For most people seeking to obtain their commercial driver’s license (CDL), it’s been some time since they went through driver’s ed. This can make it difficult to know what to expect from a CDL training course. Will it even be similar to your driver’s ed courses? What will be covered? What will the test be like? If you’re hoping to get your CDL soon, keep reading to learn more about what to expect. And, when you do get your CDL, you can search our inventory to find your very first semi-truck and start hauling loads as you begin your career in trucking.
Get Your Learner’s Permit
Just like with your driver’s license, you can’t get your CDL immediately; you’ll need to get a commercial learner’s permit first, allowing you to drive on public roads while under the supervision of a qualified CDL holder. When applying for your commercial learner’s permit, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- They will check your driving record for the past ten years in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
- You will need to present proof of medical qualification.
- You will also need to obtain a medical card from the Department of Transportation, which requires you to pass a DOT physical.
- You will need to acquire your learner’s permit in your home state, regardless of where you intend to haul loads to or from after obtaining your CDL.
Once you obtain your commercial learner’s permit, you will need to hold it for at least 14 days before you can take the skills test to earn your CDL.
Learn from a CDL Holder
Once you have your commercial learner’s permit, you should partner with a qualified CDL holder for on-the-road training and driving experience. Many training programs throughout the country can partner you with a qualified driver for your training period. As mentioned above, you’ll need to hold your learner’s permit for two weeks before you can test for your CDL, so you should spend at least that amount of time working with a qualified CDL holder, though a longer training period may be better.
Any time you are operating a truck with your learner’s permit, the CDL holder must be present in the passenger seat (not in the sleeper portion of the cab), and must be awake and alert so that they can assist you at any time. This learning period will not be like driving in an empty parking lot with your dad when you had your permit as a teenager. You’ll be hauling real loads across the country with a CDL holder as your instructor. The instructor should be helping you learn how to complete a vehicle inspection, back the semi-truck properly, and safely drive and operate it out on the roads.
Note that even though you will be hauling real loads, you will generally not be paid for this learning period. However, this hands-on type of training will prepare you to successfully haul loads of your own in the near future, and set you on the path to a lucrative trucking career.
CDL School versus Self-Taught
Before we talk about the next step in obtaining your CDL, we want to take a moment to discuss your options for the training period described above. As mentioned, many CDL schools across the country can provide you with access to a commercial vehicle and a certified CDL holder for your training period. This could be a viable option if you already have access to a truck and a licensed commercial driver. However, working through a formal school to obtain your CDL is not technically necessary. You can pursue your training on your own schedule and in your own way.
However, if you don’t have access to these things, a CDL school is likely the best option. Also, keep in mind that many states have strict requirements regarding the number of hours you drive before you can get a CDL, and many trucking companies have requirements regarding hours driven as well. So, do your research thoroughly and ensure you get all the hours you need to start your career, regardless of which education route you choose.
Take Your CDL Exam
After your training period is over (generally between 2 and 4 weeks), you will be able to take your CDL exam. There are three parts to this exam:
- Vehicle inspection
- Backing skills
- Road test
You will need to demonstrate proficiency in all 3 of these areas to pass your test, so make sure that you feel confident in them before taking the exam. Your CDL instructor should also be able to tell you what to expect during the exam so that you’re better prepared for it.
Start Your Trucking Career
After you’ve passed your CDL exam, you’ll receive your commercial driver’s license and be eligible for hire as a truck driver for shipping companies across the country. Or, if you prefer, you can opt to purchase your own semi-truck and become an owner-operator of your own shipping business. Whichever route you choose, your CDL will open up a world of possibilities for you in your career.
If you decide to purchase a truck of your own, Arrow Truck Sales can help you find an affordable used semi-truck and provide you with financing options that can help launch your career. We also offer a robust Truck Driver Benefits Program for trucking companies that upgrade to our PRIME program. Benefits of this program include a free 6-month/50,000-mile warranty on PRIME-eligible trucks purchased through Arrow Truck Sales, a $1,000 PRIME allowance that can be applied to your first payment or used as a discount off of the online price of a truck or trailer, and $500 off the purchase of any NTP warranty. To find out more about our PRIME program, or to check out our available semis, call or stop by Arrow Truck Sales today.