How to Become a Truck Driver in the US: 10 Steps to Getting Your CDL

Truck Driver in the US

These are the basics of truck driving.

It is important to get started in your new career.

Here’s the good news. It’s easy to follow the steps to obtain a CDL.

It is crucial to get the “early steps” right.

You could lose your truck driving license if you do not get certain things right.

We’ll show you how to get your Class A CDL so that you can drive a truck and pursue the truck-driving career of your dreams!

How to Become a Truck Driver in America

Five Things You Need to Become a Truck Driver

  • To drive a car, you will need a driver’s license
  • Pass the FMCSA exam and all medical tests.
  • To obtain the CDL Learners’ Permit (required for initial training), write and pass a test
  • Take the CDL test and get your truck driving licence
  • To get a job, you will need to have driving experience once you have your CDL.
  • The training school you choose will not only provide the necessary license to drive a car but also the tools and resources needed to do all of this.

What does a truck driver do?

Transporting goods from one location to another is an essential service provided by truck drivers.

While some drivers only travel within their local area, long-haul truck drivers can travel across the country for several days or even weeks. Some drivers handle parcels while others transport hazardous materials or heavy machinery.

It is essential to understand the various types of commercial driver’s licenses available to truck drivers if you want to be a truck driver.

ClassA — All Class A vehicles have a gross vehicle mass (GVW) in excess of 26,001+ lb. A vehicle to be tow (trailer), must weigh more than 10,000 lb.

  • Semi truck + trailer combo (van, temperature-controlled trailer)
  • Semi truck + tanker trailer
  • Semi-truck + livestock trailer (typically called a Bull Hauler).
  • Semi-truck + Flatbed Trailer

Most vehicles of Class B and C (depending on what special endorsements you require)

Class A — Class-B vehicles have a maximum GVW of 26,001+ pounds.

  • Transport trucks
  • Different box trucks
  • Dump trucks with small trailers
  • Straight trucks
  • School buses
  • Buses for sight-seeing
  • Buses in the City

If the driver has any special endorsements, some Class C configurations are possible.

Class A — One vehicle with a GVW below 26,0001 lb. or a vehicle that pulls a trailer less than 10,000 lb or transports 16+ passengers and a driver

  • Buses
  • Tanker trucks
  • Hazmat Vehicles
  • Double
  • Triple Trailers

How to Get Your CDL – 10 Steps to Become a Class A Driver

It is important to remember that CDLs are issued by individual states, and not the federal government.

Most states require that students attend and graduate from a truck driving school.

Others can get their CDLs on their own, provided they are eligible and have passed the required tests.

You’ve shown us that you are determined to reach the stars and earn your Class A CDL. Let’s now take a closer look at each step.

A CDL is available to anyone between 18 and 21 years old.

After your 21st birthday, you can also drive a commercial vehicle in another state.

A physical and DOT card will also be required by an examiner for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSR).

To prove their identity, history, and state of residence, prospective commercial drivers must also submit the following documents:

  • Certificate of birth
  • Driver’s licence
  • Social Security card
  • Utility bill
  • Copy of MVR

You should ask your recruiter whether there are residency requirements for students attending truck driving schools outside of your home state.

While a high school diploma/GED is not required to obtain your CDL license as a driver, certain employers may require it to be considered for the job.

2. These are the issues that could prevent you from obtaining your CDL

Even if your eligibility is met, there are still many things that could stop you from getting your CDL.

These include:

  • Some prescription medications
  • High blood pressure, sleep apnea and diabetes are all medical conditions.
  • Physical handicaps such as missing fingers, toes or limbs
  • You could be charged with serious criminal offenses such as drunk driving or reckless driving.
  • Arson, kidnapping and extortion convictions

A physician may write a waiver stating that you are able to operate a commercial vehicle safely even if you have any of the above-mentioned medical conditions or physical disabilities.

Even for people with a history of crime, a conviction for felony may not mean the end.

A CDL is not a requirement for drug testing. However, they are required for commercial drivers who apply for CDLs.

Random drug testing will be performed on all employees once they are hired. You will also need to be drug tested if you are in an accident.

Drivers returning from vacation or short trips at home are often tested by carriers. This means that casual drug use is almost always an issue.

Many drivers are accustomed to the “it won’t happen” approach when it comes to drug testing.

It is foolish to spend thousands of dollars and months on a CDL in order to get it, only to have it vanish for some casual (and illegal!) recreation.

Nancy Reagan was right all those years ago.

Just say no to drugs

3. Take a class in a quality truck driving school

There are many CDL truck driving schools.

They include:

Private training academies, community colleges programs with dedicated instructors. Excellent courses

Mega carriers run giant CDL driver factories, many of whom churn out minimally-qualified steering wheel holders per truckload.

4. Get a copy of the CDL Manual for Your State

Although they are fairly standard these days, CDL manuals can vary from one state to the next. You will need a manual for the state you’ll be testing and training in.

You can either pick up a printed copy at the DMV, or you can download a PDF to your personal computer.

