For many, the opportunity to be a truck driver is like opening the door to a new life.
If the act of starting the career is a door, then the CDL is the key to unlock it. It’s the one requirement every trucker on U.S. roads must meet.
Many carriers, like us, don’t require a certain amount of experience, or even for drivers to have their own truck. A CDL won’t guarantee a job, but it’s enough to get the conversation started.
This means all that stands between any given person and a potential trucking career is the CDL course. What should you expect in a CDL course? Preparing properly can make your training a success and get you on the road quicker.
Let’s explore what to expect in a CDL course.
What Do CDL Training Courses Consist Of?
Since trucks present unique challenges that passenger vehicles don’t, a specialized commercial driver’s license, commonly known as a CDL, is required to operate a truck. Earning a CDL is similar to obtaining a traditional license in some regards. Like a standard driver’s ed class, CDL education consists of both classroom and on-the-road training.
CDLs come in multiple forms, with the CDL A being the one required for truckers. This trains you to operate combination vehicles, or tractor trailers.
The Importance of In-Classroom Training
Since trucks are so different from passenger vehicles, there are different laws governing them. Everything from speed limits to weight requirements to clearance levels come into play on a trucker’s journey. The classroom will get you familiar with the (new) rules of the road.
The driver will also need to know their truck, in detail, front to back. Having a solid understanding of your vehicle is vital for communicating information to dispatch in the event of an accident, component failure, or other technical difficulties.
Some CDL courses and trucking schools may also share tips on staying safe on your trip, balancing the solitude of life on the road, and living in a truck.
Getting the Feel While Behind the Wheel
Even the most skilled driver of a traditional car will take some time to get used to a truck.
The massive dimensions and increased weight mean everything is different, so the driving portion isn’t just taking a slow drive down the highway.
Drivers in training must demonstrate control of their rig around sharp curves, and sometimes even amidst obstacles like wind. It’s not just about learning to drive the rig, but being able to understand where it is and where it’s going in proximity to obstacles – or other vehicles.
Even simple actions like braking and then accelerating again must be relearned. A tough CDL tester may fail a driver immediately if their rig rolls back even slightly from a stop – since should that happen on the road, it could potentially cause a serious accident.
When we talk about what CDL training courses include, never forget about a driver’s responsibility to check their truck before and after each trip. The road portion is where you’ll demonstrate you understand all the truck’s components and features.
Being able to use lights, wipers, safety features, and communication tools on the fly will help you get your CDL and have a better time on the road.
CDL Course Requirements: What Do You Need to Get Started?
If you can demonstrate knowledge of a truck on paper and smooth control of one in motion (and at a stop), you can earn a CDL. But what do you need to get there?
For starters, potential licensees must be at least 18, though many schools set the minimum age at 20 or 21. You’ll need a commercial learner’s permit, or CLP. State requirements for it vary, but you’ll usually need identifying documents like your birth certificate or social security card, as well as documents showing a completed physical from a certified medical professional.
But what about the two most precious resources we have to invest – or own time and money?
How Long Does a CDL Course Take?
They say time is the only resource where we’re all on an equal playing field. But while you may have 24 hours in a day like everyone else, many prospective truckers are eager to start their careers and can’t afford to wait.
CDL A course lengths can vary, but can be completed in as little as three weeks on an accelerated basis with class each weekday, or over twelve weeks for a weekend-type class setup. Every school and testing facility may have its own program options depending on class sizes and staff availability.
How Much Does a CDL Course Cost?
The cost of a CDL course can also vary, mainly because there are multiple ways to approach it. You can choose to test independently, or you can go through a specialized trucking school.
The latter often comes with certain conditions, but can cover most or all the CDL course cost. Similar programs are sometimes available at colleges and trade schools.
What Mentality Does a CDL Test Taker Need?
The final aspect of CDL test taking and preparation is perhaps the part that controls your result more than anything.
You can invest the time, secure the funding, and even have companies set up to apply to. But without the right mentality, the material of the CDL program could become overwhelming.
One option is to take a beginner’s mentality. Even if you’re somewhat familiar with trucks, try to take every lesson and piece of advice as a learning experience to build on.
Important Study and Training Tips
Just like a driver can lose control if they drive too fast, a prospective driver can become mentally overloaded if they rush. Everyone learns at a different pace, so take on information at the rate you can absorb it.
Another study tip is to study for understanding, not just for the test. Even if you could know all the answers to a written test beforehand, the bigger point of passing is feeling comfortable driving once you’re licensed.
Hermes is Waiting for You
Knowing what to expect in a CDL course is one thing – but taking the course and completing it is another.
Your experience may differ from someone else’s based on your location and the path you take to earn your CDL. But after showing you know the rules of the road and you can confidently command your vehicle, you could be journeying into a new career.
Here at Hermes, we are eager to talk to CDL holders. While we prefer a year of experience, it isn’t required. Whether you’ve driven for ten companies or you’ve been on the road less than ten months, we can talk – connect today and see if Hermes is the right fit for your trucking career.