Items To Bring To CDL School, Training, and OTR

What New Truck Drivers Need To Know About What To Take To CDL School, Company Training, And On The Road:

Lack of storage and living space is probably a driver's biggest consideration when packing for CDL school, on-the-road training, and solo life on the road.

Drivers will generally pack lightly for school and training, and their company should give them a general idea what items to bring with them.

Every driver will have his or her own version of a "must-have" list after spending time on the road, but CDL school, OTR , and training essentials are boiled down here.

As with most things, you "get what you pay for". It will be important, when feasible, to spend a little extra money for a better quality product. Functionality, dependability, and life-span are factors to consider.

Items To Pack If You Are Traveling To CDL Training School: It should be noted that this list assumes that the driver is going to an out-of-state CDL school, or a company-sponsored school, and will be living in provided housing. Drivers who are commuting to a local school will obviously not have to pack all of these things.

Packing for trucking school is kind of like packing for a vacation. Many times CDL students may be given a checklist by the trucking company or school of what they should bring. You will function better and concentrate better on the schooling if you are comfortable and properly equipped. Always check with the school, first, but here are some helpful ideas:

  • Money and/or credit-debit card - Each company will have different policies on what they provide in terms of meals, etc., so it's a good idea to check with the company, and come prepared.
  • Food - In some cases, students will be staying in motel rooms during CDL school, some equipped with microwaves or kitchens. If possible, bringing some of your own food and snacks from home will help save students money.
  • Personal documents - Driver's license, Social Security Card, Birth Certificate.
  • Clothes - Generally about 7 changes of clothes, additional underwear and socks, along with items specific for the weather or conditions.
  • Sweatshirt and/or jacket, depending on where you attend school.
  • Pens, Pencils, spiral notebook. General classroom supplies.
  • Baby wipes (universally accepted as a "must-have" for truckers).
  • Personal care stuff, shower supplies, 2 towels.
  • Calculator.
  • Sleeping bag and pillow.
  • Laundry supplies.
  • Quarters for washer and dryer.
  • Voided check for direct deposit.
  • Hat, sunglasses, work gloves.
  • Work boots, and another change of shoes.
  • CDL book & study materials - The High Road Training Program.

Things NOT To Take To Trucking School:

  • Weapons, of any kind.
  • Drugs or alcohol, outside of approved, prescription medications.
  • Personal valuables, unless you've brought enough to share with the whole class.

Video: What To Take To Truck Driving School

Items To Pack For Team Training:

You will generally pack very lightly for team training, as you will be living in the trainers truck, and much of the available storage will normally already be taken up. A duffle bag is about all the storage that a trainee should expect to have on the road, and trainees should be prepared to sleep with their belongings on their bed. Additionally, your trainer will already have many of the items that solo drivers would normally take out on the road with them. In some cases, you will be going directly from CDL school to on-the-road training, so check with your company.

  • 4 or 5 full changes of clothes, twice as many socks and underwear. Generally enough to last you 7-10 days.
  • Jacket or sweatshirt, regardless of what time of year it is.
  • Work gloves.
  • Work boots, if necessary. At least good quality sneakers.
  • Personal care stuff, shower supplies. Flip-flops or Crocs for shower.
  • Good pair of sunglasses.
  • Sleeping bag and pillow.
  • Medium-sized duffle bag to carry all of your stuff.
  • Small laundry bag and small bottle of detergent.

Items To Pack For Solo Drivers On Their Own:

Essential Items:

  • Food:

    Every driver will have different preferences depending on what they are taking along with them, but even for drivers who don't splurge for all the comforts of home there are plenty of canned options (i.e. tuna, vegetables, even soups) that don't need to be cooked. Boxed goods like crackers, oatmeal and cereal will also keep for a while. Most truck stops will have the basics available like milk and bread.

    For drivers utilizing plug-in coolers or refrigerators, their food choices are basically the same as if they were at home, albeit in a smaller space. Being able to keep lower-salt and fat items like yogurt, cottage cheese, fruits, and vegetables will help drivers stay properly fueled and focused on the rigors of the road.

  • Toolkit:

    Some drivers will do simple equipment repairs on the road, while vise grips, hammer, etc. will be critical for certain tasks. General, starter toolkits containing most items drivers will need are readily available at Wal-Mart, Amazon, etc.

