If you like to drive, getting a CDL license is a great option for you. It’ll get you started on a lucrative transportation career. Your days are your own and you can spend them doing something you already love.
To operate trucks that need CDLs, you need a lot of skill and safety awareness. It takes time and practice to get used to operating such a big vehicle. But, if you stick with it, your financial options are limitless.
What’s a CDL?
CDL stands for commercial driver’s license. It’s a driver’s license required for people that want to drive big trucks across state lines in the US. It gives the holder the license to operate a combination vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating, or GVWR, of 26,001 pounds. This goes for both commercial and personal drivers.
How Does Getting a CDL License Help You Get a Job?
The USA is in the middle of a year-long truck driver shortage. This is disastrous news for our economy. It’s plagued with national supply chain issues. But, it’s great news for anyone who wants to get on the field.
Additionally, the Biden Administration released plans to ease the shortage. They are going to make it easier to become a trucker. They’re also taking steps to improve truckers’ quality of life. The government hopes that these steps will encourage truckers to keep driving.
What Are The Benefits of Getting Your CDLs?
CDL drivers have good job security and flexibility. For instance, you can choose your routes on a per-job basis or you can select from a regular route. Furthermore, the average starting pay is quite high and comes with full benefits. Plus, it doesn’t require a lot of training, comes with a low cost of entry, and has significant room for growth.
Paid and Sponsored CDL Training
Many driving companies pay for your training. They cover their training programs and cover the cost of training and licensing. And they also give you a job when you’re done. This might lower your initial employment options. But you’re guaranteed a job once you’re finished school.
It’s a great way for new truckers to jumpstart that career. The contract isn’t that bad when you think about it. But, you must stay with the company for at least one year.
Also, keep in mind that these companies don’t hire and train new drivers every day of the year:
- When there is a hiring freeze on newbie training
- The company has a full team
- The economy is slow
On the whole, the industry has a very high turnover, so they’re always looking for new drivers. If your driving record is clean and you’re drug-free, a lot of companies would make a bet on you.
Good Starting Pay
The average truck driver’s salary is $46K. It starts at around $29,000 and can go up to $66K. But it’s possible to make a lot more. It all depends on the industry that you’re driving for, the type of cargo you transport, and the truck you drive.
The industries that pay their truck drivers the most include:
- Aerospace- $60K
- Scientific research and development- $61K
- Utility- $62K
- Motor Vehicle Manufacturer- $64k
- Motion picture and videos- $72K
Trucker Employment Benefits
You don’t need a college degree to go for a CDL license. Plus, you’re able to get good employment benefits. These include retirement, vision, dental, and other health plans. A lot of companies also offer paid vacation benefits.
Lots of Room for Growth
The different CDL endorsements are a boon for truckers. So are all the industries that rely on their driving expertise. The combination of the two factors shows how solid truck career growth options are. The more experience you have, the higher you can expect your salary to be.
Your pay also increases if you have different endorsements on your CDL. This makes you more valuable to the trucking company. Plus, you can change career paths and get in any type of truck you want to.
Gives You a Marketable Edge
Proof of having your CDLs is an advantage in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the transportation industry or not. You could work for forklift dealers or repair RV if you want. The effort and time you took to get your CDLs shows you’re committed to adding skills that provide value. It also shows employers you are well-rounded and can handle many responsibilities.
Job Security and Flexibility
As e-commerce blossoms, it’ll be the death of many physical stores. But not so for transportation jobs. Opportunities for CDL Drivers will soar.
Freedom and Independence
Trucking offers you the chance to go to the US as you’ve never seen it before. When you’re a cross country trucker, you’ll see more of the country in one week than people see in their entire lives.
Every day of your life will be under your complete control and you won’t have an office to go to. The only people you’ll report to are dispatchers. But, at least, you won’t have to put up with the constant micromanagement that comes from other jobs. You’re the one in charge of how you get from point A to point B.
How to Get a CDL License
One of your first tasks for getting a CDL permit is understanding what you can and can’t do:
- Understand the restrictions: For you to get your CDL license, you have to be 21 years of age for certain ones and 18 for others. It’s also important that your regular driver’s license has little to no restrictions on it.
- Take a medical and knowledge test: You must take vision and physical tests before you become a CDL license holder.
- Get your commercial license permit: After you’ve passed the knowledge exam, you will get a commercial learner’s permit. This lets you drive on public roads with someone that already has a CDL license. He or she will ride in the passenger seat so you can practice your driving skills. If you go to a truck driving school, they’ll provide you with a certified truck driving instructor. This invaluable one-on-one training will help you prepare.
