HOW TO GET YOUR CDL

Looking to get your CDL? We are super proud of you for wanting to take this journey!  Not everyone has what it takes to drive a truck.  It requires skills, experience, and physical ability beyond what most people can have. 

In all states, you are required to possess a Commercial Driver License (CDL) if you plan to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). If you want to know how to get a CDL, follow these easy-to-understand steps to streamline the process.

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Step by Step to get your CDL

Step 1: Are you eligible to drive a truck?
    • The minimum age for an intrastate license (within the home state) is 18 years in most cases but varies by state

    • The minimum age for an interstate license (nationwide) is 21 years

  • Get the required medical certification (Department of Transportation medical card) by getting a DOT physical from an approved provider of DOT examinations. All approved providers are listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners

  • Locate and have ready all personal verification documents. In most states, you’ll be required to show the DMV/DOT the following documents:

    • Proof of Age and Identity (e.g., Birth Certificate, Driver’s License)

    • Proof of Social Security (e.g., Social Security Card)

    • Proof of Residency (e.g., Utility Bill)

    • Proof of Clear Driving History (i.e., Certify that you have your license, it is not suspended and that you maintain one current license, not multiple licenses)

  • NOTE: Due to the requirements above, most drivers must obtain their CDL in their state of residency

Step 2: Study the CDL handbook
    • Pick up your state’s CDL handbook or training guide at your local DMV

    • To be sure you’re prepared for testing, study it thoroughly

    • To build confidence, practice tests that you can take online

Step 3: Fill out the application for a CDL Learners Permit (CLP) at the DMV, or online
    • Remember to be prepared to:

    • Show proof of identification

    • Show proof of residency

    • Have your driving record checked for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia

    • Show your DOT medical card (if available)

    • Declare which type of commercial vehicle(s) you plan to drive

Step 4: Turn in your CLP application in person and take the knowledge test
    • Pay the application fee

    • Pass the test and receive your learners permit for getting your CDL

Step 5: Choose the right CDL training program
    • A good training program will prepare you to sit for your CDL exam. Training programs are offered by private schools, and certain trucking companies offer company-sponsored training.

Step 6: Practice driving a commercial vehicle using your learner's permit
    • You must practice with a qualified driver sitting next to you (private school and company-sponsored training programs will provide supervised driver training time)

    • Be sure to practice the inspection tests and the maneuvers in the CDL manual. Getting your CDL means you must pass all three parts of the driving skills test:

    • Vehicle Inspection Test

    • Basic Controls Test

    • Road Test

    • You must have your CLP for a minimum of 14 days before taking your CDL driving skills exam due to Federal Guidelines

Step 7: Schedule an appointment for the CDL driving skills test
    • Contact your local DMV/DOT office to schedule your road test appointment 

    • If you’re attending a trucking school or company-sponsored training program, they will likely guide you in scheduling your road test

    • NOTE: Very soon, all states will require CDL training verification before issuing a CDL license

Step 8: Arrive for your driving skills appointment with the commercial vehicle you plan to drive
    • If you plan on being a tractor-trailer driver, arrive for your test with a truck (same applies for school bus drivers, etc.) If you’re attending a trucking school or company-sponsored training program, they normally provide the equipment for your driving skills test

    • Pay the required fee

Step 9: Receive your CDL
    • After passing your skills test, take all documents to the nearest DMV/DOT office to obtain your physical CDL

Image by Ernesto Leon
Image by Kelly Sikkema

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