    All-in-one screw driver with tips, Vise grips, A good 4 or 5 lb mini-sledge or hammer, Basic socket set, Allen wrenches, Regular pliers, small set of wrenches, crescent wrench, crowbar, needle-nose pliers, spare fuses and bulbs, multi-tool, wire cutters.

  • Plug-in Cooler:

    Considered a necessity as any driver wishing to achieve longevity on the road should make some attempt to keep healthy and in top form on the road, and eating out on the road can get expensive in a real hurry, especially for new drivers. Acts as a refrigerator for food that drivers need to keep cold on the road.

  • Appropriate Clothing:

    Drivers will generally want to take at least a sweatshirt on the road. Depending on the time of year, and the type of routes and loads you are running, a heavier jacket, gloves, hat, etc., may be warranted. Flatbed driers will typically be exposed to the weather more often, so that is also a consideration.

  • Road Atlas:

    Considered essential on the road, many drivers still rely on them for route-planning. In case of a technological breakdown and you can't use your GPS or other electronic mapping methods, and to avoid total blind reliance on computerized routing, a physical copy of a U.S. Road Atlas is a handy thing to have around. Hint: it is highly recommended to get the version with laminated pages, not only to protect against spills and damage, but drivers can use wet- and dry-erase markers on them when needed.

  • Bedding Accessories:

    Sheets, blanket or sleeping bag, window curtain/shades. Many truck drivers will bring their own mattress, especially designed for trucks.

Other Essential Items For The Road:

  • Personal Items:

    • Personal hygiene and grooming items, shower bag (should be a no-brainer, but don't be "that guy").
    • Towel, or 2 (A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have).
    • Baby wipes.
    • Flip-flops or Crocs for showering.
    • Basic first aid kit.
    • 1 or 2 jugs of fresh water, at least (stay hydrated, among other things).
  • Tools & Utility:

    • Tire pressure gauge.
    • Tire tread depth gauge.
    • Rubber gloves.
    • Flashlight of heavy-duty quality.
    • Duct tape, Scotch tape, and electrical tape.
    • Extra oil, coolant, and wiper fluid (usually available at the company terminal).
  • Clothes & Living:

    • Spare contact lenses or glasses, especially if vision restrictions are on your CDL.
    • Chargers, etc., for whatever devices need charging.
    • Binder or organizer.
    • Notepad and pens.
    • Calculator
    • Pocket truck stop guide.
    • Several pairs of sturdy work gloves
    • Healthy snacks that you can eat while driving.
    • A good pair of polarized sunglasses to cut down glare and improve visibility. For those drivers who wear glasses, clip-on or shielded sunglasses are just as easily obtained.

Video: Truck Driver Must-Haves

Optional Items To Take On The Road:

  • Power Inverter:

    Plugs into the truck's 12v lighter, and will allow a driver to run multiple devices such as small refrigerator, TV, plug-in cooler, etc. Some companies will not allow drivers to use them. The more devices that you want to run, the higher the inverter wattage needs to be. They generally run from 400w to 2500w or even 3000w (in case you need to power a small city along the way). In more recent years, power inverters have been manufactured with built-in USB ports, as well.

  • C.B. Radio:

    Some trucking companies will require them. The advent of other technology in recent years has made CB radios less relevant, but still very handy to inform you of problems ahead on the road, or to communicate at shipper's or receiver's. Essential feature to have is NOAA weather signal.

  • GPS Unit:

    Some companies will already have GPS installed on their trucks, but it may be worth the extra expense to buy your own, based on preferences and needed features. Specialized GPS units designed for trucks will include routing trucks according to size and weight to keep them on legal roads, with bridge heights, weight limits, advance notice of lane changes, weigh stations, etc. It is not considered wise, however, to rely solely on GPS for directions.

  • Slow Cooker:

    Warning: Only use if you can handle the smell of delicious food cooking in your cab all day long, while trying to drive safely. Not for the faint of heart or weak of will. A small cooker or crockpot used in combination with a plug-in cooler or small fridge, drivers can eat healthy, and cheaply.

  • Laptop Computer:

    As the popularity of tablet computers grows, laptops may become increasingly obsolete, but at the moment they are good options for drivers who need more processing power and storage space. Many drivers also use them in place of TV's and DVD's for entertainment, namely for Netflix and Hulu, or to play video games.

