How to Get a Commercial Driver's License
Anyone considering starting a trucking business needs to have a CDL. That included the business person with a million dollars to hire drivers to the married couple who has one leased truck to start their in-state transportation business. To give you an idea of what you're getting into, a CDL is probably about as hard to get as a GED.
Getting a CDL is a combination of self-study, class study, and practical exercises. In CDL terminology, these are called the "knowledge tests" and "skills tests". There are CDL study manuals available online that will help you get started. You can also opt to just enroll in a truck driving school, or (and this is the best option) you can get hired by a trucking company that pays for the training of their new drivers.
Just in case you were wondering, CDLs have been required only since April 1st of 1992, so some of the old school drivers like to show their experience by saying they were driving before CDLs. You should also know that it is illegal to hold more than one CDL (per person), and that your CDL should be issued from your state of residence.
Who Needs a CDL?
You will need a commercial driver's license if any of the following will happen in your trucking career:
- you will be driving a vehicle transporting hazardous materials in enough quantity to require a placard
- you will be driving any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating, registered weight or actual weight of 26,000 pounds or more
- you will be towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating, registered weight or actual weight of 10,000 pounds or more
- you will be driving a combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating, registered weight of actual weight is over 26,000 pounds, with the towed weight being more than 10,000 pounds
- or if you will ever need to drive a Commercial Motor Vehicle, officially known as a CMV, because all CMV require a CDL to drive them
- or if you will ever be driving a vehicle designed or used to transport 15 or more passengers, plus the driver (so a total of 16 people)
So, clearly, even heavy recreational use could get you into these requirements. Driving a school bus of kids to a weekend camping event would require a commercial driver's license, as would some of the more elaborate RV rigs I see on the road.
Get a Class A CDL
There are different classes of CDLs: Class A, Class B and Class C. The best one, and the one that is most worth having and working for, is the Class A CDL. That's because you get all the priviledges of class B and C licenses by having your Class A CLD. Also, a Class B CDL has all the priviledges of a Class C CDL, but does not have all the priviledges of a Class A CDL.
Your Class A CDL will allow you to drive any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (or GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, so long as the towed section is more than 10,000 pounds.
Continue reading about how to get a Commercial Driver's License, the Knowledge and Skills tests
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