How Hard Is It To Get A CDL?

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Kevin B.'s Comment
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Okay, stupid title for a stupid question. I'm thinking about a big career/lifestyle change. I got let go from a job in the hospitality industry of fifteen years I had loved through less than ideal circumstances (nothing bad, just was on the wrong side of a falling out). But my heart just isn't in it anymore and it's like touching a third rail just to go to work each day. I'm having trouble finding anything I'm passionate about but have been thinking about trucking as a way to get lost for a while, see the country, only have to take care of myself (more or less) and not wait on hordes of people and make a decent salary if not a really good salary and whatever else. But it means getting a CDL and then getting on with a good company, I'm leaning towards Schneider or Raider Express. Now I'm sure a CDL is more involved than getting your regular driver's license, and I'm not afraid of putting in the work. But what exactly are we talking here? I mean rocket science level stuff or something else?

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Steve L.'s Comment
member avatar

Relatively easy to get, keeping and using it more difficult.

The moderators will chime in with more details. But I went from closing down a small business & liquidating inventory, to solo driving for Schneider, in about four months. Three weeks of CDL School, about the same for Schneider orientation and I was on the road.

**IMPORTANT: I did the HRTraining Program here before going to CDL School and had my permit in hand on day one. And, I was fully committed to the job of truck driving.

This site promotes company-sponsored training. I went the private route because I’d already decided on Schneider and they didn’t have CDL Training in my area at that time.

I hope this helps.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Company-sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

Old School's Comment
member avatar
How hard is it to get a CDL? Okay, stupid title for a stupid question.

There are no stupid questions Kevin!

It's actually a great question. Steve gives a great answer when he says...

Relatively easy to get, keeping and using it more difficult.

A person doesn't even have to have any formal training to obtain a CDL. We've had people in our forum who went down to the DMV and got their CDL without even getting training. They picked up the knowledge from reading and had equipment available to them to practice and test with. If they passed the driving test, they got their CDL.

We don't recommend that method because it will do you little good when looking for a job. Most of us want a CDL as a way to get a trucking job, and that seems to be what you want also. When you go through a private truck driving school or a Paid CDL Training Program you not only get your CDL upon successful completion, but you also get a 160 hour training certificate. That little certificate is actually more important than the license when it comes to getting your first commercial driving job. The vast majority of companies who are willing and able to hire rookie drivers insist on having that certificate. So, the best way for you to obtain your CDL is to go through a training program of some sort.

You can finance it yourself if you have an extra four or five grand laying around that you want to burn up, or you can allow someone else to invest in your future. That is exactly what the company sponsored training programs will do for you. They will pay your way to their facility, then house and feed you while you are there. They will put some skin in the game on your behalf, helping you get your CDL. What do they want in return? They want a commitment from you to work for them for usually one year. They will treat you well and will not be trying to take advantage of you. They just need drivers, and this is one way they have found success in recruiting them.

It's not rocket science - trust me! I am nowhere near having that kind of intelligence. Steve is correct when he says it is relatively easy. The harder part is keeping that one year commitment. Here's why: the trucking career seems easy to an outsider. I mean, it seems it should be easy to just drive a vehicle all day. There is such an adjustment to becoming a professional driver. It usually comes as a huge surprise to most newbies at this. Everyone of us underestimates the challenges that lie ahead when we start this career. It is a complete change of lifestyle, and it knocks some of us silly. Be prepared for some real challenges after you get started. You made this statement...

I'm having trouble finding anything I'm passionate about but have been thinking about trucking as a way to get lost for a while, see the country, only have to take care of myself

That statement is concerning. You may love trucking, and you may find you are passionate about it after a while. You may think you hate trucking, and it wouldn't surprise me. A lot of newbies go into this with false expectations. We hear from them or can find them on the internet in other places. They think people are throwing their lives away as truckers. Which way will you fall? We have no way of knowing that. But we can tell you that it is easy to obtain a CDL. It is much more difficult to maintain the lifestyle of a trucker while enjoying the rewards of this great career.

Success at trucking is based on your individual performance at it. Rookies don't always perform all that well at keeping erratic sleeping schedules and tight delivery times when they have been hindered by bad weather or poor planning. They just don't understand the nuances of the whole trucking business yet and haven't had the time to build strong relationships with the people who matter to their success out here. It is typically a tough slog during that first three to six months. It isn't something I would describe as "a way to get lost for a while."

Here's my advice...

Go into trucking with a commitment to making it work. Make sure you are committed to one full year. It takes that long to just get yourself acclimated to how things work in the industry. After you have done a year then re-evaluate how it is going for you. Maybe you will love it and find you are passionate about a new career. I found that to be true for me, but during that first year I wanted to quit a hundred times. Always it was because I was not confident about how to succeed at it yet. I learned a great deal during my first year, but I learned it all on my own by experimenting and trying to make sure my paychecks were increasing. You control how this career works for you. I increased my pay considerably just by being more productive. That's how it works. You get the most enjoyment from this career when you are being the best you can be at it. That is where the hard part is. You must be good at this to enjoy it. That takes time and commitment.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.

Company Sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Mark O. ~MiNi-Me~'s Comment
member avatar

Hey Kevin! I am also leaving the hospitality industry for a new career in trucking. I see that you joined this forum about the same time I did, albeit I did a few months of lurking before I actually joined. During this time I have spent endless hours with the High Road Training, and got my CDL permit a few weeks ago, I also got my TWIC and HM cards/endorsements as well. Getting ready to make the leap soon, probably with Knight Squire training.

