The Requirements You Need to Get a CDL


A commercial drivers’ license (CDL) can be your gateway to a rewarding, lucrative job as a commercial truck driver.

However, because driving a large commercial truck can be more hazardous than driving a small passenger vehicle, earning a CDL involves more than just filling out a few papers at the DMV. Here’s what you need to know:

Regulatory Requirements

To be eligible for a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) or a CDL in most states, you must be at least 18 years old. You must be 21 if you are looking to find work that involves hauling hazardous materials or crossing state lines. You should also have a year or two of driving experience, with the specific length of experience based on the state.

To apply for a CLP/CDL, you need proof of citizenship or lawful permanent residency, a list of states where you have been licensed to drive over the past decade. Applicants should also be able to pass background checks. Applicants cannot have a license that is actively suspended or revoked.

They also should not be subject to disqualification as listed under regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Reasons for disqualification can include violations of ‘excessive speeding’ and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Applicants should also be able to speak and read English.

Physical and Mental Requirements

The physical requirements of a trucker’s job depend upon the nature of the job. But regardless of job type, a driver must be physically able to operate a large commercial motor vehicle and to carry out various non-driving duties, such as loading and unloading operations. Truck drivers may be asked to perform heavy lifting and the occasional installation of parts or accessories. The job may also require long sedentary periods, irregular sleep and job-related stress.

To ensure an applicant is adequately fit, they must have a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (DOT card), a federally mandated record that verifies the holder meets the medical standards for the operation of a commercial vehicle. A commercial driver should have this document or photographic copy when driving.

Written and Driving Tests

The CLP exam is a three-part, written test typically around 100 questions in length that covers general driving knowledge, unique aspects of a large commercial truck and combination vehicles. This written test must be passed to earn a CLP, which allows the holder to practice driving a large semi-truck, bus or other commercial vehicle weighing more than 26,000 pounds.

Each state is responsible for developing its own CLP exam, but federal guidelines dictate that a CLP must cover highway safety various aspects of the class of vehicle for which license is being sought. Federal guidelines also stipulate that the “passing grade” is 80 percent.

Applicants must also successfully complete a driving abilities test. Driving tests also differ by state but adhere to federal regulations. This part of the test must be taken in a vehicle class for which the CDL is being sought. If you’re able to finish this examination with a passing grade, then you will have earned your CDL.

Find Your Next Driving Job With NSC!

At NSC, we specialize in connecting commercial drivers to career opportunities. Please contact us today to find out how we can help you have a successful commercial driving career.




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