How to Become a Truck Driver
Training for the CDL Drivers License
If you want to become a truck driver, the CDL Commercial Driver's License is your key to a new career. With the CDL you can drive commercial trucks on local routes and on the open road. Jobs are plentiful for truck drivers, and in the end it's all about the job, isn't it? The four million truck drivers in America are the backbone of the economy. Did you know that 78% of all the products we purchase, like food, clothing, medicine and cars, are delivered by truck. If you want to become a semi-driver and truck all over the country, then first get some road time in a truck. Find a truck driver who is willing to teach you the basics, and help you make a career choice.
Men and women come from various backgrounds to jumpstart a career with good, consistent income. When you become a truck driver, the starting salary for an entry-level job is quoted from $37,000 to $70,000. If you are ambitious, veteran drivers who own their own trucks make average salaries that are over $100,000 a year. Where else can you find a job that will pay you so well?
Here you'll find out how to become a truck driver, the requirements for the CDL driving license, the classes of a CDL license, the Endorsements on the CDL, how to get the driver 's learner permit, the training classes a truck driver needs, the knowledge skills you'll need to become a truck driver, and how to choose a truck driver training school.
Step 1. The Requirements for the CDL
Since 1992, federal law requires truck drivers to have a CDL in order to drive tractor trailers and other vehicles in interstate, intrastate and foreign commerce. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets the standards for the CDL test and license.
Become a Truck Driver
The process of getting a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is basically the same in every state. The requirements are straightforward. You have to be twenty-one years old, pass a Department Of Transportation medical exam to show that you are fit to drive, have a satisfactory motor vehicle report, and pass a background check. A high school diploma is not required. In addition to the legal requirements, you need the aptitude for a truck driver. You should be reliable, safety-conscious, willing to work hard, and able to be away from home for scheduled trips. It helps if you are also familiar with mechanical systems. If you like to drive and want to see the country, you have what it takes to be a truck driver.
Step 2. The Classes on a CDL Truck Driving License
The CDL truck drivers license will specify that it is a Class A CDL license, a Class B license or a Class C license.
The Class A CDL license allows you to operate any combination of vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 or more pounds provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
The Class B CDL license allows you to operate any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR.
The Class C CDL license qualifies you to operate a bus with passengers or to transport hazardous materials.
Step 3. The Endorsements on the CDL License
There will also be Endorsements shown on your CDL license to indicate that you have passed additional tests and are qualified to operate special types of commercial motor vehicles. Here are the Endorsements you can earn.
- T - Double/Triple Trailers (Knowledge test only)
- P - Passenger (Knowledge and Skills Tests)
- N - Tank vehicle (Knowledge test only)
- H - Hazardous materials (Knowledge test only)
- X - Combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials endorsements
- S - School Bus (Knowledge and Skills Tests to transport passengers)
Step 4. Get a Learners Permit
As a student truck driver, the first challenge is to get a learner's permit, which allows you to operate a tractor-trailer when a CDL-licensed driver is with you in the truck. For the CDL learner's permit, you'll take a written exam at the state Department of Motor Vehicles that covers general truck knowledge, combination vehicles and air brakes. Most drivers also take the optional endorsement tests to qualify to operate Double and Triple Trailers and Tankers, and to transport Hazardous Materials. The endorsements you qualify for are marked on your driving permit.
Step 5. CDL Truck Driver Training Classes
As a student truck driver at a training school, you'll be driving an actual rig, maybe a 22-foot conventional, or a 48- and 53-foot trailer. After you master driving skills around the yard in a rig, you'll drive on the highway each day, practicing complicated procedures until you are ready to pass the CDL test.
