Becoming a CDL Driver
There’s no better feeling than hitting the open road with miles of possibilities in front of you. For those of us who hate being cooped up in an office, a career in truck driving is one of the best jobs in the world! If you want to know how to become a truck driver, take some time to research the industry and learn about truck driver training, CDL license requirements, and what it takes to become a truck driver.
So go ahead, get out there and chat with some established truckers. If you don’t know any truckers, head out to a truck stop to find some. Despite the long solo hours on the road, lots of truckers actually really like to chat and share what they know. Ask questions about the industry, what the job is like on a day-to-day basis, what their experience is, what opportunities there are, and what the salary is like so you can get an idea if becoming a truck driver is right for you.
Before you decide to become a truck driver and do your truck driver training, you should consider both the benefits and challenges of becoming a truck driver. Professional truck driving is more than just a job. It’s a career, even a way of life. And once you complete truck driving training and have your CDL, your future will shift into high gear. When you go to work, you won’t be stuck in a cubicle or a dead-end job. Trucking puts you out on the road so you can enjoy constantly changing, 180-degree views.
Freedom from the monotonous office grind is just one of the many benefits of being a professional truck driver. The longer you drive, the more your salary grows. Plus, many employers offer benefit packages, vacation time, and other perks. Whether you transport freight state-to-state, deliver packages door-to-door, or load and unload deliveries in your hometown, you are the lifeblood of our country’s economy. Professional drivers are in serious demand. Getting a CDL sets you up for a lucrative profession that will not only pay the bills today but keep you in a sought-after, high demand position over the long haul.
On the flip side, truck driving can be challenging because the job itself can be demanding, 11-hour days are common, delivery deadlines can be tight, and if you transport hazardous materials the job can even be dangerous. There’s also the challenge of living away from home for weeks at a time. While some people might like the idea of an adventure away from home, others may need to spend more time around their home and families.
Once you’ve reviewed the pros and cons and what a trucker’s job is like, you’ll need to follow a few steps to become a truck driver. This includes going through truck driver training at a rucking school, and get your CDL before you can start job hunting. If you like the idea of a high-demand career, good pay and benefit options, and workdays on wheels, then it’s time to get going. We’ve taken all the headaches out of learning how to get your CDL, preparing you in just weeks for much more than just a passing score on the CDL exam.
If you’re ready to enroll in CDL truck driving training, get in gear by having these things to be eligible for enrollment:
Check out the State Requirements & Regulations to learn more about getting your CDL license and how it varies from state to state.
Unlike many job positions, there is no minimum education requirement for becoming a truck driver. You simply need to go through trucking school and get your CDL. Some trucking schools and companies may require a GED or high school diploma, there are others that focus directly on your ability to acquire the skills to become a professional driver.
Your main obstacle when learning how to become a truck driver is the cost associated with attending trucking school. Getting your CDL and going through truck driver training costs around $3,000-$10,000. Although the cost of trucking school might seem high, don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to cover the cost of tuition, including company-sponsored programs. And don’t forget, truck driver training will get you into a good-paying career right away.
The first step to becoming a truck driver is to find a trucking school in your state. Your trucking school will provide you with the right steps to get your CDL and help you learn how to become a truck driver. CDL training offers programs around the country to help you meet your CDL requirements and get into a great career.
If the prospect of paying for trucking school seems too financially taxing, there are other options available to cover your tuition costs. While you might not get paid to complete your CDL requirements, you can enter a company-sponsored training program to save you up-front costs on your education. Of course, companies won’t just sponsor your training without some requirements.
If a company sponsors your training, they will usually require that you contract to work for them for at least one year and will often deduct the cost of training from your paycheck during this time. While you won’t be making a ton of money your first year, you also won’t have any tuition debt or overhead costs to become a truck driver.
If getting a company to sponsor your training doesn't appeal to you, you can always pursue other funding options to pay for CDL training including:
CDL.com partnering schools have different payment options for students who need more information on how to pay for their truck driver training.
For those who have their CDL already but have been out of the truck driving game for a while, there are refresher courses available that don’t require you to re-do truck driving school. Most refresher courses are available through both schools and trucking companies. Refresher courses usually take a few weeks to complete.
The time it takes to get your CDL requirements depends on the school you choose to attend as well as what type of commercial drivers license you want to get. Most programs take around three to seven weeks to complete, and Class A programs take longer than Class B and C programs because they provide more in-depth truck driver training. Class A programs also allow you to drive a wider variety of loads and vehicles than Class B and C licensing.
Each school varies slightly as to how long their truck driver training programs are. Contact the driving schools in your state to find out more about their programs. Remember, just because one program is shorter than another does not mean the quality of the education will be as good. Do some research and make sure you’re investing in the best school for you.
Another thing to consider when you pursue your truck driver training and CDL requirements is what kind of CDL you need. There are three classes of CDL licensing: Class A, B, or C. Which one you pursue will largely depend on what you need to do your job, as well as what your future career aspirations are. Here are the main differences between each type of CDL:
A Class A CDL allows you to drive a wider variety of commercial trucks, but truck driver training for a Class A CDL also typically takes longer than Class B or C. This is why it’s important to not only consider your current job position, but also how you want to advance your career in the future. Getting the license you need now will save you from having to re-do truck driving training if you want a different truck driving position later.
Becoming a truck driver requires long hours and is a tough but rewarding career. If you’re putting in the effort to learn how to become a truck driver, you probably want to know how much a CDL driver makes every year. The answer? Pay for CDL drivers varies—a lot. BLS.gov estimates the average truck driver salary at $42,480 per year. The variation in pay is due to experience, type of trucking, and the company you work for.
