How to Get a CDL License

The ultimate guide to obtaining your Class A Commercial Drivers License

 

 

If you want to now how get a CDL license then this page is for you! On this page you will discover what type of CDL license you need, where to train for it, how to pay for it, and what you can do with it once you have it! The Truck Driver Shortage has caused salaries and benefits packages to increase in order to attract new truck drivers. That means it has never been a better time to learn how to get your CDL.

What is a CDL License?

The term “CDL” stands for Commercial Driver’s License. In order to drive a commercial motor vehicle in the United States, the driver must hold a valid Commercial Driver’s License, or “CDL”. Class A and Class B are the two main types of CDL licenses. In the section below we will explain the differences between the two types. 

What is a Class A CDL License?

A Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) shows carriers and employers that you are a certified and competent licensed Professional Truck Driver. Operating certain commercial motor vehicles requires specialized skills and knowledge. With a Class A CDL and the proper endorsements, you may drive the following types of vehicles:
  • Tractor-trailers
  • Truck and trailer combinations
  • Tanker vehicles
  • Flatbeds

What is a Class B CDL License?

A Class B CDL License is needed to operate any single vehicle that isn’t hitched to a trailer. Class B CDL holders take up positions driving smaller vehicles as bus drivers, furniture delivery, cement production, and auto-transport driving.  Vehicles requiring a Class B CDL license may include: 
  • Buses
  • Dump Trucks
  • Tow Trucks
  • Delivery Trucks
  • Garbage Trucks

What type of CDL license do I need?

While the type of license you’re looking for depends on what kind of work you’re getting into, Roadmaster courses are geared towards getting your Class A CDL, which is required for over-the-road (OTR) Professional Truck Drivers. Since April of 1992, all drivers have been required to have a CDL in order to drive a Commercial Motor Vehicle. Tractor-trailers require advanced skills and knowledge above and beyond those required to drive a car or other lightweight vehicle.
  • Vehicles requiring a Class A CDL license are primarily tractor-trailers driving long distances. This license offers the most job opportunities and earning potential.

     

  • Vehicles requiring a Class B CDL license may include buses, dump trucks, tow trucks, delivery trucks, and garbage trucks. These types of driving jobs typically pay less than Class A tractor-trailer driving jobs hauling freight across state lines.

Why do I need a Class A CDL License?

By requiring a Class A CDL license, the FMCSA and DOT ensures that unsafe drivers are not behind the wheels of commercial vehicles. The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act’s goal is to improve highway safety by ensuring that drivers of large trucks and buses are qualified to operate those vehicles and to remove unsafe and unqualified drivers from the highways. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has developed and issued standards for testing and licensing commercial motor vehicle drivers.

Among other things, the standards require states to issue a Class A CDL to a commercial motor vehicle driver only after the driver passes knowledge and skills tests administered by the state related to the type of vehicle to be operated. Drivers need a CDL license if they drive interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce.

How to get your CDL License

How do I get my Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)?

States are able to issue a CDL license only after a successful written and driving test has been completed at a state or approved testing facility. In order to get a Class A CDL License, you need to have a minimum of 160 hours of combined classroom and behind the wheel training driving a truck.

Truck Driving Schools, like Roadmaster, teach you everything you need to know to get your Class A CDL license in as little as 3-4 weeks. Once you have your Class A CDL you are ready to head to your new employer for additional training.
 
It’s important to train for your CDL exam for two reasons:
  • The test itself can be extremely difficult to pass without the proper training.
  • Many carriers won’t hire a candidate without at least 160 hours of proper training, even if you’ve passed the CDL exam.

Tips for getting and maintaining your CDL

  • Stay healthy: Driving long distances requires focus and good health. The trucking lifestyle can be demanding, and it’s important that you’re in shape enough to meet the responsibilities of the role. Physical examinations are mandatory for most CDL seekers.
  • Don’t do drugs: Obtaining a CDL requires the successful completion of a five-stage drug test at the school level. Random drug tests are possible for all drivers so long as they hold their CDL. Many carriers are transitioning to hair follicle testing that look back up to 90 days for drug usage. Testing positive for drug usage at any point will result in a driver losing their CDL and being unable to work in the industry. 
  • Keep a clean driving record: CDL training schools and trucking carriers look for drivers who have proven to be skilled and safe on the road. Speeding tickets, DUIs, and other traffic violations are important factors when getting a CDL but don’t automatically mean you’re disqualified.
  • Be of age: Drivers must be at least 18 years of age to be employed intrastate (within your own state) and at least 21 to drive interstate (across state lines).
  • Sign up for training at an approved training school: Best in industry schools like Roadmaster are a great way to get your foot in the door. Virtually all carriers recognize the value of a Roadmaster-trained driver. Learn more by reading “How to Pick a CDL Training School in 3 Steps”

