Can You Be a Truck Driver at 18?
Your journey to becoming a truck driver starts early. We discuss limitations along with ways to help you prepare for your new career!
How Old Do You Have To Be To Become a Truck Driver?
Being an adult gives you freedom! When you’re probably finishing up high school and considering what direction to take your life, you might choose a career in trucking because of the limited amount of schooling required to get started.
So, can you become a truck driver at 18?
The answer is — sort of.
The United States Department of Transportation says an 18-year-old with an approved driving record and a clean drug and alcohol test is eligible to study for and apply for both the CDL Class A and Class B. However, you can’t really make the big bucks with a CDL Class A because you can’t drive a truck across state lines until the age of 21. (You also can’t attend a formal truck driving school until you’re 21.) Adults of all ages make the switch to a career in truck driving, but waiting it out until you turn 21 might be a better idea.
What Types of Trucking Can I Do?
Ideally, the moment you turn 21, you’ll enroll in trucking school and pursue the CDL Class A. While you can technically get the CDL Class A at 18, the federal government requires that you only transport cargo within your own state until the age of 21. And that sucks.
Sure, the government can change this rule at any time. But at the moment, it’s sometimes difficult to find employment with larger logistics companies as they are usually seeking to hire new drivers that can travel between several states. However, there are several paths available to get meaningful, real-world experience that doesn’t involve interstate travel. Some of these are also in the logistics industry while others are more for the experience of driving larger commercial vehicles. You should use these opportunities to build the needed skill set to become a truck driver.
Or you could do something else entirely.
What To Do While You Wait
When you’re excited about starting a career but limited in your potential due to age restrictions, it’s tough. Three years seems like a lifetime away! But with great truck drivers comes great responsibility. Here’s what you can do in the meantime.
Driving long trips requires good health. Make sure you’re in good shape to meet the demands of the trucker lifestyle! (Physical examinations are mandatory for most CDL seekers, by the way.) Eat well and train hard!
Don’t Do Drugs
This is obvious! Getting a CDL requires the successful completion of a five-stage drug test, and random drug tests are possible for all drivers with a CDL. (Many carriers use hair follicle tests that check for drug use in the previous 90 days.) Test positive and you’ll lose your CDL. It’s that simple.
Considering that in the United States it’s currently illegal to use illicit substances and alcohol under the age of 21, this is a huge no-no from a commercial truck driving perspective.
Keep a Clean Record
One of the biggest things that you need to avoid when starting your career as a truck driver, especially when under the age of 21, is keeping a clean driving record. At-fault accidents, DUI charges, and other dangerous driving scenarios can negatively affect both your potential job outlook and your ability to even get hired by companies. So stay out of trouble!
Avoid Speeding Tickets
Other things to watch out for are speeding tickets. Most drivers have disobeyed the posted speed limits within their state at least once. As a hopeful, soon-to-be truck driver, you will want to avoid this at all costs! Not only can speeding tickets disqualify you from the license and potential job opportunities, but the danger also posed to both yourself and other drivers on the road is elevated when exceeding state-mandated speed guidance. (But you know that already!) Car accidents can be life-altering — it’s potentially even worse for drivers operating heavy vehicles like trucking rigs and large delivery trucks.
Get a local driving job and a Class B CDL license to gain experience.
You Still Want to Pursue Your CDL Class A at 18?
From driving for local logistics companies or regional companies within your state’s borders, this is probably the best option as it’ll give you more real-world experience on a truck and trailer with a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of 26,001 pounds with a trailer weighing over 10,000 pounds.
OK, So What About CDL Class B? A CDL Class B is a truck with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds including a towed capacity not exceeding 10,000 pounds. With this option, consider things like beer and beverage trucks and some smaller food trucks. Another popular way to make the most out of a CDL Class B is with industry-purposed vehicles like some larger firetrucks, dump trucks, and bucket trucks.
The Military Skills Test Waiver Program, available in every state, lets service personnel with a clean driving record of at least two years waive the need for a CDL driving test (skills test). So that’s good news. They must have held a military job within the last 12 months of applying for the waiver that required the operation of large vehicles, though. Bear that in mind.
But! Most military personnel have only operated automatic transmissions in these larger vehicles. This means that going to trucking school is still a needed step since almost all commercial trucking jobs require knowledge of operating a manual truck transmission.
With all that said, it’s a lot easier to wait until 12. But ultimately it’s up to you. Good luck!
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