Get your commercial driver’s license (CDL) by passing basic requirements and graduating from a trucking school or training program. This includes learning and familiarizing yourself with commercial driving through reading, lectures, behind-the-wheel experience and practical tests. The following is a step-by-step process on how to get your CDL.
9 Steps on How to Get Your CDL
1. Have a non-commercial driver’s license. Before you move on to large vehicles, it’s important you know the rules and regulations, and are comfortable with standard driving.
2. Pass the age requirements. Some states allow drivers who are 18 to get their CDL while other states require drivers to wait until they are 21. Drivers must be 21 to travel between states with a CDL. Check your state’s age requirements.
3. Read a CDL manual. Most states have a CDL manual you can access online or at motor office locations. These manuals provide information on CDL rules and regulations. They are also helpful for studying before taking CDL tests.
4. Get a CLP. A commercial learner’s permit (CLP) enables drivers to get practice driving vehicles similar to the ones they want to drive with a CDL. This will get you comfortable driving these vehicles before you take the skills test. When you drive with your CLP, you must have a CDL-holding driver sitting in the passenger seat next to you. A CLP can be obtained at your local DMV after passing a short test.
5. Attend a CDL program. Two options to learn about CDLs in the classroom are to attend a trucking school or a community college. The best option for you may depend on if you are looking to get on the road right away or if you are transitioning from another career. Some trucking schools offer Monday through Friday full-time programs that typically last about 3 weeks. A program at a community school is typically a few days a week and lasts for about 6 weeks.
6. Identify applicable exceptions. The federal government exempts some drivers from the skills test. Active military and veterans with two years of safe driving similar vehicles don’t have to take the skills test. This also applies to farmers, firefighters and some winter plow drivers.
7. Pass a knowledge exam. A knowledge exam is an online exam that tests what you know about commercial driving based on the CDL manual. This exam typically takes around an hour and a half to complete, and requires a pass rate of 80 percent or higher.
8. Pass a skills test. The skills test is where you get behind the wheel of a vehicle similar to the one you will be driving once you get your CDL. There are three parts to the skills test: vehicle inspection, basic controls and road test.
9. Research possible additional requirements. Some states have additional requirements and restrictions such as felony restrictions. Check your state’s CDL requirements.
How to Get Started
Now that you are interested in getting your CDL, learn more information about how much a CDL costs.