The trucking industry has a lot to offer. Some even say it is reminiscent of the old American frontier, perhaps even the days of the cowboy. But instead of horse and saddle you have a truck and trailer. A truck driver is free to roam the open road, traveling from one destination to the next.
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Much like the saddle was once the office, so now the truck serves that same purpose. But just like it took more than a ten gallon hat and fancy spurs to be a real cowboy, it takes more than a truck and trailer to be a real trucker.
Along with a lot of practice, self discipline, and the ability to get the job done, there are other requirements as well. It takes training and proper licensing. Many companies offer training schools some even promise employment at the end of the course. But remember you must obtain a proper Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), and the proper endorsements for the load you are hauling.
Just like any industry, there are federal guidelines and state level licensing requirements. But also most companies have additional policies in place. Insurance companies usually will add additional requirements depending on the nature and products being transported.
In general, there are 3 classes of CDL’s; these have further endorsements for specific/specialized qualifications (tracker trailers, tankers, buses, etc.). Each one requires the driver to pass certain skills and written test. The three basic classifications are:
So before you embarking on a career as a professional truck driver make sure you know what is involved. Just like any career choice, it is highly recommended to look into the various requirements and regulations required by FMCSA The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the available training, and such.
But here in today’s article, we will try to touch on the basics and get you pointed in the right direction to be the next modern day cowboy…
The United States is unique that when issuing driver’s licenses there is not a set federal standard. That is not to say the federal government doesn’t regulate the industry, but getting the actual CDL is a state level issue. The requirements to obtain a CDL vary from state to state. It is highly advised that you check with your individual state.
Common CDL requirements may include:
Depending on the state there may be other requirements such as 2 years of driving experience. Federal law also has set requirements for hauling hazardous materials, chemicals, or special freight. Make sure you are properly trained and have all the appropriate endorsements.
Typically there are several steps to getting your CDL. Two key issues are the medical requirements (DOT physical exam), residency requirements in the state which you’re trying to get your license.
Then you need to know the type of vehicle and the kind of driving you’re getting your license for.
Here is the most important step in the process. As stated each state has its own guidelines, in addition to federal requirements. You must obtain a copy of your individual state’s CDL manual. This is available for pickup at field locations or can be down loaded from state websites.
I can’t stress enough the fact that each state has its own CDL requirements. These are based off the state of your legal residence.
Now once you have researched the company you wish to train with and know your state regulations here are some other basic steps in the process:
A CPL only authorizes you to practice on public roads with a qualified CDL holder sitting in the vehicle with you. Getting the permit is more than just passing the written test and showing you to be knowledgeable. Your driving record will be checked, going back 10 years (checking all 50 states and Washington DC).
You will need to submit proof that you are medically fit/qualified (usually a DOT physical). Be prepared to prove that you meet the residency requirements. Last but not least be prepared to pay all associated fees. (Hopefully you carefully studied your state’s manual as all this is spelled out in detail.)
Typically companies (and some states) require the completion of officially recognized CDL training prior to testing. Most places also require you to maintain your CPL for a minimum of 14 days before taking the actual skills test.
These tests are broken up into 3 parts:
You must pass all three! However, some states do allow you to use their supplied training aids to assist. Success is based off of your knowledge and abilities.
After successful completion and passing of the skills test, it is your responsibility to take all the appropriate documentation in for processing. Pay all applicable fees, as appropriate. Sometimes the licensing centers will issue the CDL right there; others send it in the mail. Double check to make sure all the information is correct.
As I said earlier, it is highly recommended that you practice, based off the requirements of your state’s CDL manual, before showing up for testing.
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