What To Know Before Taking CDL Classes

Tips to note Before Taking CDL Classes

If you’re planning to have a career in the trucking industry, then obtaining a commercial driving license (CDL) is your way in. The process of getting your license involves enrolling in CDL classes, getting appropriate training according to the class of your license, and taking the CDL test both written and driving tests.

The United States Department of Transportation requires that all commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers obtain this license before they can be seen as professional CMV drivers. Obtaining a CDL is the first step to securing a commercial motor vehicle driving job if you don’t already have one through the company-sponsored CDL training program. Educational programs such as community colleges, technical schools, and trucking companies offer CDL classes to drivers as part of their training. Also included in these classes apart from classroom activities is on the road driving training. Usually, CDL classes take several weeks before completion. That said, as a driver,  you will be required to take a set of written exams in both general knowledge and skills tests. Passing the above test means that the driver will be given a license.

Before you take a CDL class, you need to know that there are three classes of CDL for prospective truck drivers. Each CDL class requires its training according to the type of motor vehicles that belong to the class. Your CDL class will determine the kind of job you’ll take after obtaining your license.

The three classes of CDL are; Class A, Class B, Class C.

Class A CDL

This class is required for driving a combination of vehicles that has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds and above, and an excess of 10,000 pounds towed vehicles’ GVWR. Long-distance vehicles like tractor-trailers require a class A CDL.

Class B CDL

Class B is required for any vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,000 pounds or more and this single vehicle towing another vehicle of 10,000 pounds or lesser. Such vehicles that require class B CDL include garbage trucks, tow trucks, dump trucks, passenger buses, and delivery trucks.

Class C CDL

Combination of vehicles and vehicles that don’t meet the criteria for Class A or Class B CDL belongs to class C. This class is designed for vehicles used in transporting materials that are classified as hazardous or harmful according to the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.

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After obtaining any of this class of CDL, there are also CDL programs a driver can do to get endorsed in certain areas for specialized trucking jobs. You can prepare for them along with your CDL training or you can choose to do it later during employment, or when it becomes necessary. These endorsements include;

T Endorsements – They are for double or triple trailers, they require drivers taking the general knowledge test only.

P Endorsements – For passengers’ vehicles, they require both the general knowledge test and skills tests.

N Endorsements – For driving tank vehicles, they only require a general knowledge test

H Endorsements – For hazardous materials, chemical substances and they also require general knowledge test only

X Endorsements – The combination of endorsements for tank vehicles and hazardous materials and they require general knowledge tests only.

S Endorsements – Generally for school buses, vehicles transporting school children to and fro school, it requires a general knowledge test and skills test.

General CDL Requirement

The number of years in focus, the quality of tests varies from one state to another, and from one company to another, and drivers are to take note of these requirements to check if they would qualify to get a CDL before deciding to enroll for a CDL class.

The following are very important to get your CDL and for getting a trucking job;

  • A clean driving history
  • A clean criminal record
  • A clean alcohol/ drug history
  • Healthy Medical Record
  • Verifiable record of employment

Driving History

Your driving history matters in your eligibility for a CDL, companies would like to know if for at least three years past you have not been convicted of any driving misconduct such as over speeding, reckless driving, suspensions, driving under intoxication, DUI or accidents. Getting a speeding ticket, your driving license has been suspended before, you didn’t register your vehicle or you don’t have insurance shows that you are irresponsible and careless to be a worthy driver.

Even if you have no record of driving misconducts all your life but you only got one or two within the year in focus, it would not play out in your favor, ensure that your record us thoroughly clean

Criminal Record

Usually, applicants are informed of a background check to verify their information and to determine if they are fit to work with the company.  No trucking company would want to associate with a convicted felon, they show who you are, your character, your lifestyle, etc. Although some would say some felonies are not as serious, and they are more acceptable but it is going to cause a negative mark on your application. In the case of burglary or theft, the company may decide that you can’t be trusted with the company’s properties, assault may signify aggressiveness and you are not a team player, and that you may not properly represent the company while out there on the road by yourself. Drug convictions give an idea of you being potential harm to yourself and other road users while driving, no company would want to identify with such an individual. A clean record of a felony is the only advantage you have in your application.

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A clean alcohol/drug history

With a drug or alcohol history, DUI means you could cause road accidents without caring about the consequences of your action. Insurance companies would charge high rates to cover the life assurance of such a driver. If after you fail a drug test, companies may necessitate that you take classes in the Substance Abuse Program, before you can be seen as eligible, that is for companies that don’t cancel your application immediately.

Medical Record; You must provide all the details of your treatments and medications you are currently taking or you have taken in the past, For conditions affecting your sleep such as insomnia or blood pressure, companies would want to see a record of at least 30days of stability.

Applicants need to know that what the Department of Transportation allows may not always be the same as what individual companies allow. Companies may decide to set up their standards for the physical screening, but generally antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications are red flags for all companies. Most times companies put some medications under their banned list and would not negotiate with applicants that fall into that category.

Employment History

To get your CD and possibly land a job with a trucking company, you must present a verifiable employment record, this will indicate, the kind of employee you were, whether you can commit to your new career with the company. If you have a record of leaving a job without proper resignation, being fired multiple times, or simply can’t hold a job down for long and you keep moving from one job to another, it doesn’t show you are going to be reliable.

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If you find out that your records are not completely fit for these criteria you may have to wait for another year or more to set yourself straight, keep your driving and alcohol record clean, improve your health, get employed, and remain committed there for at least a year, and maintain a crime-free life, save money towards your CDL training. Even if you were denied admission, keep trying, keep working on yourself which would give companies valuable proof that you are better and ready to get the job done.

In addition to the requirements stated above, you may need to get the following documents;

  • A valid United States birth certificate, and or, passport
  • A social security card
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Valid United States work permit

Items That You Would Need For Your CDL Training

After you have enrolled in a CDL training program and you are looking forward to your first class, here is a list of essentials you should take with you;

-Money; If you are traveling to a CDL training facility that is far from home, you may need to go with enough money, to support yourself.

-Food; You may get accommodations while you’re training, coming with your food and snacks may save you money.

– Your documents; Driver’s license, birth certificate, social security card, work permits, passport, etc

– Writing materials

– Baby wipes which are typically a must-have got truck drivers

– CDL study materials

– Items of clothing and accessories, in case you are traveling to take your CDL class, pack for the weather of the location including gloves, work boots, hats…etc

How Long Should You Study For Your CDL Permit?

Normally classroom time varies by the CDL training program, but they range from 160 – 200 hours of training. Having more time to study in the classroom, and observational time with an instructor will give you more preparation time before you take your CDL test both written and on the road driving test.

What Would Disqualify You From Getting A CDL?

If you don’t meet the criteria from your health, employment, drug/alcohol, driving records, you are not qualified to get a CDL based on Federal laws. If you have also used a commercial motor vehicle to commit a felony or you have caused serious harm during operation, you would be disqualified.

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