A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is the driver’s license required to operate a commercial vehicle in the United States. Large, heavy, or placarded vehicles such as trucks, tractor-trailers, trailer-combinations, and flatbeds are all considered commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).
To drive each different CMV, you may be required to obtain one or several special endorsements. The different endorsements you can obtain for your CDL are; air brakes, combination vehicles, double or triple-trailers, hazmat (H), tanker vehicles, passenger vehicles (P), or school buses. To get an endorsement you need to pass a skills test with an examiner and, for most endorsements, a written multiple-choice test as well.
These are the 16 steps you need to complete to get a commercial driver’s license.
To ensure that you don’t run into any problems in the application process, it’s best to check your state’s DMV website for the latest information.
A CDL can have 3 license classifications; Class A, B, or C. Each classification can be used to drive specific types of heavy vehicles or to transport certain goods like, for example, hazardous materials. You should talk with your employer about which type of CDL classification you need.
To obtain a certain CDL classification, you first need to complete the general CDL requirements and then apply for the recommended class-specific endorsements, such as air-brakes, double-trailer, or tanker endorsements. Most of the requirements and endorsements are federally mandated and the same for all US states, but there may be slight variations from state to state. An example being that some US states will issue a CDL for intrastate driving if you are younger than 21 years old, while others do not.
Read about How To Obtain A Class A, B, or C.
Getting a CDL takes just 7 weeks on average from the date you pass your CDL permit test. How fast you can get your CDL will depend on a range of factors, such as the CDL license class, how often you attend driver-training, and your talent for handling a large vehicle. Your commercial driving instructor will let you know when you are ready for the road test.
As the CDL learner’s permit is valid for 180 days, you can think of 180 days as the upper limit it may take. For the lower limit, it’s not uncommon that dedicated students complete their driver training in just three or four weeks.
In general, the cost will land anywhere between $2,000 and $7,000 for the full driver-training program. Part of getting a CDL is to pass a CDL road test which tests your road skills. As it’s unlikely you happen to have a commercial vehicle of the right license class (A, B, C) at home, each practice session has to be done by attending CDL training classes which are expensive.
In many cases, your employer will pay for the costs associated with getting the commercial driver’s license, or to add on specific endorsements. Check with your employer if that is the case as it will save you a hefty sum.
Misinformation often leads to people spending hundreds of dollars extra on stuff that is either free (like the state’s CDL manual) or that, quite frankly, doesn’t help you become a better driver (like using a more expensive trucking school to practice). While it’s not uncommon for a CDL license to cost thousands of dollars in total when you count in the practice hours, you can easily save a few hundred if you follow our top tips below:
We hope this article has helped you out! Best of luck on getting your Class A, B or C commercial driver’s license!
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