Printing a copy of the document can make it easier to study if you do.

You may be able email them a link to the manual that they used during training if you are attending an out-of state school.

5. Apply for a CDL Learner’s Permit

Online, in person or at the school where they are truck driving, students can apply for a learner’s license.

Students will need to have the following documents in addition to the ones already mentioned:

  • A copy of MVR with complete driving history for all 50 states and Washington DC
  • Your home address
  • Current driver’s licence and information about licenses you have from other states
  • Alternative proof of identification such as a passport or credit card or Social Security card
  • If the tuition fee has not been paid, students may have to pay an additional application fee.
  • It’s always a good idea if you can fill out your application at the driving school.
  • You’ll probably find staff who are familiar with the process and can assist you with any questions or missing items.

6. Take the CDL General Knowledge Test

After obtaining your learner’s license and paying the required fees, you will need to pass a general knowledge exam.

You shouldn’t have problems if you’ve spent enough time studying.

7. Learn, practice, and study

FMCSA regulations state that students must learn to drive with a CDL holder who is qualified.

Instructors are available for both private and company-sponsored driver training programs. If you live in an area that does not require formal education, you will need to search for a qualified teacher.

Although driving is more fun, learning in the classroom is equally important.

The classroom portion of training usually lasts around 300 hours. On-site driving and maneuvering practice are also done on public roads.

8. Take the final CDL test

You will need to pass the final exams in order to get your CDL and join commercial driving ranks.

Pre-trip Inspection – A vehicle inspection (Vehicle Inspection) Test – This includes checking things such as the engine compartment, suspension, and coupling devices for combination units.

A Basic Controls Test – This includes straight line and offset backing as well as parallel parking and alley docking

A Road Test–a driving instructor will assess the student’s awareness, general command of the vehicle and use of mirrors and turn signal. It also evaluates the student’s ability to brake and accelerate normally.

Endorsements – There are endorsements that you can obtain to help increase your chances in the trucking business. You can get Twic Card, HazMat and Twic Card.

You will need your learner’s license for at least 2 weeks before you can take the final exams.

You will be able to access the right vehicle for your class of license if you are attending school.

You must pass your Class A CDL test in a combination vehicle, not a dump truck or school bus.

If you are applying for your CDL by yourself, you will need to follow these steps.

Several states might offer test vehicles. Be sure to ask before you schedule your appointment.

9. Get your CDL (and what to do if you don’t pass the first time)

You’ll receive a copy of your license after passing the final CDL test.

After a brief waiting period, if you have anxiety or pre-testjitters or a failure to study, you can retake the test again.

Ask about the school’s retesting policy, including fees and waiting periods between retests.

Some provide unlimited free attempts until you pass. Some may charge additional fees for each test after the first.

10. Finding a truck driving job

After you get your CDL, you will need a job.

You will be placed as a truck driver automatically if you are enrolled in a CDL training program.

A private school that trains truck drivers may offer a program for you to work with a few trucking companies if you’ve completed the course.

If you don’t have a job, you will need to begin your job search.

Trucking companies offer training for CDL holders in their training and finishing programs.

These programs usually last between 2-4 weeks and sometimes longer. These programs are great for introducing your new carrier to the world of aviation. These programs will show you things that you didn’t know in your schooling.

The Truck Driver Training Options – It’s a Decision that Must Be Made

There are four ways to become a truck driver, and you can get your CDL.

It is up to you to decide which option works best for you.

Once you have decided on which training option you want to pursue:

Get in touch with the school or program that interests you.

Ask tons of questions.

To see the school’s facilities and to get a sense of its integrity, arrange for a tour.

Before you choose a school, take any information they give you home and carefully review it. Your driving career is heavily dependent on your choice of schools.

Compare the results of the different schools and programs to find the right CDL school for you. It will determine your professional truck driving career.

How important it is to choose the right CDL school

It is crucial to choose the right CDL school.

It is crucial that you select the right CDL training to help you get started in truck driving.

You can become a truck driver within a few weeks or up to one year depending on which training program you choose. You may not have enough time so it is worth getting your CDL fast.

You might not be eligible for financial aid or the money to pay tuition at a costly training school.

Perhaps the school’s location is important to you personally.

Perhaps you are in dire need of an income now, so you have to get your CDL.

Here’s the deal.

It is crucial to choose the right training program for you and your needs.

It is important to understand:

  • What amount of time would you like to spend at a school for training?
  • What amount of money can you afford to train?
  • You can choose where you want to go to training.
  • What speed do you want to be able to drive a CDL-qualified driver?
  • Next, choose from the available types of training.

These are the three basic types of training that you can choose from to best suit your needs.

1. Private CDL Schools

Tuition costs vary from one school to the next.

You can expect to spend at least a few thousand. This type of professional driver training usually requires that tuition fees be paid upfront. This program is attractive if you have the money to pay for truck driver training.

Programs typically last anywhere from a few days to a few years, depending on which schools they are.

Financial support is available for school expenses through a variety of programs.

