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How to Get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License)

Obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) allows the driver to operate large trucks and commercial vehicles in commerce throughout the United States. Particular commercial driver’s licenses are necessary for transporting hazardous materials (hazmat), passenger vehicles, and liquid/gas tankers.

A CDL and endorsement will require passing a written test. Some require completing eight road skills tests. Hazmat drivers must also submit fingerprints and undergo a comprehensive security threat assessment performed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Steps Necessary to Get a CDL License

CDL holders are part of the trucking industry that moves the US economy, generating over $650 billion a year by thousands of trucking companies.

Each A, B, & C CDL has the exact basic requirements. However, the federal government or state may require additional items or issue restrictions that limit the jobs the commercial truck driver can take.

Current (2021) CDL licensing requirements include:

  • The applicant must be at least 21 years old for interstate driving across the United States, or 18 years old to drive in their licensed state (intrastate),
  • The applicant must submit the appropriate fee with a completed CDL application,
  • The applicant must provide their Social Security verification and identity, including proof of US and state residency,
  • The applicant must submit a medical examiner certification form and report form, and passive vision test,
  • The applicant must pass the state’s CDL knowledge examination and receive a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) to practice operating a large commercial vehicle,
  • The applicant must wait at least fourteen days before scheduling the mandatory commercial driver’s license road squeal examination,
  • The applicant must perform and pass a pre-trip commercial motor vehicle inspection before passing the driving examination and CDL skills tests.

Getting a CDL Class A License

Class A commercial driver’s licenses are available for any trucker operating a combination of vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more while towing vehicles over 10,000 pounds. In many states, a Class A license is required to operate semi-tractor-trailers with two or more axles.

The commercial truck driver candidate must pass all of the requirements listed above to obtain any CDL and pass the state’s CDL knowledge tests and combination vehicle’s general knowledge tests. The applicant will need to complete CDL skills test using their Class A vehicle used during the road exam and apply for any recommended endorsements like a double-triple endorsement under the Class A license.

Based on the kind of employment, the applicant may need to pass extra endorsement examinations, including the double-triple endorsement test, to transport cargo on double and triple trailers.

If the commercial vehicle applicant’s truck used in the road skilled tests is equipped with air brakes, the trucker will need to complete the air brakes examination. The Class A CDL will be issued once the applicant has passed all written tests and driving tests, filed necessary documents, and provided relevant paperwork.

Getting a CDL Class B License

Class B commercial driver’s licenses are available for any trucker operating a single vehicle weighing 26,001 pounds or more, hauling a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating under 10,000 pounds. Like the Class A License, the Class B license driver must pass the CDL knowledge tests and bring a vehicle to complete the road skills test.

The Class B applicant might be required to obtain endorsements if their vehicle is obtained, has air brakes, or other special features. The hauling weight transported by a driver with a Class B license is significantly less than those operating vehicles requiring Class A licenses. Thus, there is no need to obtain a combination endorsement or double-triple endorsement.

However, if the truck brought for the road skills tests is equipped with air brakes, or the trucker wants to pull trailers, they will need to get endorsements for both.

Getting a CDL Class C License

Class C commercial driver’s licenses are available for every commercial truck operator wanting to transport more than 16 passengers, including the driver or hazardous materials. A Class C license requires additional endorsements for transporting passengers. Potential school bus driver candidates must obtain a Passenger Endorsement and a school bus endorsement.

Transporting hazardous materials (hazmat) requires a hazmat H Endorsement. Applicants will need to undergo a comprehensive TSA and state CDL background check. Potential school bus drivers must also undergo safety checks.

The CDL Class C driver’s license will be issued when the applicant passes all tests, submits medical documents and paperwork, pays the required fees, and passes the security checks.

CDL Restrictions

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations place special restrictions on specific commercial driver licenses prohibiting the operator from driving under certain conditions. For example, any CDL applicant using a commercial vehicle with automatic transmission during the road skills test is prohibited from driving trucks with manual transmissions.

Some restrictions include:

  • Driving using corrective lenses
  • Operating the vehicle during daylight hours only
  • Learning on a CDL learner permit while driving purged tanker trucks and trailers without cargo
  • Driving vehicles unequipped with air brakes
  • Driving with dual outside mirrors
  • Operating the vehicle wearing hearing aids
  • Operating the vehicle with a medical variance or medical waiver
  • Driving with a mechanical or prosthetic aid
  • Not driving a combination of vehicles, including fifth wheels
  • Operating Group B and Group C passenger vehicles
  • Operating Group C passenger vehicles only

Obtaining a CDL License in Another State

Taking steps to avoid truck driving school like searching out-of-state to obtain a CDL might not be a wise decision. You will need to consider residency requirements, be at least 18 years for intrastate driving (your licensed state) or 21 years for interstate driving.

You will need to prove that you hold a valid driver’s license, have a clean driving record, and can prove your success in driving countless hours practicing operating a large commercial vehicle.

Before applying, you will need to prove your residency, wait 14 days before you can obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP), take the CDL test, and pass the comprehensive CDL examination, to avoid going to school.

