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Getting Your Commercial Drivers License (CDL)

Navigating The Road To Trucking Compliance

Table of Contents

Commercial Drivers License Basics

As the demand for skilled commercial drivers has increased, so has the demand for obtaining diverse licenses. According to ATA, the trucking industry is short of 80k trucks, and we think this shortage is because there is a lack of information on the process of getting into the industry, starting with obtaining a Commercial Drivers License (CDL).

The process of obtaining a CDL is simple, but you will need to follow several steps and understand its minute details. You must be mindful of the fact that if you fail the test, you will get the chance to retake it after a span of 90 days. After 3 failed attempts, you will be charged for another take.

So, things can get messier if you don’t take the following details seriously before applying for your CDL. Read on to learn what it takes to get a certified drivers license for commercial vehicles.

How Long Does It Take To Get Your CDL?

If you are about to get a commercial driver’s license, you must know that it requires you to take the road skill test with specialized skills and knowledge. Obtaining a CDL can be an exciting step in your career development. If you think you are a skilled trucker, then why not take the exam and get the necessary certification? This certified diverse license will open doors to new opportunities.

However, be prepared for the fact that you won’t be getting the license within the blink of an eye, as the process can take time. The first step you go through is the Commercial Learner’s Permit CPL. This is a written knowledge test and requires vision screening. If you pass this test, you will have to bear the holding period, which is approximately 14 days.

After a span of 14 days, you go through a CDL skill test, which entails 3 parts. The first part is the pre-trip inspection, then the basic control test, and then the road test. These tests will further take 3 days, and then you will be able to obtain the CDL certificate.

For the timeline to increase, keep in mind that the training program might stretch more time than you expected. In the full-time training program, you will have to spend 5 weeks, and in the part-time training program, you will spend 6-12 weeks more. So, it depends on what timeline you pick for the training.

Who Needs To Get A Commercial Drivers License?

Do you know a CDL truck driver will have a higher salary than a non-certified truck driver? Some reports say that the average annual income for a CDL truck driver is $53k. Woah! This is a huge amount compared to what others get.

When you think of this number, you will understand why you need to get a CDL right now. To answer this question, we would say those who want to use a commercial motor vehicle, also known as CMV, to operate beyond states or simply to expand their horizon of compensation will need a CDL.

But to elaborate on what categories fall into the eligibility or what you will need to be the person obtaining a CDL, we have a few breakthroughs. Keep reading!

Categories Requiring CDL

First of all, the CDL eligibility will be based on the weight of the vehicle you are using or going to use. It is measured in terms of Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), and with that, if your vehicle has a GVWR of 26001 lbs or even more, you will need a CDL. This kind of vehicle usually includes large or semi-trucks such as tractor-trailers, dump trucks, box trucks, etc., or buses such as school buses or charter buses.

Besides these vehicles, other CMVs include heavy construction equipment, fire trucks, ambulances, etc., if they meet or exceed the weight limit.

The most prominent professionals who will need a CDL are truck drivers, of course, along with bus drivers, construction workers, emergency service providers, tow truck operators, etc. 

After these categories come exceptional categories where we include recreational vehicle (RV) owners who don’t require CDL even if their vehicle exceeds the weight limit. There are intrastate agriculture operations and military personnel who are not required to have a CDL.

To make the matter easier for you, we have explained the cost of obtaining a CDL commercial driver’s license and have mentioned what is added to this cost in detail here, so keep reading.

If you have come this far, you might have known that the total cost of obtaining a CDL varies from state to state, but it greatly depends on some factors. However, to give you a number, the average cost of a CDL varies between $4k and $12k in the United States.

The major factors that add to the cost of obtaining a CDL include the training program, which incurs the biggest expense. This expense is calculated by summing up the type of program you choose, the program duration, and the training school’s reputation and location.

Besides the training program, the cost also comprises the licensing fee by the authority. For example, the cost will include a learner’s permit that ranges between $25 and $100 in all states. Then, there is the CDL written and skills test, which typically lies between $50 and $200 for each. The DOT-certified medical examiner’s fee is also included in the cost of a CDL, and it ranges from $50 to $150.

There are miscellaneous costs like fuel and vehicle usage costs. At the time of training, if you are using your own vehicle, you will have to take care of the fuel cost, and if you are using the vehicle of the training school, then you will have to pay some rent.

What Are The Class Divisions Of Commercial Drivers Licenses

As confirmed by the Driving Test Organization, there are three major classes of CDLs in the United States. You might be wondering if these CDLs are based on what the person is capable of obtaining. For example, if a person performs excellently on the test, he will get a class A license, and if a person performs badly on the test, he will get a class B license. But this is not true!

In the US, these classes are divided based on the type of vehicle you choose. Each class is there to categorize the vehicle users based on their skills and expertise with certain commercial motor vehicles. There are Class A, Class B, and the Class C.

Class A CDL

This class allows you to operate any type of vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, including a towed unit(s) with a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds. The types of vehicles it includes are:

  • Semi-trucks and tractor-trailers
  • Large box trucks
  • Dump trucks
  • Passenger buses with a seating capacity of over 16 individuals (including the driver)
  • Vehicles towing heavy trailers exceeding combined weight limits
  • Requires the most comprehensive training and testing due to the size and challenges of these automobiles.
  • It is often considered the most versatile option for truck drivers as it allows the operation of the widest range of CMVs.
Class B CDL:

Class B is full of moderate CMVS, and it allows you to operate single vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs or even more or any other towing vehicle with a GVWR not exceeding 10,000 pounds. This includes:

  • Large delivery trucks
  • Tanker trucks
  • School buses
  • Charter buses
  • Other single-unit CMVs exceeding the weight limit
  • It requires less training and testing compared to Class A but still involves significant coursework and skills demonstrations.
  • Offers opportunities in various transportation sectors besides long-haul trucking.
Class C CDL:

This is the most modest class that allows the CDL owner to operate Vehicles with a GVWR of 16,001 pounds up to 26,000 pounds. This category of class includes the following:

  • Small box trucks
  • Delivery vans
  • Construction vehicles within the weight limit
  • Vehicles made to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), such as:
  • School buses
  • Shuttle buses
  • Tour buses (within size and weight limits)
  • It does not require extensive training like Class A or B, but it still involves mandatory knowledge and skills tests.
  • Suitable for entry-level positions in various sectors like passenger transportation, delivery, and light construction

What Are The Compliance Requirements For A Commercial Drivers License?

This question is one of the most important ones as it helps you understand what you need to get a certified driver’s license for commercial motors. If you have a CDL already, then you should know that maintaining a CDL comes with various compliance requirements, and you are expected to fulfill them. The authorities have categorized these requirements into three sections.

The first one is about medical fitness, the second one is about driver qualification and records, and the last one is about vehicle and operational compliance.

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