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How to Become a Commercial Truck Driver

Commercial vehicle operator

If you want to drive a commercial vehicle in the United States, you typically need a commercial driver's license (CDL). To get a commercial driver's license, start by contacting the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) nearest you. Each state has slightly different procedures and requirements. Generally, you will have to complete a written application, maintain a learner's permit for a period of time, and pass a skills test before you'll be eligible for a CDL.

Check your state's eligibility requirements

Each state has its own age, residency, and medical requirements for licensed commercial drivers. Generally, you must be at least 18 years old, or 21 years old if you plan to drive across state lines. Even if you never drive across state lines, you may need to be 21 if you work for a transportation or trucking company that is involved in interstate commerce.

Some states require you to have been a resident of the state for several months before you are eligible to apply for a CDL.

Choose the type of vehicle you want to drive

There are three different classes of CDLs. You also can get different certifications or endorsements depending on the specific work you want to do. The class and endorsements you need will determine what you will be tested on and how much your CDL will cost.

If you already have a job lined up, your employer will be able to tell you exactly what CDL class and endorsements you need.

What is the difference between a class A and class B license? With a Class A license, you can drive a vehicle with GVWR 26,001 pounds or greater and tow a trailer heavier than 10,000 pounds. A Class B license permits you to drive a vehicle with GVWR 26,001 pounds or greater and tow a trailer up to 10,000 pounds.

Get a copy of your state's CDL manual

You can get a copy of your state's CDL manual at your local DMV office. Some state DMVs also have digital copies of the manual available for download on their websites.

When you apply for a CDL, you'll have to take a written knowledge test. Study the manual carefully, as it contains all the information that you'll be tested on. You may be able to get sample questions or copies of old knowledge tests. These can help guide your study, but don't simply memorize the answers. The questions asked on your test will likely be different.

Complete your CDL application

Your state has a specific form you must complete if you want to apply for a CDL. You may be able to download this form online and complete it ahead of time. Many states require you to fill out the form in person at the DMV.

You may have to bring documentation to prove parts of the application. Read the instructions carefully and look through the entire document once before you start filling it out. Part of your CDL application will be a 10-year history record check. You must provide information regarding all other states in which you were licensed to drive, including the dates you lived there and your legal address.

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