What is a CDL
CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) is an official driving license for truck drivers in the U.S. The CDL is also applied for drivers of other commercial vehicles. CDL was put into existence as a safety measure of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 with a view to enhancing the quality of truck drivers in the US and improving the safety of highways. There are sets of standards applicable to the administration of states in qualifying and issuing CDL for truck drivers.
CDL is issued in every state and there are governmental agencies in each state that are in charge of the issuance of the license, and you can refer to them for detailed instructions on procedures to obtain the license. The federal US Department of Transportation stipulates guidelines and common standards for states in qualifying drivers for CDL.
In order to obtain the CDL, drivers must pass a written CDL exam, a DOT physical and health check, a drug screen, a behind-the-wheel skill test, all of which are observed and guided by the Department of Transportation. The skill test for CDL requires both CDL vehicle pre-trip exam and real vehicle control test.
After drivers have successfully passed their written exams and skill tests for the CDL in test facilities approved by the State, they are eligible to obtain the CDL issued by the authority in their state. There are 3 classes of CDL and each class corresponds with a specific type of vehicle:
Class A CDL: Vehicles that have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of at least 26,001 pounds (~11,793 kg) with the hauled freight of at least 10,000 pounds (~4,536 kg). Class A CDL is usually for drivers of big trucks and heavy loads, e.g. tractor trailers, semi-trucks, etc.
Class B CDL: Vehicles with the GVMR of more than 26,001 pounds with the hauled freight of no more than 10,000 pounds. Class B is usually applied for dump trucks, school buses, straight trucks, etc.
Class C CDL: Class C is for the rest of trucks and commercial vehicles that are designed for at least 16 passengers or for dangerous material freights, but not included in Class A or Class B CDL.
There are some endorsements one can obtain through extra tests on the CDL. Endorsements are only accessible to drivers after they have obtained their CDL.
T Endorsement: For double or triple semi-trailer. Obtained with a written test.
P Endorsement: Passenger vehicle. Obtained with a written test and a driving test.
S Endorsement: School bus. Obtained with a series of tests: written and driving tests, background checks, sex offender registry check and extra P endorsement.
N Endorsement: Tank truck. Obtained with a written test.
H Endorsement: Hazardous material trucks. Obtained with a written test, background check via the Transportation Security Administration agency.
X Endorsement: Combined vehicles that fall into the Tank truck category and Hazardous material category. Obtained with a written test.
How long does it take to get a cdl
The length of the training program depends on the school you attend and the type of vehicle you apply for. For example, big trucks (class A) will require more time to practice and learn compared to light truck or school bus (class B & C). On average, the time needed for the truck driving training programs ranges from 3 to 6 weeks. Some schools offer 2-week course with intense training. However, 4-6 weeks is the best amount of time to be spent on training programs, because the more you drive behind the wheel in your training, the better you will perform in real-world trucking business.
CDL license cost
The issuance and renewal of CDL costs about $50-80, depending on the state and the agency you work with. Endorsements can be added to your certificates with around $10 each. Written exams are carried out for $10 and driving test for $20.
The truck driving programs in schools range from $1500-4000 depending on the state and the school. Company-sponsored schools offer much lower price, even free programs, but they come with a compulsory driving contract, so you need to be careful. And that is how to get a CDL, wish you can achieve your dream!