There is a considerable shortage of CDL truck drivers in the United States at the moment. The country’s booming economy brought about a large demand for goods. But this demand is far greater than the supply of truck drivers that the country can provide.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics also states that demand for truck drivers will continue to rise. The average salary of truck drivers also continues to improve.
An increasing number of trucking companies began raising wages to attract driving prospects. There are even companies that compete for truck drivers.
This huge demand may be appealing to many aspiring truck drivers. But the path to becoming a truck driver is not an easy one. Trucking companies expect candidates to hold a Commercial Driver’s License or CDL.
In the U.S., all drivers interested in operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) needs to own a CDL. CMV’s are vehicles used for the transport of goods for profit. Trucks, trailers, and vans are examples of CMVs.
Drivers also need advanced skills to handle larger vehicles such as tractor-trailers. These types of trucks involve hauling large freight across states. Drivers need to prove they can manage to move large trucks on the highways.
Owning a CDL ensures that truck drivers have the right skills and knowledge to handle CMV’s.
Commercial Vehicle Categories
There are three classes of commercial motor vehicles in the U.S.
The class determines the kind of vehicle that a truck driver can operate. The CDL will also state the class of the vehicle.
Class A – These include tractor-trailers, flatbeds, tank-trucks, and double/triple trailers. Large vehicles for carrying livestock also belong to this class.
Class B – This class is for larger vehicles that do not have a trailer. These include:
Buses, dump trucks, cement mixers, tow trucks, and delivery trucks, and garbage trucks. Tour buses, courier vehicles, and furniture delivery trucks also fall under this category.
Class C – This is for vehicles which can hold more than sixteen passengers. Vehicles used for carrying hazardous waste also belong to this class.
Those who want to become truck drivers need 160 hours of classroom and driving training. Many employers won’t even hire candidates who have not completed 160 hours of training.
It is also difficult to pass the CDL exam without proper training. It would be best for candidates to enroll at a state-approved CDL truck driving training school. Training at CDL schools may cost a lot. But it improves the applicant’s chances of passing the test and getting hired at once.
Cdl truck driver programs last seven weeks on the average. There are also schools that have five-month programs for complete beginners.
There are also cdl training schools that work with trucking companies. These companies will often hire people who finished training at their affiliated schools. They would also offer to reimburse 100% of the training cost. But those that get hired may need to work for the trucking company for several months in exchange for this.
Some employers allow new Class A drivers to start at once because of the immediate need. But there are those that request drivers to undergo advanced training as well. New drivers who passed the CDL will need to undergo orientation with a trainer for a couple of weeks.
Contents of the CDL exam
The written test would contain questions about highway safety. It also includes the following topics:
- Identifying parts of the truck
- What to do in an accident
- Proper application of brakes
- Reading maps
- Attaching and unhooking trailers
- Driving at night
- Hazard awareness
- Railroad crossing procedures
- Avoiding skids and skid recovery
Aside from the written test, candidates must also undergo a truck driving test. They may need to bring along the actual motor vehicle they will be driving. Candidates must pass needed driving maneuvers under the watchful eye of an assessor.
Class A and B vehicles can either be manual or automatic transmission. Drivers need to specify their vehicle’s transmission type. The CDL will also include this information.
Drivers may need to take endorsement tests after passing the CDL exam. This test certifies that the cdl truck driver has the right skills to drive a certain type of vehicle. Each vehicle has a corresponding endorsement code.
- T – Stands for Towing double or triple trailers. Drivers need to pass a written test.
- H –Stands for vehicles carrying hazardous materials or HAZMATs. Drivers need to pass a written test and also a background check
- N – This is for tank-trucks. Drivers need to pass a written test
- P – This is a Passenger endorsement for transporting certain number of people. Drivers need to pass a written and a driving test.
- S – This endorsement is for driving school buses. Drivers need to pass a written test and a driving test. They would also have to undergo a thorough background check
- X – This is a combination for tank-trunk and HAZMAT vehicles. Drivers need to pass a written test to receive this endorsement.
Applicants must meet the following requirements when they apply for a CDL license.
- They must be at least 18-20 years old to drive within the state (intrastate).
- They must be at least 21 years of if they will be driving interstate. This is also the minimal age for transporting hazardous materials.
- They must provide proof of U.S. citizenship or proof of permanent residency in the country. Applicants may need to show their birth certificate, passport and Green card. They also must be able to speak/read English at a satisfactory level.
- Applicants must have a valid non-commercial driver’s license. But they must not have more than one driver’s license.
- Their record at the DMV should be clean. They must make sure that their license is not cancelled, suspended or revoked.
- They must provide a Social security number, or proof of the number. Supporting documents need to be the original and not a copy.
- They must provide a medical examination report. This will also include passing a vision test.
- Applicants will have to submit/pay for the application for a CDL
- They must pass the written knowledge and the road skills test
Truck driving is a rewarding job. Drivers get to see the country and visit different places while earning money. They also get to meet different people along the way. Pay can be more than the average worker’s salary if a driver works hard. Some trucking companies also allow family members to join on trips.
But truck driving is also a challenging job. It is a lonely job and most times truck drivers are away from their homes and families. Truck drivers also need to be fit for the job. Choosing to become a truck driver may need some serious consideration.