Take advantage of all the training diaries, job requirements postings, HOS information and sooo much more. I am not one to jump into the deep end without knowing just what I am getting into. As Old School says there is a lot more to the job (doing it well) than just driving.

There is a wealth of real time experiences journaled here that I have read to get a well rounded expectation of just what this career entails. I used the tag link page to get lost for awhile to make sure you can commit to this, just my two cents worth.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

RealDiehl's Comment
member avatar

When you said,

only have to take care of myself

, did you mean you are single with no family or dependents to worry about?

If that's the case, I think you'll have an easier time going through CDL school and subsequent training...more so than a person who has people at home depending on them for money. Honestly I don't know how people do it. The stress of trying to get through training and start earning money for their family must weigh heavily on them.

If you can afford to take the time to go through a long, thorough and comprehensive training program, you may want to consider Prime. Plus Prime pays you $900 gross per week during training.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
Pacific Pearl's Comment
member avatar

But what exactly are we talking here? I mean rocket science level stuff or something else?

Typically, 4 weeks of school to get your CDL and then another 28 days on a trainer's truck before your first employer will turn you loose with a truck of your own.

The highlights:

Get your CDL permit - written tests at the DMV (practice tests here, more practice tests FREE for Android and iTunes)

Practice backing the truck for 3 weeks

Drive the truck on the road for a week

Perform a pre-trip inspection (there are plenty of youtube videos on this) with an inspector.

Perform backing maneuvers in the truck with an inspector.

Take the truck for a road trip with an inspector.

Take the inspector's evaluation to the DMV to pick up your temporary, paper, CDL!

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Andrey's Comment
member avatar

I mean rocket science level stuff or something else?

Definitely something else. Knowledge of rocket science guarantees a much higher income :-)

Andrey's Comment
member avatar

In fact, rocket science has a good chance to get much closer to trucking than we are used to think. Sooner or later we (mankind) will make it to some new destinations, Moon, Mars, you name it... Once we are there, DOT will build roads, and companies will start hiring truckers. It may be slightly different because of gravity and some other factors, so testing may differ too... and CDL will be probably changed to S-CDL (space)... It is time to get some sleep, I guess, it was a long day of driving :-)

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

RealDiehl's Comment
member avatar
It is time to get some sleep, I guess, it was a long day of driving

Well, at least your imagination and sense of humor are not suffering😁

Kevin B.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks for all the responses everyone! Some responses of my own to yours...

"I'm having trouble finding anything I'm passionate about but have been thinking about trucking..." - I've always loved large rigs since I was a child. Going down the road with my parents as a toddler of the '70's, my parents would see a rig coming the other way and coax me to look out the window the opposite way so as not to see it and get all excited. Corny I know, but it's what they did. I've always had respect for the truck drivers even if no one else seems to have. I mean your stuff doesn't just get from A to B, someone has to get it there. I've also always had respect for the overnight people such as myself, store shelves don't just get stocked by magic nor do financial books magically balance themselves (and it's a lot easier at night when things stop than during the day)! It's just that I went from a hotel job at a place I enjoyed, with a company I enjoyed, with co-workers I enjoyed and all that was taken away from me. I now work at a hotel owned by a company who cares about customer service sure, but cares more about the revenue than it seems anything else (they've tacked on two "fees" which are false, nothing more than a cash grab).

"...only have myself to take care of..." - Yes, I am single and don't have anyone that I have to provide for. I am looking at putting an elderly relative into a facility, but while I expect to have to contribute some I'm also lining up finances to pay for as much of it as possible; I'm not going to try and foot the bill alone. But more to the point, I'm tired of customer service. I've been on one front desk or another and therefore in customer service for some thirty years. Its gotten old. You're at fault for everything. The hoards don't hesitate to let you have it for the smallest of things, really I'm not kidding, and tear your stuff up - the expression how you can never have nice things anyone... Sure, I know in trucking you do have to deal with folks - company people, co-workers, folks you run into, folks you deliver to. But you also get to leave... I've heard it, paraphrasing here, that there's nothing like if you're treated badly, you get to decide who gets into your rig and you know you'll drive away and likely never have to see that person ever again. By not taking having to care for anyone but myself, I'd also just stay out for long stretches at a time only coming home to the house I have on occasion.

"...getting lost..." - By this I mean, I'm not running from anything. I was on the losing side of a falling out at work, they believed the bully over me and after standing up for myself the new management company that took over my hotel decided to let me go. Had it been the old management company, the old GM, I'd probably have survived. But while sure it may just be this property and/or what I'm doing right now, I'm just not feeling it anymore. By getting lost I meant that I've reconnected with many of my friends from high school, some are plus or minus the year that I graduated - '91. But I've looked through their photos, friended them and seen what they've posted. To some degree they've travelled for school and/or just travel and continue to do so. Just this past month a friend posted photos of her family trip to Yosemite. My family never had much money, so that travel bug was never ignited in me and all I've ever done is more or less work, home, work, home and maybe a trip from TX to NM, OK, CO once every rare year. Sure I'd like to stop and see some tourist sites, but it's also about the journey. I've got nothing against flying, but I'd rather drive just for the journey rather than seeing the country from the vantage of the airport.

Thanks for the heads up on Prime. I'm open minded about most anyone but I'll have to check them out. A friend of a friend has experience with Raider Express so that's why I looked them up and liked what I saw. And Schneider is just like the biggest and has a slew of benefits and equipment and recruiting events which interest me to talk to someone. But I'll check out Prime.

I'm curious what Mark O did in hospitality that he's leaving? If he doesn't mind my asking...

On the overnight shift tonight, computers just came back up from final reports. So I've gotta go. But I'll check in later... Thanks everyone!!!

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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