26,001 GVWR. You may also carry hazardous material if it’s under the 26,001 threshold. Class A and B are not allowed.
To get your license, you will enroll in a truck driver training program, either through a private institution, a trucking company, or a community college or trade school. Once you’ve completed your training, which can last from a few weeks to a few months, you’ll take a test on what you’ve learned, both from a practical and hands-on standpoint. If you pass this exam, you’ll get your CDL license and begin the actual training period. From there, you get to hit the road on your own, unless you choose to team drive.
What You Need to Know About Your CDL Training
As mentioned, there are a few different types of truck driver training. There’s no right or wrong version; you need to choose the type of CDL school that best fits your circumstances. A few things to consider when you’re trying to make your decision are:
- Is the school and program accredited? If it is, that means the Department of Education has given its stamp of approval; the school meets stringent educational requirements.
- Is the school and program certified? If it is, that means the Department of Transportation has approved the school based on the set standards.
- Is the school and program licensed? If it is, that means the instructors, the curriculum, and the facility have all met the minimum requirements set forth by whichever state you’re being educated in.
- Is the school listed with the Better Business Bureau? Check its ratings through BBB and other sites that do reviews to help you make an educated decision.
- Does the school offer any guarantees? Does it make promises that you’ll be well-trained to pass the CDL licensing exam, does it offer job placement, and is there additional training if you need it?
- What is included in the price of the tuition? Typically, all the necessary supplies, extra help, classroom and over-the-road training are included.
- Avoid “FREE” training.
- Make sure the instructors and trainers are fully licensed and professionals in the industry.
So, now you’ve enrolled in truck driver training, or you’re seriously considering it. But you’re curious about what happens once you pay the tuition.
Here’s what to expect you’ll go over in your CDL training:
- Road signs and their rules and regulations
- Operating and maneuvering trucks
- How to read maps and plan out your runs
- Use of electronic logs
- Pre and post-trip vehicle inspection
- Over-the-road driving
- Safety procedures
- Coupling and uncoupling a trailer from your truck
- Computer training, depending on the school
Your first 40 hours will be focused on classroom training, but you’ll still be taken outside to do some hands-on learning with trucks. The program builds on itself and moves rapidly until you’re actually training on the road. You may start out with a short highway drive at first, but you’ll gradually work your way up until, for the remainder of your training, you’re on the road. Once you’re training behind the wheel, you’ll get a deeper look into:
- Turning the vehicle
- Railroad crossing and intersections
- City and highway driving
- Pre and post-trip inspections
- Testing the brakes
How to Easily Pass All the CDL Exams
Hopefully your program will be well rounded, and your brain will be running over with all the information you need in order to pass the Class A test the first time around.
Here are some pointers to prepare you for passing your road test:
- If you can, get plenty of practice days leading up to the big one.
- The night before, get a good night’s sleep. Being well rested keeps your mind alert.
- Get to the testing facility early so you can familiarize yourself with the area; it will keep you from getting too nervous.
There are some mistakes that are considered acceptable which are:
- turning too wide
- missing a shift
Mistakes to try and avoid (at all costs) because they can make or break your opportunity the first time around are:
- hitting curbs
- rolling backward during a stop
- not checking your mirrors
The testing instructor will be looking at other things such as how you’re behaving during the testing, how you handle any pressures coming at you, and whether you’re relaxed and confident. The final word will be the instructors, and you want to come across as being completely competent and ready to take on this career. To pass, you cannot have more than 30 points deducted.
About the CDL Knowledge Test
This is the written segment of your exam; it will test all the classroom learning you did. Specifics such as state rules and regulations will be on the exam, as will be weight limitations. To get a head start, you can take the free CDL practice exam It will help you study.
- Take lots of notes during class and while studying.
- The test will be done on a computer.
- It will be multiple choice questions.
- You need an 80 percent or higher to pass.
- Go to your state CDL manual and study it.
Once you’ve passed and you have your license tucked away in your wallet, you’re ready to move onto the next stage in your career!