However, a CDL training school will make sure that you receive adequate training on operating systems, road operations, vehicle systems, and the documentation you need to learn a living in the trucking industry.

CDL Driver Training School

While attending a truck driving school is not mandatory, it can provide quick access to get a CDL license to begin working and earning pay in a truck driving job. Typically, CDL training schools provide additional information required to pass the mandatory written commercial driver’s license examination, hopefully the first time.

The school typically provides hands-on CDL training and operating large commercial vehicles to pass the mandatory road test at the DMV.

Getting a CDL License FAQs

The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about getting a CDL license to drive a school bus, transport hazardous materials, or drive the long-haul and a semi-tractor-trailer.

For additional information, call us today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) to schedule a free consultation.

How Can I Get My CDL Without School?

Any individual can apply for a CLP (commercial learner’s permit) without the need to go to school. However, the applicant must first pass a comprehensive written knowledge test and pass the multi-step CDL examination.

However, the applicant will need to pay for truck driving practice time by a trucker willing to turn over the keys to an inexperienced driver wanting to get a license.

While the applicant might be saving money, they will likely find it challenging to find a trucking company to hire them without extensive hands-on training from attending truck driver training school.

What is the Biggest Truck I Could Drive without a CDL?

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), drivers do not need a CDL license when transporting cargo in vehicles with a GVW are gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 pounds.

Do not confuse gross vehicle weight (GVW) with gross vehicle weight rating determined by the chassis manufacturer that establishes maximum weight ratings. Alternatively, a gross vehicle weight calculates the weight of the payload and the truck once the cargo is loaded.

What Are CDL Endorsements?

Federal and state Department of Transportation regulations require endorsements for truckers operating specific vehicles, including trucks that transport specific cargo. Endorsements are required for operating double or triple tractor-trailers, passenger vehicles caring 16 passengers or more, including the driver, tanker trucks, and vehicles hauling hazardous materials (hazmat).

CDL endorsements require additional training and testing. Common endorsements include:

  • H Endorsement to transport hazardous materials
  • N Endorsement to operate vehicles hauling liquids and gases
  • E Endorsement to drive vehicles designed to carry 16 or more passengers, including the driver
  • S Endorsement to drive school buses
  • T Endorsement to haul combination vehicles and double and triple trailers
  • X Endorsement to drive tanker trucks and vehicles hauling hazardous materials (hazmat)

How Many Accidents Can a CDL Driver Have Before Losing Their License?

Even one severe accident could cause a CDL driver to lose their job. However, each case is different. The trucking company will likely assess who is at fault and was ticketed for causing the crash.

The driver will likely need to undergo alcohol and drug tests immediately after the collision to identify any unauthorized alcohol or medications in the driver’s system when the accident occurred.

The trucking company knows that driving is a dangerous job on American roadways. However, specific offenses might require the trucker to turn over their commercial driver’s license. Specific offenses that typically cause the trucker to lose their CDL include fleeing the accident scene, driving under the influence, or vehicular manslaughter.

Which is Better? A Class A or B Commercial Driver’s License?

Truck drivers refer to class A licenses as a universal driver license that provides significantly more opportunities when hauling cargo short or long distances. Class B licenses allow drivers to operate a different type of vehicle, including dump trucks and straight trucks but are highly restrictive compared to a Class a CDL.

Class B CDLs typically operate trucks and trailers that weigh less when fully loaded with cargo.

Is a Truck Driver Responsible for Collision Damages?

Driving a semi-tractor-trailer traveling at any speed can cause horrific crashes, leaving injured victims with financial damages. If investigators determined that the truck company or truck driver’s negligence caused the accident, the victims could file a compensation lawsuit seeking financial recovery.

The value of the lawsuit will likely be determined on economic and non-economic damages, including:

  • Hospitalization costs
  • Medical bills
  • Prescription medications
  • Medical supplies
  • Damaged vehicle repairs
  • Lost wages
  • Future lost earnings
  • Physical disfigurement
  • Temporary or permanent disability
  • Loss of consortium for a partner or spouse
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Future medical treatments, surgeries, rehabilitation, and physical/occupational therapies
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Court costs

Surviving family members who lost a loved one in a horrific truck accident can file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages. In some cases, where the trucking company or trucker’s actions were egregious, jurors may award punitive damages to punish those at fault for causing harm by their extreme recklessness or negligence.

Involved in a Commercial Vehicle Accident? Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today to Handle Your Compensation Case

The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC represent victims of commercial vehicle accidents. We serve as their legal advocate to ensure they receive maximum compensation for their injuries.

Families who lost a loved one in a horrific commercial vehicle accident can file a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain compensation to cover hospital bills, medical expenses, time away from work, lost future earnings, funeral/burial expenses, pain-and-suffering.

Contact us today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) to schedule a free consultation. We accept all cases on a contingency fee basis to avoid the need to pay any upfront fees. Our “No-Win/No-fee” guarantee ensures you will owe us nothing if we cannot obtain compensation on your behalf.

Our law firm currently follows CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Covid-19 social distancing guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety.