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A Primer On The Commercial Driver’s License

Are you looking to enter a secure, satisfying, and potentially lucrative career as a truck driver? If so, you may be wondering how to go about it. Don’t worry, we’re here to help.

There are a lot of things that go into being a trucker, but first and foremost you will need a Commercial Driver’s License. There are several things you must do before obtaining your CDL, which we will cover today.

What Is a Commercial Driver’s License?

A Commercial Driver’s License – or CDL – is a special license required for anyone driving a vehicle weighing 26,001 pounds – or 10,001 pounds with the trailer included – across state lines. The requirement first came into being in 1986, with the passage of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act was intended to ensure those operating large commercial vehicles were qualified to do so. The language of the Act gave each state the right to issue CDLs, while still providing a federal minimum of standard for issuance.

CDL requirements generally cover the following transportation types:

  • Transportation of hazardous materials. These would include anything that would require a DOT warning placard, sign, or symbol.
  • Transportation of 16 or more passengers.
  • Compensated passenger transport of 8 or more.

Prior to 1986 truck, bus, and large commercial vehicle driver licensing requirements varied from state to state. Implementation of the new law was designed to streamline those qualifications through a national standard.

How Do I Get A CDL?

Put simply, to get a CDL you must meet the requirements set out by your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. You will also be required to take a knowledge test. Upon completion of the knowledge test, you will be required to demonstrate your practical aptitude through a driving skills test.

All of these steps require the following specific set of procedures:

Verifications

Each state has different age and medical requirements. Most intrastate licensing requirements mandate a minimum age of 18-years-old. Interstate CDL licensing requires a minimum age of 21, but could this soon be changing?

The best way to find out what the requirements are is to visit a local DMV office in your area. You can also visit www.dmv.org to get more information.

Fees

As with any bureaucratic endeavor, there are fees involved with obtaining your CDL license. Most states require fees for the application, knowledge, and driver’s test.

The moral here? Consult with our local DMV office or check the corresponding DMV website for you state. The last thing you want to do is set out on getting a CDL license if it’s something you can’t immediately afford.

Curriculum

Remember, before you can pass any test, you have to study the material. Make sure to schedule some time to study the commercial driver’s license handbook or training guide made available from your state’s DMV.

In many states, you don’t even have to worry about going down to the office in person. Usually your state’s website will have all of the information you need to pass the tests.

Application

When you are filling out the application, you will be required to enter your personal identification information. You will also be prompted to provide information regarding the type of commercial vehicle you plan on driving.

This process is the same as obtaining your training material; it can be done either in person at the DMV or online through your state’s portal. Keep in mind, however, that the application itself must be submitted in person. Once that process is done, you will take the knowledge test that you previously studied for.

Driving Test

Once you have turned in your application, paid your fees, and passed your knowledge test, you will be given a learner’s permit. This allows you to practice driving prior to obtaining your full CDL.

In most states you can only practice with another licensed CDL driver in the vehicle, as it is with most standard passenger car learner’s permits.

Scheduling

Remember that the driver’s test must be scheduled. You will want to contact your local DMV to find out what their specific scheduling requirements are.

You will also be required to take the driving test in whatever vehicle you plan on driving once you obtain your license, whether it be a tractor-trailer or school bus.

Get Your License!

Once you have successfully passed your driving skills test, you will be issued your CDL. In most states you will be given a temporary CDL before receiving your permanent one in the mail.

We wouldn’t be the first to tell you: A career in trucking is just what you’re looking for. We hope this primer on obtaining your CDL will set you on the right path to career independence and financial freedom!

How To Start A Trucking Business? Part 1 – Plans and Regulations

With the nation’s economy still growing, and freight demand still rising, the need for capable trucking companies has never been greater. The marketplace is growing, and commercial goods need to be moved from city-to-city and state-to-state.

This need creates new opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs who enjoy both their independence and hefty paydays. One thing for people to remember, however, is that competition is steep.

Although starting a new business is never easy, maintaining a profitable trucking business requires a few extra steps other small businesses would not. You’ll want to thoroughly research the industry you plan to enter before dipping your toe in.

Over the next several weeks, we are going to take a deep look at every aspect of starting a trucking business. Today, we’ll start with the type of business you want to start and forms and regulations you’ll need to be aware of to do it.

Two Fleet Types

The first step in getting your trucking business off the ground lies in determining what kind of business you plan to operate. Trucking companies operate by bidding on and fulfilling freight hauling contracts.

The vast majority of trucking companies operate in two ways, with the main difference between the two being who drives the trucks and how accounts and contracts are fulfilled.

First, you can operate as a privately-owned fleet. In this scenario, you privately run your business and all the operations. You likely own your own equipment, pay higher insurance premiums, and operate a fleet of truck drivers. While you have total control over the operation, this option requires quite a bit more initial start-up money and costs more over the long haul.

The second way still leaves you to operate your own company, but instead you don’t have your own employees. As a sub-contractor, you hire independent operators to handle driving responsibilities. While you receive the contracts, your drivers are not actual employees of your company.

In this set up, you can expect lower start-up, insurance, and equipment costs. On the flip-side, you will have less control over the truck drivers and your company profits won’t be as hefty.

Whichever business model you go with, remember that figuring out the truck driving model is just the first step. After picking a direction, focus on all of the traditional steps one would take in starting a business.

Rules and Regulations

As with any new business venture, it’s important to understand what it takes to get a new business off of the ground. Once you’ve settled on the type of trucking business you want to run, brush up on your business basics. Although trucking is unique, consistent threads flow through running a successful business.

Next, you’ll need to take a close look at all of the trucking-specific licenses, forms, and tax and permitting regulations. Depending on the type of business you are trying to start, there are several important requirements.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association and IRS need special documents and forms from you filled out and acted upon before you hit the road. Specific decals will also need to be placed on your vehicles. We’ll cover which exact forms you’ll need and how to register in Part II of our series, so stay tuned!

Company Business

In addition to these steps, if you plan on employing private drivers, they will need their own special permits and endorsements. Each state has their own portal to provide in-depth information on commercial driver’s license requirements, permits, safety information, and rules and manuals.

In case your eyes start to cross trying to make sense of all the compliance information, you may want to hire a compliance professional to help isolate any requirements you might miss.

Remember, these are just the beginning steps. Depending on your business type and range of operation, there may be more steps than we’ve outlined here.

Next week, in Part II of our series, we will take a look at the forms you’ll need, how to fill them out, and insurance and equipment requirements. Does it seem like a lot? Well it is, but don’t be discouraged, the opportunities in trucking are endless.

How to Get Your Commercial Driver License (CDL)?

The criterion for your CDL (commercial driver license) varies by the state you are taking your test in. However, there are standards which the Federal Government requires regardless of the state.

The requirements for a commercial driver license depend on a certain set of factors.

-Actual weight or registered weight of the vehicle. This would be 10,000 lbs.

-Any combination of vehicles where the towed weight and gross weight is up to 10,000 lbs.

-Any vehicle carrying hazardous materials

-A vehicle that is designed to carry 16 plus passengers and the driver.

A series of knowledge tests and skill tests are required as a first step toward your CDL. The knowledge tests that are required are based on the class of CDL you are trying to obtain and what endorsements are required.

The general knowledge test is required by all CDL applicants. If you are going to be using air brakes another knowledge test is taken for this.

There are tests for hauling of double or triple additional trailers, for liquids the tanker knowledge test is required; the same would go for hazardous materials and for combination vehicles.

Once you have gotten past the knowledge test, you will then have to take the skills tests. These tests are comprised of a pre-trip vehicle inspection test, basic vehicle control and over the road driving. The skills tests must be taken in the type vehicles that you are intending to drive.

CDL rules also apply to gaining and keeping your license. Some of these rules are:

-Your home state license is the only license you are able to retain. All other licenses must be surrendered. The breaking of this rule can lead to loss of your CDL, $5,000 fine or jail.

-With the exception of parking violations your employer must be informed within 30 days of any traffic violations.

-Should you have your licensed revoked you have 1 day to notify your employer.

-Due to the computerization of all commercial driving licenses throughout all the states. It makes the possession of more than one CDL nearly impossible.

Also included in CDL standards are the Federal medical standards. These standards require that all CDL drivers meet the physical Federal standards. This includes being 21 years of age, limbs must be intact, insulin treated diabetes will exclude you as well as some cardiovascular ailments and respiratory dysfunctions among other physical problems.

Before getting your CDL you must first obtain a permit. In order to get started toward your CDL you are required to have a certified instructor who is over 21 years of age and must be seated beside you at all times.

The only persons that are allowed to ride with you are those who hold permits and are under the instruction of the certified driver.

You must be over 21 years of age and have a fed med card in order to operate on an instructor permit.

Any other requirements that may apply would be found on a state by state basis. The guidelines mentioned here are those required by the Federal government regardless of state.

Upon receiving your CDL any other requirements that may apply will be strictly required by the trucking company that you are applying at.

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