Getting Your CDL

CDL refers to a Commercial Driver’s License, an essential for legally driving big trucks on public roads. Trucking companies require that you have one before they will hire you.

Advantages of CDL Training

Most companies and experienced drivers recommend that people interested in driving a truck for a living go through specialized training. This has four big advantages:

  1. Experience with a professional driver in actual on-the-road conditions
  2. Classroom training in legal requirements and how trucks function
  3. Practice tests before taking the actual CDL license exam, both on and off the road
  4. Preferred, if not required, by potential employers in the trucking industry

Trucks are not merely oversize cars. They are heavy, complex pieces of equipment that require skill to maneuver safely. The more hands-on help you have learning to control them, the better chance you have of getting hired and avoiding accidents on the job.

The CDL Exam

The CDL exam has a written section and a skills section in three parts, including:

  1. Pre-trip inspection
  2. Basic controls
  3. Road test

Specifically, you will be tested in how well you check over the truck before a trip, communicate with other drivers on the road, shift gears and overall control of the vehicle. Examiners are interested in how well you handle speed restrictions and manage the space between you and other vehicles on the road.

Since the main purpose of the CDL is to ensure the safety of the roads, the person giving the exam will check how well you see and anticipate hazards. Braking, skids, and accident procedures are all covered.

Of course, you must be aware of the dangers of driving while drinking, but they also want to know how you handle distracted driving and understand the importance of being fit enough and alert enough to drive.

Railroad crossings are usually included in a test since this can be the scene of major accidents. The written exam will ask about driving at night and in different types of weather like snow and ice. You will be asked how you would handle specific types of emergencies.

The trucking industry has federal guidelines, but each state administers its own test. The goal of these tests is to weed out drivers who don’t have the ability to safely operate a large truck.

Who Needs a CDL?

Most big trucking companies require that their drivers have a CDL. There are three criteria established by the Department of Transportation, outlining when a CDL is a legal requirement. You need one when driving a truck with:

  • double or triple trailers
  • tanks
  • hazardous materials

After you get your CDL, be sure you are personally protected with commercial auto insurance. This will give you peace of mind, knowing you are covered in case of an accident.