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How to get your CDL – 7 simple steps for new truck drivers

A truck driver sitting behind the wheel of a semi-truck smiles as he drives.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes  

One of the steps to becoming a truck driver is obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Getting your CDL involves meeting certain requirements, completing a CDL training course, getting behind-the-wheel experience and more. 

But you may be wondering, “What do I need to know to get a CDL?” 

Below, we’ll explain what you should know before obtaining one and provide a step-by-step process on how to get your CDL. 

How to get your CDL 

1. Pass the age requirements. 

Most states allow you to obtain a CDL at the age of 18. But most trucking companies only hire drivers who are at least 21 years old.  

This is because truck drivers who are 21 years of age or older can cross state lines, while those younger than 21 can only drive within one state. 

2. Get a CLP. 

A commercial learner’s permit (CLP) enables you to practice driving semi-trucks.  

Some truck driving schools require you to have a CLP before starting their course, while others help you get the permit while attending class. 

But before you can know what CDL permit requirements to expect, you’ll need to figure out what truck driving school you want to attend

3. Attend a CDL program. 

To earn a CDL, you will have to attend a truck driving school or a community college.  

Trucking school programs last about three weeks, while a program at a community college usually lasts about six weeks. 

Your CDL program will consist of classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training. 

If you’re curious about what options you have when it comes to paying for CDL training, you can check out our blog outlining the costs associated with getting your CDL or visit our paid CDL training web page. 

4. Pass a knowledge exam and skills test. 

The knowledge exam is online and tests what you know about commercial driving based on information in the CDL manual.  

The skills test consists of three portions:  

  1. Vehicle inspection. 
  2. Basic controls. 
  3. Road test. 

5. Have the necessary documentation. 

The documentation required to obtain a CDL varies by state, but you can expect to prove your identity with the following:  

  • Valid non-commercial driver’s license. 
  • Social Security card or Social Security number. 
  • Birth certificate or valid U.S. passport. 
  • Permanent resident card (if you are not an American citizen). 

6. Pass a background screen and undergo a physical. 

To obtain a CDL, you will need to pass a DOT medical exam.  

You can learn how to start preparing for your physical by reading our top five tips on how to pass a DOT physical. 

You will also have to pass all applicable background screens. 

7. Be aware of any additional requirements. 

Some states have extra requirements and restrictions to obtaining a CDL, such as felony restrictions.  

Check with your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to see your state’s specific CDL requirements. 

Want to learn more about obtaining your CLP?

Are you ready to hit the road, but still need your Commercial Learner’s Permit? Obtaining your permit is as easy as completing seven simple steps. Find out how to get your permit by reading our CLP blog.

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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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