A CDL driving school will train you to qualify for a CDL driving license and become a truck driver in about 3 or 4 weeks. Here you will learn how to operate a multi-piece rig. Coursework is an intensive introduction to the many skills required of a CDL truck driver. You'll learn how to inspect the vehicle, how to test air brakes, and the basic driving skills for parking, backing up, and driving public roads. A professional instructor will explain truck parts, tools, and emergency equipment. Classroom instruction, self-guided computer learning, online videos and written quizzes are part of the training. Yes, you can pass the CDL drivers license tests on your own without taking a class, but it's likely that professional training will make you a better truck driver.
Step 6. What You Need to Know
Here are the topics you'll need to learn to become a truck driver: diesel engines, cooling systems, lubrication systems, fuel system, electrical system, air supply and exhause system, tires and wheels, brakes, controls, instruments and dashboards, inspection, repair and maintenance, pre-trip inspection, coupling and uncoupling, backing maneuvers, shifting, braking techniques, driving practices, special driving conditions, combo trailers, weight distribution, load securement, freight bills and driver responsibilities, the log book to track your time, map reading, trip planning, and accident reporting. Trucking technology has changed quickly. You'll learn to use satellite communications and take online courses at your convenience. You'll also learn how to study and how to apply for a job in the trucking industry. As a student truck driver, you should get about 40 hours of road driving experience behind the wheel.
Step 7. How to Pay for CDL Truck Driver Training
How are you going to pay for the training you need to get a CDL truck drivers license? You are using your hard-earning money to make an investment in your future and become a truck driver. If you are paying for drivers license training out of your own pocket, tuition varies widely from school to school depending on the length of the class and how much road time they offer. $4,000 is a ballpark figure for training to get your CDL. The schools are expensive because they maintain a fleet of rigs, and they provide one-on-one road time with the instructor. Naturally, student loan financing is available. If you have military service, you can use veterans educational benefits from the VA to pay for truck driver training. And almost all schools have job placement assistance to get you out on the road and earning quickly.
Step 8. Which Truck Driver Training Program is Best?
To get quality training as a truck driver, choose a school that is certified. Certification is different from state licensing. The PTDI, Professional Truck Driver Institute, certifies schools that meet trucking industry's highest training standard. A certified school is your best guarantee that you will get high quality truck driver training. The better driving schools are also nationally accredited, and most schools have a state license. Ask for the school catalog for more information to help you choose a school.
Step 9. How to Choose a CDL Driver Training School
You have three types of truck driver training programs to choose from. There are (1) private schools, (2) public schools and (3) training run by a motor carrier. Check out a few of them to see the differences.
Private schools are businesses run for profit that offer only truck driver training. They are required to be licensed and are regulated by most states. Your state can provide a list of licensed schools. Check out the reputation of the ones near you to make sure you will get quality training with lots of time on the road behind the wheel. Private schools will have new classes starting soon, and they are most familiar with the industry.
Public Schools are local community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools and state colleges that offer truck driver training. They are chartered, owned, operated and funded by a state or local government. Here many other courses besides truck driving are offered. The tuition may be lower at a public school because it has outside support, and the class size can be smaller. Generally, the class schedule is longer and more thorough. However, you may have to wait for the start of the next class, and the schedule is less flexible. If you need a job quickly, a private school may work out better for you.
Your third option to become a truck driver is Motor Carrier Training. Some freight carrier companies run their own driver training schools at no cost to the students. For those who qualify, you can even be pre-hired before you finish training. Their intention is to get drivers fast, so the training program can be quick and dirty. It's likely you'll have a co-worker as an instructor. One national transportation company offers a work/study program for on the job training, with 50% of your time at unpaid work loading and unloading freight, and 50% of your time in truck driver training. They guarantee you a job with them waiting for you after you get your CDL license. At some carrier companies, when you finish their training and start driving for them, each week on the road you are paying off a portion of your training cost. But there are drawbacks to training with a motor carrier. If you quit, you may still owe the company money for your training. And it may also be difficult to get a job driving for another carrier, because you lack school training.
Happy trails to you wherever you drive.
I wish you much success in life.
I hope you have a very happy day.
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