Today, we’ll be discussing how to start a career as a commercial truck driver. If you’ve decided that being a truck driver is the career path for you, you may be wondering how to get started. There are a few important things you should know about the process so that you can get started on the right foot. If you want to learn more, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to help you get started! 

First and foremost, you’ll need a standard license to drive a car. (If you can’t operate a car, you probably can’t operate a large truck!) But did you know that you need a separate license to operate a truck or commercial motor vehicle? This is called a commercial driver’s license (CDL), and you’ll need to meet certain requirements to get one.

For example, you must be 18 to obtain your CDL, but many trucking companies won’t hire you unless you are 21 years are older. This is because truck drivers under 21 can only drive within one state, while those over 21 can cross state lines, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements. 

Obtaining a CDL Before You Start a Truck Driving Career

Types of CDLs:

  • Class A: A Class CDL is for vehicles with a gross weight of over 26,000 pounds. A trailer must weigh more than 10,000 pounds. This can include a semi-truck and trailer combo, a semi-truck and tanker trailer, a semi-truck and livestock trailer, or a semi-truck and flatbed trailer.
  • Class B: Class B vehicles have a gross weight of over 26,000 pounds. They include delivery trucks, various box trucks, dump trucks with small trailers, school buses, and city buses.
  • Class C: Class C vehicles are a single vehicle with a gross weight of under 26,000 pounds, a vehicle pulling a trailer under 10,000 pounds, or a vehicle carrying 16 or more passengers. This includes buses, tanker trucks, hazmat vehicles, and double and triple trailers.

It is best to do research on these types of licenses before choosing one. The Class A CDL is generally a top choice because it holds a greater range of jobs and flexibility when deciding to start a career as a truck driver. 

How Do You Obtain a CDL?

In order to get your CDL, you should first obtain your Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), which will allow you to practice driving semi-trucks. Some truck driving schools require you to get a CLP before enrolling. Others will help you obtain your CLP while you attend class. It is helpful to choose a truck driving school first so that you know what requirements you’ll need to meet.

Once you have chosen a school, you will have to attend a program where you will receive classroom instruction as well as training and behind-the-wheel experience. This training can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the school you choose.

For example, there are company-sponsored schools, community college programs, or private CDL schools. Again, it is best to do research on these schools and find a reputable one that is a good fit for you and your lifestyle. At the end of your program, you will need to complete and pass an exam and skills test in order to obtain your CDL. This exam will generally consist of:

  • Vehicle Inspection: Checking things such as the braking system, tires, and engine compartment. 
  • Basic Controls: Ensuring that you know how to do things such as parallel parking, alley docking, straight lines, and offset backing.
  • Road Test: An evaluation of your awareness, overall command of the vehicle, use of mirrors and turn signals, and ability to brake and accelerate normally.

Additionally, you will need to pass a DOT medical exam before obtaining your CDL. This exam will test your vision and hearing. Check your blood pressure, check your medical records, and more to make sure that you are in the best possible shape to perform your job as a truck driver efficiently. If you pass, you’ll get your CDL and be able to start looking for jobs.

Get a Job as Truck Driver

Once you have your CDL, you’ll want to look for a trucking company that seems like a good fit for you and your lifestyle. You’ll want to ask yourself a few questions and see if the company aligns with your answers and career goals.

For example, do you want a specific home time? Are you okay with being away from home for days at a time? Where do you want to be in your career in a few years? Answering these questions will help you determine if a company is right for you. 

There are plenty of truck driving jobs in the U.S. In fact, there is a shortage of truck drivers, so you don’t need to be concerned about a lack of work. As long as you have done the training, obtained your CDL, passed a background check, and have a clean driving record, you should have no problem finding a truck driving job. 

As you can see, starting a career as a commercial truck driver can be a rewarding one with many opportunities for growth, and you get to see many different areas of the country. If you want to become a commercial truck driver, you should start off strong by choosing a reputable school or program that will provide you with the skills necessary to thrive in the industry.

If you are looking for a job as a commercial truck driver, we hope you’ll consider driving for B.W. Mitchum! You can learn more about our employment opportunities here.

In our last post, we discussed the pros and cons of being a company truck driver. Being an employee of a trucking company has its perks, including job security, steady paychecks, benefits, and more. There are also some downsides, such as less flexibility. But ultimately, we think there are far more pros than cons! If you are interested in learning more about whether being a company truck driver is right for you, we encourage you to check out our last post!

We hope you found this article informative, and we hope to see you back on the blog soon for more tips and insight on topics involving truck drivers. If you are currently seeking new opportunities in the commercial trucking industry, we are always interested in adding new talent to our team! Thank you for reading!