If you are reading this, chances are you are looking into a career on the road. Before you learn how to become a truck driver, let us state the facts – trucking is a career that is very challenging. However, with that challenge come great rewards. Trucking is among the highest-paid blue-collar jobs out there.
Having said that, not everyone is fit for life on the road. But since you have decided to make the first step and inform yourself about how to become a truck driver, it means you are already ready for the challenge.
With that out of the way, here is the answer to the question that brought you here – here are the five(ish) steps you need to follow to become a truck driver.
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Step One: Qualify to Become a Truck Driving Student
There are a few prerequisites to even begin thinking about becoming a truck driver. You need to first attend truck driving school. Here are the necessary things you must meet to be eligible:
Trucker Students Need a State Regular Driver License
The first prerequisite to becoming a truck driver is having a State Regular Driver License. Without this license, you are not allowed to drive a family-owned vehicle, let alone a commercial truck. This license is also needed to get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
Truckers Need at least a High School Diploma or GED Equivalent
The second prerequisite is employer preference and is backed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most employers in trucking expect at least a high school diploma (or GED equivalent) from their drivers.
You Must Be at a Certain Age to Drive a Truck
The third prerequisite is the age of the truck driver candidate. For in-state (intrastate) routes, you need to be at least 18. For state-to-state (interstate) routes, you need to be 21.
Miscellaneous Criteria to Meet for Trucker School
The fourth prerequisite is a collection of things that you must meet, including:
- Pass a background check,
- Furthermore, pass TSA screening,
- Also, you need to pass a medical examination,
- Pass drug tests,
- Have a social security card,
- Be able to show proof of insurance,
- Having a driving record in good standing,
- Possess proof of residency in the country you live in,
- Not having a CDL in another state.
Step Two: Obtain a CDL License
Now that we are done with the truck driving school, it is time to talk CDL license. As we mentioned above, all the things you have to do in Step One are prerequisites to attend CDL school. Each school might have slightly different variations in their requirements, but the above covers the basics.
Each school has its own curriculum, but the general rule is that it lasts about eight months. Before you decide to pay the CDL training fee (which is between $3,000 and $7,000) make sure the school is up to standard. The eight-month-long course is a good way to start, but look more in-depth into what they offer as well.
After your CDL training is complete, to get a CDL permit, you will have to take a written test and pass it. And to get the Class A CDL permit, you need to pass three tests, which are:
- Road test,
- Vehicle inspection test,
- Backing test.
Each state has its own rules when it comes to these tests, so your CDL school training should cover that aspect. You can find additional information regarding them at your local FMCSA and DMV as well.
The Written Portion of the CDL Exam
To pass this test, you will need to prove your knowledge in the following:
- Proper inspection of the vehicle,
- Driving skills,
- Knowledge to calculate stop distance,
- Keeping proper distance while driving,
- Adapting to weather conditions,
- Acting in the case of an emergency,
- Gear shifting,
- Maintaining a FOV (field of vision) with traffic and dead spots,
- Handling the vehicle in a difficult situation, like ice, slippery roads, sharp turns, hills, heavy traffic,
- Sharing the road with other participants in traffic.
The CDL Exam
To pass the CDL exam, you will be asked to perform some, or all, of the following:
- Parking and reversing the vehicle,
- Passing through railroad crossings,
- Gear shifting,
- Changing lanes, turning,
- Merging in and out of traffic,
- Conducting pre-trip inspections,
- Conducting post-trip inspections.
After you pass the CDL exam, you will be able to drive commercial trucks.
Step Two (and a Half): Get all the CDL Endorsements You Want
While in CDL school, you can opt-in for passing some of the CDL Endorsements that will upgrade the general CDL license with a few more perks, enabling you to drive specialized CMVs. These include endorsements for Passenger Transport, Tank Vehicles, HAZMAT, and Doubles/Triples.
Step Three: Start Looking for a Truck Driving Job
With the hard part out of the way, you are now a proud CDL license owner. With a CDL license, you will get access to a huge pool of truck driving jobs.
Trucking companies are constantly in demand for truck drivers, so, wherever you look, you will find a job in trucking. But you want the best jobs for beginners, not just every job.
One more thing – the tests aren’t over. Before you start with an employer, you will still need to pass a drug and alcohol check, as well as a background check and a DAC report.
Step Four: Complete Orientation and Additional Company Provided Training
Congratulations, you are now a proud company truck driver! Now, you must follow two things: Employer orientation, and company training.
Orientation is usually done in groups, where the employer will hold an educational class and inform you all about the job to get you started. This includes company procedures, expectations, communication procedures, and more.
Company training will help you, as a new trucker, to get the hang of the vehicles, tools, materials, and equipment necessary for the job. You will probably be accompanied by a mentor for limited on-road training.
Step Five: Gain Experience and Move Up the Ranks
When it comes to trucking, moving up the ranks is a breeze. If you keep your record clean, meet your deadlines, and are overall a good employee, you will get a pay raise after pay raise.
Experience also unlocks better job opportunities, like local trucking jobs. And, if you have the guts for it, after a few years on the road, you can try your luck in ice road trucking as well.
It may prove difficult to get a job as a freshly baked CDL owner. However, many carriers do hire out of CDL school, and even provide you with relevant training – you just need to find them.
You can use our website to find jobs that require no previous driving experience and that will include additional training – by using our Quick Application Form!