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How long does it really take to get your CDL?

How long does it take to get CDL
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October 12, 2018

On average, it takes about seven weeks to get your CDL (commercial driver’s license) when attending a full-time driver training program.

The length of time it takes to get your CDL relies on a handful of factors. It can take as little as three weeks or upwards of six months. However, there are many factors that determine how long it can take to get your CDL.

8 Factors that affect how long it takes to get your CDL

1. Type of CDL

CDL classifications allow you to drive trucks with varying weight ratings.

Class A is the primary classification for Schneider drivers and is required to drive any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. This would include a towed vehicle that is heavier than 10,000 pounds, as cited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Other classifications include Class B and Class C to accommodate for different GVWR or hazardous materials. Learn more about the differences between a Class A and Class B CDL.

2. Full-time vs. part-time programs

Two options when it comes to learning about CDLs in the classroom are trucking school and community college. Some truck driving schools offer classes Monday-Friday for as little as three weeks, or Saturday and Sunday classes for a little as five weeks. Check your local driving school for offerings. Programs at community schools typically meet a few days a week.

Consider how much time you can realistically dedicate to a program so that you are setting yourself up for success. Going full time, five days a week enables you to finish the CDL program at a faster rate. However, with work and/or family life combined with a full-time program, it can become a lot to manage.

Choosing a program that best fits your lifestyle is the first step to making sure you have enough time to digest and understand all that goes into operating a commercial driver’s license.

3. Classroom time

Classroom instruction offers essential knowledge to be qualified as an entry-level driver. Amount of classroom time will vary by program but may range from 30-80 hours. More classroom and instructor time may better prepare you to pass your written exam and head out on the road.

4. Driving hours

To practice for the CDL driving test, you must practice with a licensed CDL driver in the passenger seat. This will require time outside of the classroom. Programs may vary, but it is important to select a school that offers a generous amount of driving hours to set yourself up for a successful driving career.

5. Student ability

The easier it is for you to master tasks, the less driving time it will take to practice for your driving tasks. Driving ability is a large factor in how much time it should take you to prepare for your driving test.

6. Testing schedule/availability

A state may authorize a third party to administer CDL skills testing. This may include another state, an employer, a private driver training facility or other private institution or a government agency. With all of these variations of who can provide CDL testing, it is best to check what is available in your state or contact your local driving school.

7. Auto vs. manual truck

Although the type of truck does not affect the length of time that you spend in the classroom, it may affect how quickly you are able to master the skills needed to pass your skills test.

8. Endorsements

There are six different endorsements that can be placed on your CDL, which will affect the overall timeline. The endorsements are:

  • (P) Passenger Transport Endorsement
  • (S) School Bus/ Passenger Transport Combo Endorsement
  • (T) Double/Triple Endorsement (Tanker)
  • (N) Tank Vehicle Endorsement (Tanker)
  • (H) Hazardous Materials Endorsement
  • (X) Tanker/HAZMAT Combo Endorsement

How to get started

With the increasing driver shortage, there is a large need for trained truck drivers. Schneider can help you get started by connecting you with the ideal truck driving school for you.

About the author
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Schneider Guy loves the "Big Orange." He's passionate about the trucking industry and connecting people to rewarding careers within it. He's been the eyes and ears of our company since our founding in 1935, and he's excited to interact with prospective and current Schneider associates through "A Slice of Orange."

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