Are you considering a career as a professional truck driver? Are you planning to get your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)? If so, here’s a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know when considering or beginning your CDL license.
Trucking is a rewarding career with many benefits. But to become a trucker, you must get certified.
In this guide, we’ll answer all your questions about the cost of CDL license, trucking salary expectations, trucking job expectations, and CDL school.
Start your career in the trucking industry today when you know all about CDL licensing.
How Long Does it Take to Get Your CDL License?
This is the first question most people ask about CDL licensing. How long does it take to complete the program?
There is no fixed amount of time it takes to complete your licensing program. If you are taking a full-time driver training program, it takes, on average, seven weeks. However, this can vary depending on a variety of factors.
- The type of CDL license you are trying to obtain
- If you choose part-time school
- Classroom time and driving hours
- If you are adding CDL endorsements to your license, it will take longer
- Your ability: everyone learns at their own pace
If you want to finish your program faster, make sure to choose full-time school and pick a school that offers plenty of classroom and driving hours so you can get lots of experience in a shorter amount of time.
How Much Does a CDL License Cost?
Like the time it takes to complete your CDL, the cost of your CDL license will also vary depending on a variety of factors:
- What state you live in
- What school you choose
- If you add endorsements to your CDL license
Other options for CDL licensing are to find a company that offers sponsored or paid CDL training. Some trucking companies are willing to invest in your training, so you can get your CDL license for free, and they can have a fleet of qualified truck drivers.
The downside to sponsored or paid CDL training is that the wages are generally lower initially. You must also stay with that company for the agreed-upon time, or you will owe them the cost of your CDL training.
The benefits are that these programs will typically fast-track you to get on the road as quickly as possible, and you will have a job once you finish school.
What is a Passing Score On the CDL Test?
This is another question truck drivers in training ask frequently.
To pass the CDL test, you must have a score of 80% or higher on the knowledge test. For the skills test, you must demonstrate you can successfully perform all the skills.
For the written test, you will be tested on:
- General rules of the road including: right of way, pedestrians, railroad crossings, streetcars, 4 Way and 2 Way Stops, school buses
- Securing Cargo
- Chaining up
- Weight & overweight trucks + scales
- Hours of Service and Electronic Logbook regulations
- Drinking and Driving / Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) rules for truckers, Drug, and Alcohol testing rules
For the driving test, you will be tested on:
- Effective safe walk around your rig
- How to back up
- How to make sharp turns
- How to chain up
- Correct parking
Lots of classroom and driving hours during CDL school will help you successfully pass both tests.
What Would Disqualify You From a CDL License?
You do not need any previous experience to begin CDL school, but you do need to have a clean criminal record, driving record, and you may need to pass a background check. This varies slightly from state to state, but the regulations are pretty standard across the country.
If you have any serious violations or DUIs on your driving record, you will not be allowed to obtain a CDL license. This includes hit and runs, racing, theft of a vehicle, and fraudulent use of a license.
If you are not a legal United States citizen or have been convicted of a serious felony, you will not be allowed to obtain your CDL.
In California, these disqualifications apply, plus two serious traffic violations in three years will result in a 90 day suspension of license. A third offense equals a 120 day suspension of license. Also, railroad crossing violations and transportation of over 10,000 pounds of fireworks will cause license suspension.
If you are concerned you may not qualify for a CDL license, speak to a CDL driving school in your state.
Will I Get a Job After I Finish CDL Training?
Once again, this question is asked frequently, and the answer can vary. If you took a sponsored or paid CDL training from a company, you should have a job at that company.
If you paid out of pocket for your CDL training, now it’s time to look for a job. Luckily for you, since 2005, the United States has been experiencing a truck driver shortage. Statistics from 2018 report a driver shortage of 60,000.
This means that many companies need drivers, and it will be easier for you to find a job.
When choosing companies to apply for, do your research. Look specifically at the best trucking companies for new drivers.
What is the Salary Expectation for a New Driver?
Salary expectations will vary, depending on what company you work for. If your CDL training was paid or sponsored, you might make slightly less money than if you paid out of pocket.
As of January 2021, a truck driver’s average salary is $54,718, with the lower end at $35,000 and the higher end at $81,000 per year. Remember, salary is paid based on experience. As a new driver, you will make closer to the lower end and slowly work your way up over the years.
If you were expecting a higher salary, don’t forget that you still get benefits. Benefits range depending on which trucking company you work for, but truckers typically receive paid sick leave, healthcare 401k, and paid vacation.
You may also be entitled to bonuses, including a sign-on bonus and work performance bonuses.
How Can You Prepare for the Trucking Lifestyle?
The trucking lifestyle is demanding, physically and mentally. You will be working long hours and spend days or even weeks away from friends and family.
While some truckers love the freedom of the road, others do decide this lifestyle isn’t for them. Before you go into CDL school, consider if you are OK with this lifestyle.
To be a successful truck driver, you need a lot of self-discipline. You must be OK with spending long periods of time alone and living in your truck.
However, the benefits are you get to see the entire country, your hours can be flexible, a good salary once you’ve put in a few years, healthcare and paid vacation, and the adventure of the road.
Starting Your Trucking Journey
If you feel the trucking lifestyle is a good fit for you, CDL school is where you need to start. With patience, self-discipline, and lots of practice, you should be able to obtain your license and find an excellent job in the United States trucking industry.
As a new trucker, it’s essential you find a good repair shop to support you on your trucking journey. You will need regular maintenance on your truck and a shop you can trust to fix unexpected breakdowns and get you back on the road as quickly as possible.
At Kelly’s Truck, we have over 50 years of experience. Our excellent customer service will support you every step of the way. We offer roadside assistance for unexpected breakdowns, a huge variety of in-house repair services, and we’re here to help you understand the ins and outs of regular maintenance on your truck.
Start your career today. Contact Kelly’s Truck, and rest assured your truck is in great hands.