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How do I get a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) and a Trucking Job In 2023?

Updated: Apr 23

Commercial Driver's

If you've ever considered a career that offers freedom, travel, and a stable income, trucking might just be the right path for you. To get started, the first thing you need is a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). The process to obtain a CDL and secure a job in the trucking industry is pretty straightforward, though it requires dedication and perseverance. Here's a comprehensive guide to help you navigate through this process.

Step 1: Meet the Basic Requirements

Before you can begin the process of obtaining your CDL, you must meet some basic requirements:

  1. Age: In most states, you must be at least 18 years old to obtain a CDL and drive commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) within that state (intrastate). To drive across state lines (interstate) or to transport hazardous materials, you must be at least 21 years old.

  2. Residency: You must be a resident of the state where you're applying for your CDL.

  3. License: You need a valid non-commercial driver's license.

Physical Condition: Department of Transportation (DOT) requires CDL applicants to pass a physical examination. It includes vision and hearing tests, blood pressure check, and an examination for other physical conditions that could hinder safe driving.

Step 2: Get a Copy of Your State's CDL Manual

Every state has a CDL manual that outlines the requirements, tests, and information you need to know to pass the CDL exam. You can often find a copy online on your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website or at a local DMV office.

Step 3: Take an Online Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) Course

Before you can obtain a Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP), you need to complete an FMCSA-approved Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) course. This online course provides the foundational knowledge required to safely operate a commercial vehicle. Upon completion, you'll receive your ELDT certificate, which is a prerequisite for obtaining a CLP.

Step 4: Obtain a Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP)

A CLP is a practice permit for learning to drive commercial vehicles. To obtain a CLP, you will have to pass a written knowledge test at your local DMV. The test covers general trucking knowledge, transporting cargo safely, transporting passengers safely, air brakes, and more. Once you pass this test and meet other requirements, you will be issued a CLP.

Note: Holding a CLP is necessary before you can take the CDL driving skills test. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations require you to hold your CLP for at least 14 days before taking the skills test.

Step 5: Enroll in a Truck Driving School

A good truck driving school will provide you with the practical experience necessary to pass the CDL driving skills test. These programs typically last several weeks and cover both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, including maneuvering, coupling and uncoupling a trailer, and handling different types of loads.

Step 6: Pass the CDL Driving Skills Test

The CDL Driving Skills Test is usually the final hurdle to obtaining your CDL. It consists of a pre-trip inspection test, a basic controls test, and a road test. Passing this test demonstrates your ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle.

Step 7: Obtain Your CDL

Congratulations! If you've made it this far, you've passed your tests and demonstrated that you meet all the requirements to safely operate a commercial vehicle. You can now obtain your CDL from your local DMV. The CDL is typically valid for a few years (it varies by state), after which you'll need to renew it.

Getting a Trucking Job After Obtaining a CDL

Once you have your CDL, it's time to start your career in the trucking industry. Here's how:

Step 1: Gain Experience

As a new CDL holder, gaining experience is crucial. Some truck driving schools offer job placement assistance, which can help you land your first job. Otherwise, look for entry-level driving jobs. Even if the pay isn't as high as you'd like, these jobs provide the experience you need to move up in the industry.

Step 2: Apply for Trucking Jobs

Start applying to trucking jobs that interest you. You can use online job boards, industry-specific websites, and trucking company websites to find job listings. In your applications, highlight any relevant experience, emphasize your knowledge of trucking rules and regulations, and underscore your commitment to safety.

Step 3: Nail the Interview

If you get called in for an interview, it's crucial to make a good impression. Research the company beforehand, dress professionally, arrive on time, and be prepared to discuss your skills, experience, and understanding of the industry.

Step 4: Keep Your Record Clean

A clean driving record is crucial in the trucking industry. Traffic violations can result in lost jobs and opportunities. Also, maintain good health to meet DOT physical requirements for driving commercial vehicles.

Step 5: Consider Specializing

Specialized trucking jobs—like driving tankers or hazardous materials trucks—often pay more but may require additional endorsements on your CDL. Gaining these endorsements can open up more job opportunities.

Remember, while the process of getting your CDL and landing a trucking job requires time, effort, and patience, the rewards can be great. If the open road is calling you, now you know the steps you need to answer the call. Happy trucking!

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