CDL License Requirements

  • Identification – You will be asked to provide proof that you are either U.S. citizen or else have a lawful presence. Your identification must have your full name on it (including first, middle, and last) and must state your age. Drivers ages 18-20 are only permitted to drive intrastate (within the same state) while drivers 21 and older are permitted to drive interstate (between states).
  • Proof of State Residency – In order to get your Class A CDL, you’ll need to show proof of where you live. The CDL exam is a state-level exam and licenses are also issued through the state.
  • Evidence of an SSN – You will be asked to provide proof of a Social Security number by presenting official documents stating it. All SSN documents must be originals and copies will not be accepted.
  • Passed CDL Exam – This is the last stage before earning your CDL exam! It’s very important that you come prepared to answer trucking questions and demonstrate driving skills in a truck on the road.
Requirements change and update over time, so for the most up-to-date information check with your state DMV or DOT, or chat with a Roadmaster representative.

How to pick a truck driving school

How To Pick a CDL License School

Quality
 

The quality of the training is the most important thing you want to look for when weighing options. Roadmaster has over 25 years of experience training drivers, with locations nationwide and late model trucks. We’ve trained over 100,000 students and know just how important good training is.

Length of Training
 
The length of the program is often a concern among prospective students. Let’s face it, not everyone has the luxury of spreading their training out over six months or longer. Many people need to start earning money much sooner in order to pay their bills, support their families or handle any number of other responsibilities. So, be sure to find out how long it will take before you start earning money. A good program will take somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-4 weeks. Any less than that (say, two weeks) isn’t enough time to properly prepare for the CDL exam. And any longer than that (some programs may take several months!) might be more time than you actually need to spend, especially since many of the reputable trucking companies you’re probably hoping to get a job with will want to train you themselves on some of the more advanced techniques after you get your CDL anyway.

Once you’ve chosen a CDL training school, it’s time to get down to business. If you’ve chosen wisely, the quality training program will teach you the skills you’ll need in order to be well-prepared for your CDL exam. The training should be a mix of classroom learning, training pad practice and in-the-truck experience. From concepts like filling out log books and ELDs to hands-on experience with coupling/uncoupling, backing, driving and more, your training should cover all the basics and put you in a position to approach the CDL exam with confidence.

What to Bring to Truck Driving School

As far as what to take with you to your training, it’s a good idea to check with your school beforehand. Each school is different and has certain items they may want or require you to bring that other schools don’t. For example, at some Roadmaster schools, there may be a few items that will make training a little more comfortable for that particular location, depending on the regional climate. For a list of some of the often-overlooked items you may need, take a look at this article on the “Top 5 Things You’re Forgetting to Take to CDL School.”

How to pay for cdl training

How to pay for CDL Training

You’ve seen the trucks on the road, and now you’re ready to make the career change you’ve been talking about by becoming a Professional Truck Driver. Roadmaster has spent decades developing financial assistance programs to help students like you get training and live up to your potential.

Ways to finance your CDL Training

  • Regular bank loan
  • For qualified candidates, Roadmaster offers financial assistance
  • Friend or relative
  • Post 9/11 GI Bill

Tuition Reimbursement up to 100%!

Roadmaster works with many trucking companies that offer Tuition Reimbursement Programs. You agree to work for a company for a certain amount of time and in return, they will pay up to 100% of the cost of school. Roadmaster cares about our students and cares about the investment they make towards their future. With numerous carriers sending Driver Recruiters to our schools each month, you will be able to find the best fit for you in terms of pay rates & bonuses, driving options, schedules, home time, benefits and other perks!

WHAT IS A PRE-HIRE LETTER?

What is a Pre-Hire letter and how do I get one?

A pre-hire letter states that you meet the company’s hiring requirements and that they are interested in employing you as a driver. Instead of worrying about job placement, you can sign on with a top carrier in your first week of classes! Regardless of whether you decide to take the job, you could have an actual job offer (pre-hire letter) in your hand to compare with other offers.

To get a pre-hire letter, individuals must first submit their applications for positions with carrier companies. Carriers will then review the application to determine if the candidate is a good fit for their company. They aren’t going to waste the time and money to bring drivers to orientation if they don’t meet company standards.

