What You Need to Know About Getting Your Commercial Drivers License

Operating large and heavy vehicles is a specialized skill. Before 1986, federal regulations stated that anyone with a standard Commercial Motor Vehicle license could also run a commercial truck. The problems produced by this relaxed ordinance caused a lot of unnecessary accidents. Now truck drivers must obtain a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) to drive and operate tractor-trailers. With truck drivers in high-demand, now is the best time to make a switch in careers. We’ve highlighted what you need to know and about the CDL to help you become a truck driver.

Becoming a Truck Driver

Becoming a truck driver is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. Before you take the plunge, make sure you understand what it will entail.

Qualifications

We will take a closer look at this a little later on, but it’s important to note that not just everyone can become a truck driver. You must meet specific requirements to obtain your commercial driver’s license.

Family

Most new CDL drivers will have long-haul routes that keep them away from home for awhile. Consider your family lifestyle and whether or not you will have the option to be away for an extended period of time.

Lifestyle

While there are solitude and extended periods of time away from family and friends, trucking is a rewarding career. The views, the destinations, and the people you will meet are unlike any other opportunity.

Qualifications to Get Your CDL

A commercial driver’s license is the key to starting your trucking career. Without it, you won’t be able to get a job with a company or as a contractor. There is a series of criteria you will need to meet before you can enroll in a program to obtain your CDL.

Age

Each state governs its restrictions on age requirement, but most will allow anyone to obtain theirs when they are 18 years of age. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires an individual to be 21 before they can start driving on the interstate. Each trucking company will have guidelines on minimum age requirements.

Education

Entry into trucking school is granted to those who hold a high school diploma or something equivalent.

Driver’s License

Most truck driving schools or CDL programs will require participants to possess a standard driver’s license.

Medical

Drivers are subjected to physical exams which are regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The purpose is to ensure that you are physically capable of driving. It also helps insurance purposes for both you and your truck driving company. The biggest problem drivers run into is high blood pressure. If it is too high, you could risk losing your CDL. Fortunately, when treated with the correct medications, it does not become an issue.

Felonies or Legal Issues

Having a record doesn’t automatically disqualify you from obtaining your CDL. However, you might run into some problems during the hiring process. Many companies will hire felons or individuals with legal issues but require there to be some years between the conviction and your application date. For a DUI, this is usually around 5 -10 years need to pass before a company considers hiring. For everything else, it’s about 7 – 10 years. One of the hardest to overcome is a poor driving record. This can include speeding tickets and lots of accidents. Companies don’t want to have someone on their books that could become a liability.

Classifications of CDL

There are a few different classifications of CDL drivers can obtain. Which one you get will guide your career as a truck driver.

Class A CDL

Truckers with a Class A CDL will operate trucks that are 26,001 pounds or more in weight such as:

  • Tractor-trailers
  • Truck and trailer combos
  • Tank vehicles
  • Livestock carriers
  • Flatbeds

It’s the CDL you will need if you want a license that is all-encompassing. With a Class A CDL, you also have the option to operate vehicles that fall under Classes B and C.

Class B CDL

Drivers with a Class B CDL will operate vehicles that do not exceed 26,001 pounds such as:

  • Passenger buses
  • Box trucks
  • Dump trucks
  • Small trailers
  • Tractor-trailers
  • Straight trucks

Some drivers who hold a Class B license can also operate vehicles that fall under Class C.

Class C CDL

Class C CDL allows drivers to operate vehicles designed to transport 16 occupants (driver included) and weigh less than 26,001 pounds. Drivers will operate:

  • Small HazMat trucks
  • Passenger Vans
  • Combination vehicles not covered under Class A or B

This license will also let you transport materials that are classified as hazardous under federal law.

Are you looking for a truck driver job? Visit our website to learn more about joining the Beacon Transport team.

Beacon Transport is a truckload carrier company based in Nashville, TN that specializes in hauling non-hazardous dry freight throughout the Southeast, Midwest and Southwest.