If you own and operate your own vehicle you can make significantly more money. The average owner-operator truck driver makes around $162,000 per year, with salaries ranging from $27,500 to $374,000. However, as an owner-operator, you are responsible for purchasing, maintaining, and insuring your own vehicle, as well as providing your own benefits—all of which are costs of doing business. The main idea here is that pay for truckers varies widely based on a number of factors including mileage, experience, location, bonuses, type of trucking, cargo, and licensing.
If you want to become a truck driver and fulfill CDL requirements, you might also be wondering how truck drivers are paid. Are truck drivers paid hourly? Do they get paid at the end of every week? Is their pay in the form of a check, or is it directly deposited into their bank account? The answer really depends on how your trucking company has decided to structure their pay system.
Most truck drivers are paid per mile, while some pay per hour or salaried. Hourly pay jobs are typical in the delivery industry with companies like FedEx or UPS. Truck drivers that haul freights are usually paid per mile. In general, getting paid per mile allows you to earn more money based on how far your drive.
As a truck driver, you are often provided with benefits that go beyond your standard base pay, including 401K retirement plans, paid time off for vacations, sick time, healthcare plans, life insurance, bonuses for meeting goals or evaluations, and even hiring bonuses. Even though these benefits are great, nothing can compare with the freedom of the open road and the trust you’re given to do your job, and do it well.
After you’ve completed truck driver training and before you can claim your job position and collect your pay, you’ll need to make sure you take and pass the CDL driving test. Typically, your state of residency is also where you must get your CDL. The cost to take the CDL exam varies from state to state, but it is usually between $40 to $70 to take the actual exam.
After you’ve completed and passed your CDL exam, you will need to take your skills exam to make sure you know the rules of the road and are skilled and ready to drive on public roadways. Once you’ve passed the test you won’t need to take it again so long as you maintain your license. However, depending on your medical certificate expiration date you will need to retake the physical exam to make sure you are still in good health for your job.
There are several ways to find a job and become a truck driver, including looking for a truck driving school that has job placement services, contacting trucking companies directly, and networking through established truck drivers. When you go to apply, make sure your resume or application is complete and accurate. A standard resume and application will detail your previous experience, background, skills, and driving record which will help you receive an immediate offer.
Here are some quick tips to make you stand out:
Completing an application is takes time, but it’s worth it if it will help you attain a hiring decision.
Once you’ve become a truck driver and landed a job with a company you love, there’s a couple of steps to take before you can head out on the open road. First off, you’ll usually attend company orientation to learn about company policies, fill out paperwork, pass a physical, and undergo drug testing. Orientations typically last for three to five days depending on your experience level and afterward you’ll be ready to enter your official training period with the company.
During your truck driver training period, you’ll usually work with an experienced trainer who will prepare you to hit the open road on your own. Training can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months until you’ve mastered the company routes and procedures. After training, the company will have you take their internal trucking exam, which typically focuses more on road skills. Once you’ve passed you’ll be assigned a truck and route and ready to hit the open road.
Now that you’ve become a truck driver, get ready to spend around 11 hours on the road every day. Truck drivers are required to operate within a 11-hour window, and can only be on the road for 11 of those hours. Depending on your route and company, you might be on the road all day, all week, or for several weeks before heading back home for a few days off.
When you’re responsible for your own route, you’ll also need to make sure you’re getting your deliveries to their destinations on time. If you’re curious what a delivery schedule looks like, chat with a seasoned commercial driver, or talk to the companies you’re interested in working for.
When you become a truck driver it’s common to start out in long-haul trucking. Although it’s tough at first, as you work and gain experience you can advance your career and get better and better positions, as well as increase your pay. Getting a position in specialty trucking, local trucking, or as a trainer can help you advance your career. You can also advance your career by training for different endorsements that will allow you to tackle different types of driving positions and gain greater experience in the field. Training and testing for as many endorsements as you can is a great way to advance your career as a truck driver and increase your pay.
Another important factor in advancing your career is to avoid costly mistakes that can damage your driving and delivery record. This might include unsecured or improperly secured loads, equipment damage, or on the job injuries. The best ways to avoid these issues is to take your safety practices very seriously. Make sure you always complete your pre-inspection, drive cautiously at night and in parking lots, change your oil regularly and maintain your vehicle, and never discuss the specifics of your load to avoid potential theft.
As a truck driver, you’re often away from home for several days at a time, depending on where your route takes you and what your company requires. Some companies operate on a schedule where you drive for 11-14 days and then have three days of home time. Others have schedules structured so you’re home a couple of times a week, or once every 4-6 weeks.
For truckers with families, it’s understandable that you want to spend as much time with your family as possible. Some companies do allow you to bring direct relatives, like your spouse or child, on the road with you. However, this really depends on your company’s policy, and not all companies permit bringing your family on the road.
Because many truck drivers only have a 11-hour window to drive, a day in the life of a trucker often starts very early—like 4am early. Once they have breakfast they hit the road and take a couple of breaks throughout the day to stretch their legs and eat lunch. One of the most challenging things about becoming a truck driver is learning how to eat healthy on the road. Many trucks have mini-fridges inside, so instead of loading up on soda, stock up on veggies and fruits to keep you healthy.
Most truckers drive until around 5pm when they’ll stop at a truck stop overnight, take a shower, and get some rest for the following day. One of the biggest safety tips you can follow as a truck driver is to get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep will help keep you safe while you’re out on the open road.
Your exciting new career is just weeks away. Apply for truck driver training classes at one of many locations across the country today and start working towards that dream. For more information about how to become a truck driver or help finding a school, call 844.5CDLNOW. To get started now, visit our school directory or start a driver profile with CDL.com and let us help you find the right school or company..