Tips for earning a pre-hire letter

  • Enroll in a comprehensive truck driver training school like Roadmaster, where you will learn essential skills and trucking know-how
  • Come prepared to learn and take the course seriously. Ask questions as often as you need and stay engaged in the class
  • Fill out carrier applications honestly and thoroughly, seeking help from job placement personnel if needed
  • Show interest and ask questions when carriers visit your CDL training school

How to pass your cdl exam

Taking the CDL Exam

So let’s fast forward about 4 weeks or so from now. You’ve already made the decision to invest in your own future by becoming a professional truck driver. You’ve chosen a quality CDL training school and have put in the work necessary to earn your Class A CDL license. Now, only one thing stands in your way is the CDL exam.

If you’ve followed these steps, chosen the right driver training program and paid attention to your trainers, the CDL exam shouldn’t be scary. It’s your moment to shine. You should be looking forward to it because it could be the turning point where you accomplish your goal and achieve a whole new life and career in the exciting, in-demand Professional Trucking Industry!

How to Pass Your CDL Exam

The CDL test is the first hurdle for those looking into a career as a CDL truck driver. After you’ve passed your CDL test you can begin your truck driving career. What is the CDL test? Just like you’d test for your state driver’s license, CDL truck drivers need to prove that they can drive a truck safely on the highways. That’s where the CDL test comes in!
 
The Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is proof that you are a knowledgeable driver. In order to receive a CDL, you’ll need to answer a series of trucking questions and prove to a tester that you can drive a semi-truck. The CDL written test is made up of about 50 questions covering topics like
  • Accident procedures
  • Map reading
  • Hooking and unhooking trailers
  • Night driving
  • Braking
  • Anticipating hazards
  • Railroad crossing
  • Skid control and recovery, among others
The second portion of the CDL test is driving a semi while a tester observes you. You’ll have to demonstrate that you can do things like back up the truck and merge into traffic in addition to other driving techniques. That’s a lot to prepare for! However, there’s a lot to look forward to once you pass the CDL test!

Getting Ready For The CDL Test

At Roadmaster, we do our absolute best to make sure our graduates are fully prepared to take the CDL test upon their graduation from training at Roadmaster. If a student is having a difficult time getting the hang of a specific part of the CDL training course, our instructors will work with them to teach what is needed in order to overcome the problem area, even providing extra training if needed. That way, when a student finally takes the CDL exam, the student can take their exam with a feeling of confidence.

What if I fail? Re-Training/Taking the CDL Exam

If a student puts in the hard work, learning as much as possible, and still falls short of passing the CDL test? Now what?
First of all: Don’t panic! It won’t be the first time someone has failed, and most likely won’t be the last! For those who don’t pass the CDL exam on the first try, don’t worry, Roadmaster won’t leave you hanging. Roadmaster will work with students going over the problem areas, and when the instructors are confident that the student has improved enough, they will suggest to re-take the test, this time even better prepared with extra training under their belt and likely much less nervous since they’ve taken the exam before and know what to expect.

Passing The CDL Test

When a student passes the CDL test, they’ll be ready to begin their career as a professional truck driver. In many cases, that will mean getting even more advanced training with the company carrier they decide to sign with. While we obviously prefer all students to pass the CDL Exam on their first try, there’s no shame in having to take it again. When a student achieves their Class A CDL license, the number of attempts doesn’t go on a permanent record. As long as the student shows up every day ready to work hard, pays close attention to the instructors, Roadmaster will do it’s very best to help its students pass their CDL test!

Truck Driving Career Benefits

Truck Driver Career Benefits

 
After you’ve passed the CDL test and earned your license, you can apply to trucking positions across the country! Right now Class A CDL truck drivers are in high demand. Our country needs its truck drivers, and many carrier companies offer new drivers great pay and awesome benefits.
 
So, what’s on the other side of the CDL-test hurdle? As a CDL truck driver, you could be offered
* Health Insurance
* Dental and Vision Insurance
* 401k options
* Life insurance
* Opportunities to travel cross-country
* Paid vacation and sick time, and more!
 
Many carrier companies also offer their drivers bonuses and extra pay for specific milestones. Safe driving, cutting down on fuel costs, and driving a certain amount of miles in a month could earn you a little extra money. Having a friend sign on with the same company could also earn you a referral bonus. The types of bonuses and the amount you could earn vary with each trucking company. Once you’ve passed your test, make sure to do your research to find the best carrier for you!

Got Your Class A CDL? Now what?

Now, that you’ve spent considerable time and effort in obtaining your CDL — it only makes sense to seek the best opportunities for which you are now qualified. Career Services at Roadmaster is a resource given to trainees to help them find and apply for jobs, for the length of their career, at no additional charge. With the help of our friendly industry experts, trainees learn the process of submitting an application to a carrier. Instructors guide students through job applications and see that trainees earning their CDL are given a choice of top-name carriers to apply to.
 
