Earning a commercial driver's license allows an individual to begin a career as a professional driver. Because there are many different types of truck drivers, the time it takes to earn a CDL can vary. Learning about the process to become licensed can help you choose which type of driver to become. In this article, we explore what a CDL is and answer some frequently asked questions about earning one.
What is a CDL?
A CDL, or a commercial driver's license, is a driver's license for those operating large or heavy trucks or trailers. These drivers may also transport hazardous materials in specialized vehicles as well as people in transportation vehicles like buses. There are three different types of CDL licenses:
Class A drivers operate a combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or higher. This includes vehicles such as:
Those with Class B status can drive any single vehicle without a trailer with a combined weight greater than 26,000 pounds. Vehicles they can drive include:
Class C drivers operate single vehicles with a GVWR below 26,001 pounds. They also can tow another vehicle that weighs less than 10,000 pounds and transport 16 or more passengers. Vehicles they operate include:
Related: CDL License: Definition and Types
How long does it take to get a CDL?
Getting a CDL can take between three weeks to six months. The duration for completion depends on a variety of factors, which include:
Do you need to take a class to get your CDL?
While individuals don't need to attend training to earn a CDL, many companies prefer employees who attended an accredited school with a specific number of hours of instruction time. This is typically due to insurance policies. Attending a truck driving school demonstrates to employers that you are committed to the industry. Truck driving school also teaches fundamental skills and knowledge which can help you pass your tests and become a successful driver.
Some places that provide truck driving training include:
Related: CDL Certification Guide: Everything You Need To Know
How much driving practice do you need for your CDL test?
There currently is no official required amount of driving practice to earn a CDL. However, many companies prefer a minimum of 160 hours of training behind the wheel. Upon earning a commercial learner's permit (CLP), individuals can practice driving with a licensed CDL driver accompanying them.
How long does the CDL driving test take?
The CDL road skills test takes approximately two hours to complete. Typically, an examiner evaluates drivers on skills such as backing, quick stops, three-point turnabouts and approaching intersections. This portion of the CDL exams consists of three parts:
Related: How To Earn a Commercial Driver's License in 7 Steps
What CDL endorsements can you get?
In addition to earning a CDL, drivers can declare specific CDL endorsements for a different type of commercial driving. CDL endorsements involve additional test requirements and a fee. Some endorsements CDL drivers can earn include:
Related: A Complete Guide To Becoming a Tow Truck Driver
How often do you have to renew your CDL?
CDL renewal depends on the state you earned yours in. Typically, they are valid between five to eight years. Your state department of transportation (DMV) mails a reminder when your CDL is about to expire.
Other occasions for renewing your CDL include:
How much does a CDL cost?
The bulk of a CDL cost goes toward the truck driving training course. These programs cost between $1,000 to $8,000, depending on the experience of the instructors and other related factors. The endorsements cost an additional $10 to $50 per endorsement. Other fees may include an application, CLP and skills testing.