- Taking the road exam: The testing site requires you to have your vehicle prepared for a pre-trip inspection. After you pass this portion, the instructor will go through the basic control skills. This ensures you’re knowledgeable of the various operating systems in the cabin. Now, you’re ready to take the full driving exam. This tests your skills in a variety of situations and it also tests your safe driving abilities.
- Get on the road: Now that you’ve passed your road exam, you can get several entry-level CDL jobs to get your career started right.
Types of CDL Licenses
There are three main types of CDL licenses:
- CDL-A: They let you drive any combination vehicle. This includes truck transport vehicles like tanker vehicles, tractor- trailers, 18 wheelers, and more. As long as they have a GVWR of at least 26001 pounds. This allows you to drive across the country. If you have a Class-A CDL, some states will let you operate any vehicles that require Class B or Class C CDL. This makes you highly employable in a lot of companies. Class A licenses take 4 weeks and you must be at least 21 years old to get one.
- CDL-B: This license lets you drive or operate any vehicle that’s not attached to a trailer. A Class B will let you drive a food truck and other similar vehicles. You must be at least 18 years old to get this license. In the US, you can only drive commercial vehicles in the state where you have your license.
- CDL-C: With this license, you can operate a single vehicle with a GVWR of fewer than 26,001 pounds. It also lets you drive for towing services, as long as the vehicle is towing weighs less than 10,000 pounds. In addition, you’re allowed 16 passengers at a maximum. This includes you. This license class gives you the authority to drive big tanker trailers, buses, tank trucks, and more. These towing safety facts will ensure everyone and everything you transport gets where they need to go safely.
After you finish training and get your CDL, there are a lot of endorsements available to boost your hireability in a CDL driver improvement class. They include:
- H- Stands for hazardous materials. Lets you drive trucks that contain hazardous materials. These include flammable liquids, radioactive substances, or explosives.
- P- Stands for passenger vehicles- Lets you operate passenger buses like the city bus
- S- Stands for school bus – You have to undergo a thorough background check.
- T- stands for double or triple trailers or tanks – Lets you drive trucks that contain liquid cargo.
- X- Stands for a combination of tank vehicles and hazardous materials.
How Much Does it Cost to Get Your CDL?
Depending on where you are, getting your CDL can cost anywhere from $2-8K. Some places offer tuition reimbursement and some states offer worker retraining funding.
Do You Have What it Takes?
Trucking is sometimes stressful. Usually because of the long hours and the time spent away from home. Long solo trips are lonely as well. There’s sometimes also a lack of food options or outside activities. But, there are great personal benefits as well. This holds for those who:
- Are very independent
- Have a sense of adventure
- Love of freedom
Should I Go To CDL Training School?
You don’t have to go to school to get your CDLs. But it is going to be very hard to find a trucking company or business that will hire you, so you can try it for them. If this is the route you take, there are a lot of free online materials you can study. They’ll help to prepare for the CDL portion of your test.
Another good option is to pay for driving practice times. You don’t have to attend an accredited school to take your endorsement examinations. But if you don’t get your CDL without going to school, then it’s hard for you to get a job. Because most companies require that truck drivers come from an accredited driving program. That usually means a minimum of 160 hours of instruction. This is because of business policy and insurance reasons.
Still, it takes a lot of practice to operate such a big vehicle.
Unlike normal vehicles, turn the truck in the opposite direction of where you want to go. Also, rely solely on your marriage because you can’t look behind you. This takes a lot of adjusting for most drivers. But once you learn how to, it becomes second nature.
Commercial vehicles have very different transmissions than normal cars – between 10 and 18 gears. This means you have to know how to double-clutch to get optimal performance out of your vehicle. You also need to know how to recover from a missed gear to keep the vehicle going. Over time and practice, you’ll learn how to do this without thinking.
Most big trucks use air brakes. This means it’s going to need more time to bring the vehicle to a complete stop. Although this sounds complicated, air brakes are easy to learn to use. It’s easy to become used to slowing down a quarter-mile before stopping. Going to school will teach you what your truck can and cannot do. This gives you experience, so you can adapt to whatever happens – even if it’s brake repair or trucking accidents. If you like to drive, you’ll find that truck driving is worth both the investment and your time.
The Bottom Line
CDL Drivers will always have options for movement and growth in the future. For those who like to roam, it lets you be flexible in where you call your home base. Or, you can stay in one city and drive a bus. It’s all up to you.