  • Television:

    The shift to flatter televisions means that they'll take up less space in your truck, and you may be able to mount it on the wall to save even more space. A TV/DVD combo is highly recommended for drivers who watch alot of DVD's.

  • Electric Hot Plate, Skillet, or Grill:

    Many drivers, in the interest of healthy and affordable meals, take small cooking appliances on the road. Think hot sandwiches, stir fry, etc.

  • Microwave Oven:

    Many drivers find small microwave ovens come in handy. Be sure that your power inverter can handle it. A 700 watt unit is pretty standard for the situation.

  • Cell Phone:

    It's generally accepted that most drivers will already have a cell phone. Particular considerations should be made for data plans, as many drivers will use things like Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming media as a main form of off-duty entertainment. Coverage area is also a factor, and it is generally accepted that Verizon has the largest and most reliable service coverage. It is also generally accepted that WiFi at truck stops will not be useful for much more than the barest of activities, like email, if that.

  • Refrigerator (mini-fridge):

    Drivers will want to make sure that they will be driving their particular trucks for a while before investing in major appliances. A fridge gives a driver all the features of a plug-in cooler, and additionally provides at least some frozen storage.

    Special considerations to keep in mind is the amount of room needed to actually open the door of any appliance. Some companies, reportedly, will agree to remove the passenger seat or unused cabinets in order to accomodate the driver's mini-fridge.

  • Reading Material:

    In this, the wonderous 21st century, drivers have the ability to carry libraries of books at their fingertips for access anytime they need it. Many driver will bring a Kindle or some other e-reader on the road, or use their phone or computer to store and access books. In the interest of saving space, electronic books and magazines are recommended. Audio books are also a popular item for truck drivers.

Other useful suggestions:

  • Personal Items:

    • Dashboard camera: many truck drivers have found this an invaluable item when it comes to proof of incidents on the road.
    • Headache medication - Ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Tools & Utility:

    • Rain-X
    • Brake-line anti-freeze
    • Basic Push-broom
    • Basic squeegee
    • JB Weld
    • Bungee straps
    • Zip ties
    • Rags
    • Extra wiper blades
    • Hardhat, reflective vest, safety glasses (if necessary or required).
    • Steel-toed boots (especially for flatbedders). Some companies, and customers, will require them, regardless
    • 5th wheel puller, can be obtained in various pretty colors, as well
  • Clothes & Living:

    • A couple empty Gatorade bottles, or similar (when you gotta go....)
    • Basic cleaning supplies (baking soda and Lysol are a good place to start)
    • Single set of dishes, or paper plates and plastic-ware.
    • Rain parka
    • Skillet
    • Paper towels/napkins
    • Stapler to keep paperwork together
    • Wet and dry erase markers
    • Satellite radio set-up
    • Bluetooth earpiece/headset
    • Resistance bands for working out on the road (dumb-bells can be dangerously hard to secure in a moving vehicle, along with the extra weight)

What To Take For Winter Truck Driving:

Driving in the winter, and especially in the snow, presents a different set of challenges for truck drivers. This is especially true for those who aren't accustomed to cold and snowy winters.

Items For Winter Truck Driving Checklist: Many of these suggestions are in the "just in case" category, in the event your truck gets stuck, breaks down, etc., but may come in very handy if you think you will be driving in wintery weather on the road.

  • Warm clothes of good quality: hats, gloves, scarves, etc.
  • Wool socks or otherwise heavy-duty socks
  • Battery-powerd gloves, vest, socks, etc. Seriously.
  • Tire chains and related gear (chains are actually required in some states)
  • Bag of ice melt or road salt
  • Ice scraper
  • Candle and matches
  • Heavy duty bungee cords
  • Spare cell phone batteries
  • Extra blankets
  • Jumper cables
  • Chemical hand warmers
  • A shovel
  • Small propane blow torch
  • Extra snacks and water
  • Winter jacket
  • Extra fluids: washer, oil, coolant
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Diesel Fuel Anti-gel
  • Cramp-on or pull-over traction gear for your boots.

Truck Drivers Winter Weather Tips And Items To Bring:

Very helpful further reading - TruckingTruth resources on what items truckers pack for school, training, and the road:

Forum Topics Tagged "Items To Bring On The Road"


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.


The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.


A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.


Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.


Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.


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.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.


Driving While Intoxicated

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