There are a lot of reasons you might consider a career in trucking. For example, there is a huge demand for truck drivers. The trucking industry is seeing a lot of its top talent retiring and getting older, and they’re struggling to replace those people leaving the workforce.
The result? A major talent search and the trucking industry is often willing to pay a premium for good employees.
Another reason to consider trucking? It pays relatively well, and owner-operators can make more than $100,000 a year in many cases.
Trucking can also provide a sense of flexibility and the opportunity to see the country, which works especially well if you prefer working alone.
Before you can become a truck driver, you have to get a commercial driver’s license or CDL, however. The following are some things to know about getting it and CDL jobs in general.
What Is a CDL License?
A CDL license is one that you need to operate certain types of vehicles. The following are types of CDLs that are available:
- CDL Class A which is for operating most types of trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, and a towing weight of 10,000 pounds or more. This includes all license classes.
- CDL Class B is a license for operating single or combined vehicles that have a gross vehicle rating of 26,001 and towing less than 10,000 pounds. This license also lets a person drive class C vehicles.
- CDL Class C is for a vehicle carrying a total of 16 passengers including the driver if it’s under 26,001 gross vehicle rating. With this license, a person can also carry hazardous materials if it’s under the weight rating threshold, and you can’t drive class A and B vehicles with this license.
Where Do You Get Your License?
There are different options for where someone can get a commercial driver’s license. You have to enroll in a training program for truck drivers, and you can take it at a private organization, or it may be something you do through a trucking company. Another option is to do it at a trade school or community college.
When you’re going through the training, it first takes place in a classroom setting and then you learn the technical aspects of driving, and you go on the road for practical experience.
How Should You Choose a CDL Training Program?
So, how do you choose the right program if you’re considering getting your commercial driver’s license? The following are some things to consider:
- Is the program accredited by the Department of Education?
- Has the Department of Transportation approved the program?
- Are the teachers, the program and the school adequately licensed by your state?
- What are the ratings and reviews from other people who have gone through the program? Any issues reported to the Better Business Bureau?
- What happens if you don’t pass? Are there guarantees? What’s the process like if you need additional training?
- Is job placement part of the program?
Along with the above tips, it’s also advised that you don’t do a free training program—these are usually scams or aren’t adequately licensed and accredited programs.
What Do You Cover in CDL Training?
Some of the topics you can expect to go over during your training program include:
- You’ll learn about road signs and all applicable rules and regulations of the road
- You learn how to maneuver a large-capacity vehicle with a high weight load
- Training covers road signals and how the different signals work depending on the vehicle you’re driving
- You learn how to read a map and complete trip planning logs
- CDL training will include instruction on managing log books not only for the hours you drive but also things like your deliveries
- You’ll learn technical components of driving a large vehicle such as backing up and turning
- You’ll learn how to couple and uncouple the trailer
- Things like pre- and post-trip inspections are covered, as are shifting instructions
Finally, what’s the cost? CDL school typically costs anywhere from $1,500 to $8,000, and you aren’t charged by the credit hour—you’re charged for the cost of the entire program. Higher costs don’t necessarily mean a better program.
Factors that can affect the cost of the school include the reputation and the type of technology used during training. If a school has advanced technology, it’s usually going to cost more. Other factors include how experienced the instructors are, whether or not there are strong job placement services offered, and what type of commercial driver’s license you’re getting.