Is that a trick question? Well, yes…and no. While the requirements for getting a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, do vary slightly from state to state, we can provide four steps that will serve as a basic guide on what to expect.
Before we get to those steps, candidates really should spend some time reading about the CDL and choose the classification they will need – Class A, B or C, depending on the driving they expect to do. A Class A license applies to towed vehicles over 10,000 pounds, the Class B is for towed vehicles less than 10,000 pounds and a Class C allows drivers to transport 15 or more passengers – like a bus or shuttle driver.
The license class is somewhat arbitrary, in that one license class may allow a driver to operate a different class of vehicle, provided they have the proper endorsement. Technically, the license’s endorsements allow for operation of differing vehicles. All this said, let’s move on to those four basic steps to getting a CDL.
Make sure you meet all requirements for getting a CDL. These can include age and certain physical elements. There also will be required documents…such as producing a current driver’s license, a medical exam certification and a copy of your driving record.
Get a CDL permit. Just like getting a regular driver’s license, a permit is required to move forward in the process of getting a CDL. This means passing a series of written exams covering general knowledge, air brakes, and combination vehicles. Commercial Driver’s License handbooks can be found online…or picked up at testing sites. Note: many states require that you hold a commercial learners permit for a required period of time in order to get a CDL.
Once you’ve decided on the endorsements you need, you’ll need to pass written CDL endorsement tests. Some endorsements, such as HazMat endorsements, may require a background check before it can be added to your CDL.
The final step is passing the CDL driving test. This typically is a three-part examination that encompasses a pre-trip inspection test, basic control skills testing and a driving test – either at a state site or approved third party test site.
Going through a CDL training course at a college or vocational school is a good way to go about getting a Commercial Driver’s License. The do-it-yourself method often winds up proving driving an 18-wheeler is more difficult than it seems. Fortis offers programs in Class A CDL and Advanced Tractor Trailer Driving at campuses in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Visit our Commercial Driving program page to learn more. Then, make plans to hit the road!