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A Primer On Truck Driver Qualifications

Are you looking to become a truck driver? If so, before you try to figure out the filings and other regulatory minutiae, you’ve got to know whether or not you will qualify in the first place.

The fact is this: There is more to becoming a commercial truck driver than just getting your commercial driver’s license (CDL) and just getting behind the wheel. You have to know what the regulatory qualifications are in order to hit the road. Let us help.

The Qualification Basics

The specifics are located under section 391.11 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), but here is what you need to know about qualifying to be a commercial truck driver.

To start, you must be:

  • You must be at least 21 years old (for now);
  • Are able to read, write and speak English;
  • Can safely drive your truck;
  • Can pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) exam;
  • Have a CDL that is current and valid;
  • Have reported any violations recorded in the past 12 months;
  • Do not have any disqualifying factors;
  • Can pass a road test.

While this will be discussed in a later segment, cargo securement is also something you must be familiar with. You must be able to demonstrate familiarity with the methods and procedures relating to securing cargo. This goes from properly loading it to distributing and securing it.

The Physical Qualifications

In order to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), you must meet the minimum physical qualifications as outlined within the FMCSRs.

You would not be considered physical qualified to operate a CMV if you:

  • Have lost a limb, but do not have a skill performance evaluation certificate;
  • Are impaired in some way that interferes with your ability to perform the tasks necessary to safely operate a CMV and do not have a skill performance evaluation certificate;
  • Are on insulin control for diabetes;
  • Are living with heart disease, chest pains or faintness of breath;
  • Are living with chest problems such as chronic asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema;
  • Have high blood pressure that may somehow interfere with your ability to safely operate the CMV;
  • Have a loss of movement or feeling in any parts of your body;
  • Have any mental or physical sicknesses that would interfere with your ability to operate the CMV;
  • Have poor vision. Specifically vision problems that affect your ability to see objects that are far away. Contacts or glasses can pass you through this qualifying factor;
  • Have only one eye;
  • Have poor hearing, which means be able to hear a loud whispered voice no less than five feet away. You can also pass a hearing test in the doctor’s office;
  • Are clinically diagnoses with alcoholism or some other form of drug abuse.

There is an exception to the drug rule that allows for truck drivers to use a particular drug if the substance is prescribed by a doctor.  The doctor must be able to advise you that taking the drug will not interfere with your ability to safely operate the CMV.

In some cases, a medical exam may be required in order to get you into the cab and on the road. You will be required to take a medical exam if:

  • You have not yet been medically examined or physically qualified to operate the CMV;
  • It has been 24 months since your last medical exam;
  • Have suffered – or are suffering from – a disease, condition or injury that may interfere with your ability to safely operate the CMV.

Many states have medical waiver programs that allow truck drivers to drive if they meet specific conditions, despite their medical condition. Depending on your state, the conditions may vary.

Medical exams must always be performed by an FMCSA certified medical examiner. To find one near to you, click here.

Once you have been found to be physically fit, the medical examiner will give you a certificate and you will be on your way. Only the open road will await you.

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