Do you have a huge interest in becoming a truck driver? If you do, that’s fantastic! As someone just starting, you won’t always have all the answers and that’s okay.
While you don’t need a post-secondary education to become a truck driver, there are requirements nonetheless. Trucking can be a very challenging job, so to become a truck driver, there are several qualifications you need to meet. These include obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL), passing a written knowledge test and a driving skills test, meeting age requirements (usually 21 years or older for interstate driving), having a clean driving record, and passing a physical examination to ensure fitness for the job.
Obtaining a Commercial Driver's License (CDL)
The first step towards becoming a truck driver is obtaining a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). The CDL is a specialized license that authorizes individuals to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). To obtain a CDL, you will typically need to study for and pass a written knowledge test covering topics such as road rules, vehicle safety, and specific regulations pertaining to commercial driving. Following the knowledge test, you will also be required to pass a driving skills test to demonstrate your ability to operate a truck safely.
Here are some important things to keep in mind about the CDL:
- There are three main kinds of CDLs. They are called Class A, B, and C. There are some technical specifications behind what makes these classes different. In basic terms, though, Class A is for standard truck drivers. If you’ll be driving livestock carriers or tractor-trailers, this is the one you’ll need. Class B is for heavier vehicles like dump trucks and passenger buses. Class C is for vehicles that transport hazardous materials.
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- Endorsements are sometimes required. These are like sub-certifications depending on the specific vehicle you will be driving. You can think of them as specializations on vehicles that might require special techniques to drive. There are endorsements for school buses, tank vehicles, double trailers, and more.
You can check out getting a hazmat, school bus, or passenger endorsement to your CDL driver's license here.
- You’ll need a CLP, or commercial learner’s permit, before the exam. The CLP is a temporary permit that allows you to practice the skills that you will need as a truck driver. You’ll usually need to have had this permit for at least two weeks before the exam.
- Know the format for the CDL exam. The exam has a theory test and a practical test. The theory test has 50 multiple-choice questions covering the basics. The skills test has three major segments. These all must be passed before the driver can get their CDL. The three segments are: vehicle inspection, which simply makes sure you can determine road-worthiness; The road test, which tests your actual driving skill; and the basic control test which simply tests your backing skill in multiple scenarios. Some other tests can be done depending on the specific vehicle. These include Air Brakes and Combination Vehicles.
Meeting the Age Requirements to Be a Truck Driver
Age requirements for truck drivers can vary depending on the type of driving involved. For intrastate driving (within the boundaries of a single state), the minimum age requirement is typically 18 years old. However, for interstate driving (across state lines), the minimum age requirement is usually 21 years old. It's important to note that these age requirements may differ based on specific state regulations, so it is essential to verify the age criteria in your state of residence.
Having a Clean Driving Record
Clean Driving Record and Background CheckHaving a clean driving record is crucial for aspiring truck drivers. Employers and licensing authorities will assess your driving history to ensure you have demonstrated responsible and safe driving practices. Traffic violations, accidents, or a history of criminal activity could negatively impact your eligibility to become a truck driver. It is advisable to maintain a clean driving record and address any outstanding issues before pursuing a career in truck driving.
Physical Fitness and Medical Requirements
Truck driving can be physically demanding, requiring long hours of sitting and maneuvering large vehicles. As such, meeting certain physical fitness and medical requirements is essential. Before obtaining a CDL, you will need to pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical examination conducted by a certified medical examiner. This examination evaluates various aspects, including vision, hearing, blood pressure, and overall physical fitness, to ensure you are fit for the demands of the job.
A Clean Criminal Record
Having a criminal record can present unique challenges for individuals aspiring to become truck drivers. While a criminal record does not automatically disqualify someone from pursuing a career in truck driving, it is crucial to be aware of the potential impact and take the necessary steps to address any past convictions.
Research and Understand Regulations: Different states and employers have varying policies regarding hiring individuals with a criminal record. It is essential to research the specific regulations in your state and familiarize yourself with any restrictions or limitations that may apply.
Rehabilitation and Record Expungement: Depending on the nature and severity of the offense, rehabilitation programs and record expungement might be available. These initiatives aim to support individuals in their efforts to reintegrate into society and improve their employment prospects. Explore opportunities for rehabilitation and seek legal advice on the possibility of expunging or sealing your criminal record.
Honesty and Transparency: When applying for truck driving positions, it is crucial to be honest and transparent about your criminal history. Employers appreciate honesty and are more likely to consider candidates who demonstrate accountability and a commitment to personal growth and rehabilitation.
Professionalism and Positive References: Building a strong professional reputation and obtaining positive references can help mitigate concerns related to your criminal record. Investing time and effort into gaining experience in related fields, maintaining a clean driving record, and obtaining recommendations from reliable sources can enhance your chances of securing employment as a truck driver.
Restricted or Prohibited Offenses: Certain criminal offenses, such as drug trafficking or violent crimes, may result in disqualification from obtaining a CDL or working in the trucking industry. Familiarize yourself with the specific offenses that may be restricted or prohibited and consider seeking legal counsel to understand your options.
Remember, while a criminal record presents challenges, it does not necessarily eliminate the possibility of a successful career as a truck driver. By taking proactive steps to address your past, demonstrating personal growth and rehabilitation, and being transparent with potential employers, you can increase your chances of pursuing a rewarding and fulfilling career in truck driving.
There are some companies who will hire convicted felons and we talk about some of them here
Becoming a truck driver requires meeting specific qualifications to ensure safety, professionalism, and adherence to regulations. Obtaining a CDL, meeting age requirements, maintaining a clean driving record, passing a physical examination, and developing essential skills are key steps on the path to a career in truck driving. It's important to research and comply with the qualifications specific to your state or region and consider pursuing additional training and certifications to enhance your career prospects in this essential industry.