Training To Become A Truck Driver
If you think you are ready and able to be a professional truck driver, you are going to need a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). All drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles are required to have a CDL issued by their state of residence. You can obtain a CDL at your local DMV (Division of Motor Vehicles), however, don't plan on walking in, taking the test and walking out with license in hand. That's not the way it works.
In order to obtain a CDL, you will need to pass a general knowledge test and a driving skills test. The skills test must be taken in the type of vehicle you plan on driving. And, depending on the type of equipment you plan on operating you may need to pass certain 'endorsement' tests.
You will also need a Medical Certification card.
You can find the rules and regulations for CDL requirements at fmcsa.dot.gov. Everything you need to know about obtaining and maintaining your CDL can be found there.
As a professional truck driver, your CDL is your most valuable possession, learn to protect it.
You should also become intimately familiar with the FMCSR (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations) handbook. It will be your bible during your initial training.
Unless you have a relative or close friend that is willing to teach you how to drive a big rig, you are going to need some training. Even if your uncle shows you the ropes and helps you obtain a CDL by letting you use his equipment for testing, it is extremely unlikely that any trucking company will hire you.
All trucking companies have established hiring criteria that must meet or exceed DOT (Department of Transportation) standards for employing drivers of commercial motor vehicles. Most carriers require driver applicants to have some minimum level of experience or to be a recent graduate from an accredited truck driver training school.
Some carriers will allow a senior driver to train a spouse or relative, but those opportunities are rare. The only option for most people is to attend a truck driving school.
There are several things to consider when deciding which truck driver training school to attend.
The best place to start is locally. If there is a truck driving school near you, check them out first, this will save you money on housing while you are in training. If there is a trucking company near you and you think you might be interested in driving for them, call the recruiting department and inquire about their entry-level driver training program. Ask if they have a preferred driving school or an in-house training program. Very few trucking companies offer training to non-CDL holders anymore, but there are still a few around.
Another option is your local community college. Many community colleges offer truck driver training programs and typically provide more in-depth training at a lower cost than privately-owned truck driving schools.
Every truck driving school will help you get a CDL, what you want to consider is cost, length of training and job placement assistance. While most truck driving schools offer job placement assistance, some are better at than others.
Here is a checklist of questions to ask when you make your first inquiry at a driving school.
How long have you been in business?
What is your tuition fee?
Do you offer financial assistance?
Is there a discount if I pay cash?
What miscellaneous expenses will I incur? (Text books/training materials, DOT physical, license fees, room and board if needed)
How long is the training program?
Are you PTDI certified?
What type of equipment do you operate?
What is the age of your equipment?
What is your instructor to student ratio?
How much actual behind-the-wheel time will I receive?
Do you offer job placement assistance?
What trucking companies hire your graduates?
What percentage of graduates did you place with carriers last year?
How many people drop out during training?
Do you have a list of recent graduates I could contact?
How soon can I start training?
Once you have decided the best training situation for you, you will need to decide how to pay for that training. Some driving schools offer financial assistance and will help you arrange for loan. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions. You will also want to inquire if they work with any trucking companies that offer tuition reimbursement programs. Some carriers will pay for your training as long as you continue to drive for them. Again, make sure you understand the fine print.
If you were laid off from last your job with no hope of being rehired, you may be eligible for some type of educational assistance from that company or from the government.
There are variables to every situation, the important thing is how comfortable and confident you are in your decision to begin training for a career in trucking.
Are you ready and able to be a professional truck driver?