You can find a variety of private CDL driving schools in most parts of the US.

Students can apply to a program at any time. If you are interested in this, you should be able get a CDL in a short time.

Many schools of high reputation offer a program for driving job placement with truck companies. The trucking company will offer you a job once your CDL is passed at the end.

This is not a common practice at all schools. Sometimes, the schools are affiliated with carriers that are not trustworthy companies.

Tip: Make sure you look for schools that are accredited for CDL Training to ensure they offer a quality, credible course.

2. Paid CDL Training + A Job

These programs are also known as:

  • Training in CDL for companies
  • CDL Truck Driver Training Free
  • Training Schools for CDL Training Sponsored by Companies

Drivers who don’t want to spend a lot of money on their training can opt for a company-sponsored CDL school program.

This is why this training program is so appealing to truck driver hopefuls.

This type of training will incur some costs, but they will be minimal.

Large trucking companies offer these programs. They train students to get their CDL and then ask them to commit to being truck drivers for a certain time, typically one year.

The trainee will have to repay the company for training costs if they break the contract.

Typically, wages are low in the first year of employment. The trucking company will pay more for the CDL training and the low cost of student tuition during the first year.

This type of training is available frequently and is ongoing.

Most programs are short and last for a few weeks. Although a student may be able to obtain a CDL within a short time frame, they will still need to sign a contract for the next one year.

Company training has the greatest benefit of all. The trucking company will offer the student a job as a driver after the CDL training. This is a crucial factor because many trucking companies won’t hire truck drivers without job experience.

These programs can be found in many parts of the United States. Many training centers offer accommodations for students from out of town.

Keep in mind that depending on the program, students may have to pay for their transportation.

Here are some examples of CDL schools sponsored by companies. You can find more information about their programs.

  • CRST CDL School
  • Prime Trucking School
  • Schneider Training
  • FFE Trucking
  • Stevens Driving School

3. Community College CDL Training

These programs have tuition fees. However, community college CDL training programs offer a second option.

Programs are typically only offered once a year. It may take a while for the next one to start.

Training is often done at a slower pace than private CDL schools.

Students who cannot attend the full-time program on a part-time or evening basis can take advantage of this opportunity.

Sometimes it could take a while for a student to graduate with their CDL. A community college program is a good option if you don’t have a lot of time to obtain your CDL.

4. You can get your CDL on your own

In some states, it is possible to obtain your CDL without having to attend a formal CDL training course.

There are however, motions in the U.S. that would eliminate this method.

For the most current information, check with your state.

Financial Assistance for CDL Programs

CDL programs can get expensive. Financial assistance is available for those who require it.

Programmes for company training

Truck driving companies may offer their own CDL training programs. This is an affordable alternative to private CDL schools.

Some companies take a percentage from your salary until the “cost of the program” has been repaid. Others may charge for the program but reimburse the cost after you have been with the company for “X” time. C.R., TMC Transportation and Swift Transportation are some examples of companies that do this. England, and Swift Transportation.

Federal Grants

Grants are funding that the government provides and does not require repayment. There are two grants that could benefit CDL drivers who are in training:

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act — This grant supports workers aged 18 and older who have lost their jobs. This grant can cover part or all of your program.

Federal Pell Grant — FAFSA determines eligibility for this grant. To find out how much they might be approved for, students in the undergraduate program can complete the application. The June 30th deadline for applications is the annual.


Women hold only 24% of all transportation jobs. Women in trucking are underrepresented in the field, so scholarships such as the “Woman in Trucking Foundation Scholarship Scholarship” help to support them. For women who are interested in obtaining their CDL license, you can apply for $1,000 towards your training.

Paid CDL Training vs. Private CDL Schools — Which is Better?

A reputable driving school is a good choice to start your new career.

If you live near a CDL school or community college offering CDL training, and don’t mind spending months away from your family to live in a hotel room with another student (and possibly bedbugs), this may be the best option. If you have the funds, this might be your best option.

These schools also have the best teachers and programs. There are many high-quality private schools, but not all of them have stellar reputations.

Companies that sponsor CDL schools are known for producing unqualified drivers.

Some require students to work as part of their team for very little pay for one year after graduation to cover tuition.

There are some important things to consider when choosing a CDL school

Is it local or outside of the state?

Are lodging, food and transportation included if you are outside of the state?

Are they able to offer financing?

Will you need to drive after graduating from a CDL training school?

Tuition will be waived if you do so and you have completed your mandatory employment period.

Is tuition inclusive of the fees for license and learner’s permit?

Do not just choose the school with the most impressive website or the best trucks.

Research each school carefully.

Why become a truck driver?

If you are able to make well-thought-out decisions, truck driving can be a very lucrative career.

The pay scales for professional drivers depend on what type of truck driving job you do and where you live. Some states pay more than others.

All over the United States, there are many truck driving jobs. The U.S. has a severe shortage of truck drivers, and it is growing. If you are interested in becoming a truck driver, there’s no reason to worry about the lack of work.

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