You may also choose to look online and apply directly to the carriers themselves. There are also numerous job boards that list thousands of job openings available to Class A CDL license holders. 

 

The Truck Driver Shortage

What is the Truck Driver Shortage?

The job outlook for those who have a Class A CDL and can drive a tractor-trailer is great. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of job openings for heavy and tractor-trailer operators is expected to increase by more than 20 percent between 2010 and 2020. This is a much faster rate of grown than that of most other occupations. This increased need for heavy truck operators isn’t surprising. As the economy continues to strengthen, more goods and products need to be moved across the country and much of it travels by truck.
 
You’ve probably heard about the current truck driver shortage and the effects it could have on the future trucking industry. Have you heard that if the current rate continues, there will be a shortage of nearly 175,000 truck drivers by the year 2024? That’s what American Trucking Associations (ATA), a major voice in trucking, has backed up with studies and data published over the years. A shortage of 175,000 truckers is a really big deal! Considering that America is very dependent on the Over-the-Road truck driving industry, a gap in the workforce could do a lot of damage. The ATA says “68.9% of all freight tonnage is moved on the nation’s highways.” Truck drivers have a vital roll in the economy and without their help, many of the US states would go without basic everyday needs.

What’s causing the truck driver shortage?

Like most issues this large, the truck driver shortage is the result of a combination of things, mainly an increase in production and a high number of retiring truck drivers.
 
Improving Economy – As the nation’s economy improves, the production and output from American companies goes up, too. The unemployment rate, reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is at its lowest point in decades. More jobs mean more spending, and more spending means more production! The goods and materials being produced need to make their journey across the states, and it’s up to truck drivers to see that they get to their destinations. Without the help of truck drivers, the progress we’ve made in the economy would come screeching to a halt, and many would be left without basic necessities. Class A CDL truck drivers are very needed to keep the economy moving in the right direction!
 
Truck Driver Retirees – Retirement isn’t far away for many truck drivers, and their absence could leave a substantial gap in the truck driving industry. The current average truck driver is around the age of 49, according to the ATA. ­A wave of retirement could leave the trucking industry and the economy in a very tough spot. That’s not to say they shouldn’t take their retirements. Truck drivers put in long hours and a lot of hard work, and they deserve peace and relaxation. If new drivers don’t step in to fill their roles, though, who will transport the country’s goods and necessities?

The Truck Driver shortage means opportunities for new drivers!

Because there are so few drivers entering the industry, companies compete with one another with better pay and incentives for new hires. That’s great news for anyone looking to earn a Class A CDL license! As a truck driver, you could look forward to great benefits like
  • Medical and dental insurance
  • 401k retirement plan options
  • Life insurance
  • Paid vacation and sick time
  • Changing scenery
  • Job Security
  • Rider and pet policies, and more!
Because truck driving can’t be outsourced and because the current demand is expected to go up in the next decade, job security is another big advantage for professional truck drivers. If you have the drive to be a trucker, know that there are plenty of rewards within your reach! Truck drivers aren’t just fought over by major carriers, they’re needed all across the country. We all rely on our CDL-trained truck drivers to make sure the economy keeps moving in the right direction!

Why choose Roadmaster for CDL Training?

Roadmaster is the premier CDL training school because, in over twenty-five years of operation, we have proudly trained more than 100,000 men and women to make a living driving a truck. We are committed to helping future truckers pass the CDL knowledge and skills tests and get their new careers on the road in as few as 3-4 weeks!
 
Here are just some of the benefits you’ll enjoy as a Roadmaster student:
  • Comprehensive, hands-on truck driver training with expert Roadmaster instructors. From the classroom to the practice pad, our staff provides a safety-focused training program that will help prepare you for a career as a professional truck driver.
  • Automatic Transmission Trucks are available at all of our locations. You will learn how to drive both so that you are prepared for wherever your career takes you.
  • Top-notch practice equipment and facilities, including spacious classrooms and computer labs, specially designed field-driving courses and late-model tractor-trailers exclusively for student training.
  • Classes that focus on CDL license exam preparation and skills necessary to become a professional truck driver.
  • Multiple Training Locations nationwide. We can also help arrange hotel and travel for students who live far away.
  • Many locations allow you to take your CDL License exam right at the school. Some states, however, require you to take the test at their location. Roadmaster can help provide transportation to and from off-site CDL testing facilities for those who need it.
  • Trucking companies send representatives to our schools looking to hire our graduates. They will explain what pay and benefits packages that they offer so that you can compare who you want to work for.
  • Career Services helps our graduate find work before they even finish school. You may be pre-hired by a trucking company before you even graduate!
  • Financial Assistance is available for those who qualify. We work with students with all types of credit histories to try to help them pay for school.
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