General Education

How to Become a Truck Driver

General EducationDecember 01, 2023

How to Become a Truck Driver

Trucks transported nearly 11.5 billion tons of freight in 2022, according to the American Trucking Associations. That represents more than 72% of all freight transported in the U.S. Truck drivers play a vital role in the transportation sector, and demand for truck drivers continues to grow.

Safely transporting cargo requires specialized training. For those interested in how to become a truck driver, the process typically starts with commercial driving school, which builds the knowledge and skills required for a career in truck driving. Drivers must also pass physical, knowledge, and driving tests to work in the trucking industry.

What Does a Truck Driver Do? 

Truck drivers transport cargo. Local truck drivers typically drive routes in a single state or area, delivering goods to stores and other locations. Regional truck drivers operate within a certain part of the country, generally covering less than 1,000 miles. Over-the-road truck drivers, also called long-haul drivers, cover the greatest distances. These drivers may even cross international borders. 

The primary responsibility of truck drivers is driving. But their duties also include securing their cargo, inspecting their vehicles, and following traffic laws and federal regulations. Truck drivers need many skills beyond driving skills to work in their profession. 

Steps to Become a Truck Driver

Operating a heavy truck, tractor-trailer, or other commercial vehicle requires specialized skills. Drivers must successfully complete an authorized commercial driving school program and obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Careers in commercial driving also require specific knowledge. In addition to road skills, drivers must understand the federal laws and regulations that govern truck driving. 

Most prospective drivers complete the following five steps to become a truck driver.

1. Attend Commercial Driving School

Drivers entering the freight transportation industry after 2022 must attend an approved driver training program. During commercial driving school, students learn about road safety, commercial driving regulations, and cargo transportation. 

Driving schools pair classroom learning with hands-on training. Learners develop road skills, including basic vehicle control, range skills, and backing maneuvers. They also learn how to conduct pretrip inspections and transport hazardous materials.

After completing a commercial driving school program, graduates receive a diploma. Driving school meets the CDL training requirements. The Training Provider Registry from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration lists authorized commercial driving schools. 

2. Develop Key Skills

Truck drivers need strong hand-eye coordination, mechanical knowledge of heavy vehicles, and safe driving skills. Commercial driving schools help learners develop these skills, which they can continue to strengthen after earning their diploma. Building these skills can also help prepare learners for the CDL exam. 

3. Apply for a Commercial Driver’s License

In every state, truck drivers need a valid commercial driver’s license. While each state has its own process, candidates will need to pass knowledge and skills tests to receive a CDL.

Applicants can choose between three classes of CDLs. Truck drivers typically need a Class A or Class B CDL. The Class A license covers vehicles weighing over 26,000 pounds, such as trailer trucks, flatbed trucks, and tankers. Class B CDLs cover school and public transportation buses, box trucks, and vehicles with small trailers. Class C CDLs cover passenger vans and smaller trucks. 

Before taking the CDL exam, applicants typically apply for a commercial learner’s permit. The CDL exam generally includes three parts: a vehicle inspection test, a basic controls test, and a road test. A CDL remains valid for five to eight years, at which point it needs to be renewed. 

4. Pass the DOT Physical Exam

Truck drivers need to be in good physical health. Before they can become truck drivers, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires candidates to pass a physical exam. Drivers must provide information about any medical conditions they have that could affect their job, including vision issues that require corrective lenses, hearing loss, or insulin-controlled diabetes. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides a list of licensed medical examiners who can conduct the exam. Drivers receive a medical examiner’s certificate that indicates they are physically qualified to operate commercial motor vehicles. The certificate remains valid for up to 24 months. For drivers with conditions that may require monitoring, such as high blood pressure, the certificate may expire in less than 24 months.

5. Complete On-the-Job Training

After truck drivers graduate from a commercial driving school, obtain their CDL, and get hired as truck drivers, they typically complete on-the-job training. Companies partner new hires with experienced drivers who act as mentors. 

During on-the-job training, which typically lasts for a few weeks, mentors accompany new drivers to train them for the specific job. For example, mentors offer information about the company’s equipment and transported materials. After concluding this on-the-job training, truck drivers are ready to work independently.

Job Outlook for Truck Drivers

The job outlook for truck drivers remains strong. Demand for truck drivers will grow from 2022 to 2032, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS expects more than 240,000 truck driver job openings to be available annually during that period. 

According to the BLS, the states with the highest number of truck drivers include Texas, California, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Truck drivers in Nebraska, Washington, Alaska, New Jersey, and New York have the highest salaries. 

Train at Fortis to Become a Truck Driver

Becoming a truck driver can mean new job opportunities and a higher earning potential. Launch your career as a truck driver by attending the commercial driving school at Fortis. You’ll prepare for the CDL exam as you build advanced range and road skills. 

Fortis is an approved training provider that can help you pursue opportunities as a truck driver. Contact Fortis to learn more about our commercial driving school.

Recommended Readings

How Women Are Shaping the Future of Truck Driving
What Does the Trucker Shortage Mean for Trucking Students?
What Types of Jobs Can I Get With a Class A CDL?

American Trucking Associations, Economics and Industry Data
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, DOT Medical Exam and Commercial Motor Vehicle Certification
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT)
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, How Do I Get a Commercial Driver's License?
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Training Provider Registry
Indeed, “What Is Over-the-Road Trucking? Plus Requirements and Salary”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers