Truck Driving and Your CDL: What You Need to Know
As a truck driver, you require a special type of driver's license in order to legally meet the requirements to drive a truck on the road. It is known as a CDL, commercial driver’s license, and there are three types. A, B, and C are the different classes that a trucker can hold. Depending on what they plan on transporting, the DMV and their employer will require them to carry a certain class. A CDL is not only essential for truck driving. You are required to have one if you would like to drive a bus, tank, or carry hazardous materials. After meeting special requirements in order to obtain a CDL, you must ensure that you do not put yourself at risk of losing your license. There are several ways in which this can become a reality.
How to Obtain a CDL
Much like your regular driver’s license, you will need to visit the DMV in order to obtain a CDL. You must be at least 21-years-old in order to apply. If you plan on driving intrastate, you can be 18-20 in certain states. Your identity must be proven by showing the DMV a state ID and a document that indicates your proof of residency. A medical exam and vision test will also be completed. After filling out an application and paying a fee, you will then be tested by passing a knowledge exam. This is a written test that confirms that you know the rules regarding truck driving for commercial purposes.
If you pass the exam, you will be provided with a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). You must then wait a minimum of 14 days before you can schedule your road skills test. This is the test that will allow you to obtain your CDL. The beginning of the test involves a pre-trip inspection.
You will act as if you are about to get on the road for a job, making sure that your truck is secure and prepared. For this road skills test, you need to bring your own vehicle. After passing this, you will have to pay fees to obtain your official CDL.
CDL License Classes
Class A: This is the license you will need in order to operate a truck has a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds. This is dependent upon the towed vehicle being heavier than 10,000 pounds. Examples of vehicles you can drive with a Class A are tractor-trailers (semi-trucks), truck and trailer combinations, livestock carriers, flatbeds, and most Class B and C vehicles. It is the most comprehensive CDL that you can obtain.
Class B: For this license class, you will be able to drive any single vehicle that isn’t attached to a trailer. This includes city straight trucks, buses, tourist buses, box trucks, dump trucks, and certain Class C vehicles. Certain endorsements can be applied to your Class B CDL if you do have to drive a Class C vehicle, but not all are covered.
Class C: You can operate a single vehicle with this license that has a GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds. Or, you can drive a vehicle towing another vehicle that weighs under 10,000 pounds. Alternatively, you can also drive a vehicle that transports 16 individuals, driver included. Some examples of these vehicles are double/triple trailers, buses, hazmat vehicles, and tank trucks.
Keep in mind that these license classes can vary per state. The best way to inquire about direct information regarding the CDL you need is by talking to someone at your local DMV. They are going to have the most up-to-date knowledge on the topic.
Grounds for Losing Your License
If you are in a minor accident while driving your truck, you are likely to be able to keep your license and your job. Many employers understand that accidents happen, and as long as you are not at fault for multiple, the DMV should see no reason to revoke your license. Certain offenses that will most likely lead to you losing your CDL would be driving under the influence, fleeing the scene of an accident, and vehicular manslaughter. Things like tickets should not impact your ability to keep your CDL, such as failure to use your signal or any other minor driving offenses. The worst thing about tickets is that they can put points on your license, therefore raising your insurance.
When you are driving a truck, you must be very aware of the fact that you are bigger than most vehicles on the road. Your size combined with your ability to be in control is essential to safely transporting the cargo that you are responsible for.
If you do happen to get into an accident and it is determined to be an at-fault, you will likely be given a ticket and points on your license. While you will get to keep your CLD, keep in mind that all companies are going to look at your driving record like a resume. You might be less likely to get certain jobs because of a bad record, so be safe out there!