Whether you dream of a life spent on the road in a long-haul truck, or you simply want to find a local job driving a school bus, you'll need to obtain your commercial driver's license (CDL) before you do anything. While getting the license isn't difficult, there are quite a few things you'll need to figure out before you ever step foot in a commercial vehicle. Here are four easy steps to get you on the road sooner than later.
- Make sure you meet the age requirements of your state. You can drive a commercial vehicle after you turn 18, but you'll have to wait until you turn 21 if you want to drive across state lines. Once you're of legal age, pick up your state's commercial driver's handbook. Study it back to front, and then once you're ready, apply for a practice permit at your local department of motor vehicles. There, you'll be asked to provide identification and pay a fee before taking a written test that, if passed, will get you one step closer to a CDL.
- Now that you've passed the written test and have your permit, you'll need extensive hands-on training so you can pass the behind-the-wheel portion of the CDL exam. Most community colleges and trucking schools have established courses that will give you the training you need. If you've already signed a contract with a trucking company, they should pay for your CDL training, too.
- Apply for endorsements if necessary. There are many types of endorsements, all of which require passing a written test, and usually a driving skills test as well. School buses, hazardous materials, tank vehicles, double and triple trailers, and passenger vehicles are all examples of the available endorsements that your job may require. Keep in mind that any serious crimes that show up on a background check will disqualify you from obtaining many endorsements.
- Finally, set up an appointment to take your CDL driving skills exam at the local DMV. Keep in mind that you must test in the type of vehicle that you plan to drive. That means that if you're planning on driving a Type A commercial vehicle, you can't show up and test with a Type C. After all, knowing the ins and outs of a small school bus won't help you drive a massive semi-truck commercial trailer. If you pass the test, you will receive a CDL.