How to become a truck driver in the US: 10 steps

how to become a truck driver

This guide outlines the steps and tips for how to become a truck driver in the United States.

The job of a truck driver has its challenges and pleasures. You will have an opportunity to travel the country, experience freedom on the open road, and earn a hefty salary. Truck drivers also enjoy job security, even in the current unstable economy.

How to become a truck driver

 how to become a truck driver

If you are ready to get qualified, our guide on how to become a truck driver will help you start your career on the right foot.

In the United States, applicants wanting to know how to become a truck driver can follow a straightforward process. It begins with choosing a trusted driving school with a suitable program. For example, the course on cdl training spokane wa covers everything you need to get a CDL. 

Getting Your CDL 

CDLs are issued by individual states, not the federal government. Typically, aspiring drivers must graduate from a truck driving school. In some states, you may get a license on your own provided you are eligible and pass the required tests. 

Your school will help with most of these eligibility requirements (apart from the first one):

  1. Driver’s license for a car;
  2. FMCSA exam;
  3. Medical tests;
  4. Test to get the CDL Learners’ Permit (for initial training);
  5. CDL exam, which gives a truck driving license;
  6. Experience.

Step 1. Check Eligibility

The minimum age is 18, but it rises to 21 for drivers crossing state lines. Candidates must also get a physical and DOT medical card. Make sure your examiner is listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) national registry. You will be asked for the following documents:

  • birth certificate,
  • driver’s license,
  • Social Security card,
  • utility bill,
  • copy of MVR.

If you are planning to enroll in a school outside of your home state, check their residency requirements. 

Step 2. Address Obstacles 

Candidates with a history of serious criminal offenses and felony convictions may be unable to obtain a license. For example, drunk driving charges, kidnapping, arson, and extortion are red flags.

There are also health-related barriers: particular prescription medications, high blood pressure, diabetes, and sleep apnea. The same is true for physical disabilities like missing limbs, fingers, or toes. Ask your physician for a written waiver stating that you can operate a commercial vehicle safely. 

Your driving school will not conduct drug tests, but they are required by carriers. Truck drivers are subject to evaluations before and after hiring. Drug tests are also mandatory after any accident. Many employers test their staff randomly, so casual drug use is bound to catch up with you sooner or later. Do not take any chances. 

Step 3. Enrol in a School

Choose a reputable school that will tutor you in how to become a truck driver properly. Options range from private training academies to community college programs. Some mega carriers manage their own CDL driver mills. Choose a school with a proven track record of success and connections to local carriers.

Step 4. Get a Copy of the CDL Manual

State CDL study manuals are fairly standardized, but they still differ slightly. Follow the guidelines for the state where you will get educated and tested. You can download a PDF, get a hard copy from the local DMV office or ask the school to email you a link.

Step 5. CDL Learner’s Permit Application

You can do this in person or remotely. Your training provider may also offer this service. If you fill out the application at the school, the staff can help with any items you are missing or hesitate about. This stage requires the following documents:

  • copy of MVR + full driving history from all states and Washington DC
  • home address
  • valid driver’s license and details of licenses obtained in other states
  • Social security card, passport, or credit card
  • Application fee (unless included in the tuition)

Step 6. CDL General Knowledge Test

This stage should be relatively easy — of course, if you have dedicated enough time to study.

Step 7. Learn, Practice, and Study

As per FMCSA rules, you must practice with a qualified CDL holder during your training. In states without formal schooling requirements, applicants must find teachers on their own. The in-classroom portion is just as important.

Step 8. Final CDL Tests

Once you have had your learner’s permit for at least 2 weeks, you will be allowed to take the final tests. This stage includes four mandatory phases.

  • First, you will have to pass a Vehicle Inspection (Pre-trip Inspection) Test. It includes checking brakes, tires, the engine, etc.
  • During the Basic Controls Test, you have to show your skills in parallel parking, backing (straight line and offset), and alley docking. 
  • A Road Test evaluates your awareness and command of the truck including mirrors, turn signals, brakes, and acceleration.

Consider getting a few endorsements to improve the odds of getting hired. For example, HazMat and Twic Card will come in handy. 

Note that tests for Class A CDL are taken in a combination vehicle. Your school will schedule all the necessary appointments and provide a suitable truck.

Step 9. Getting Your CDL

If you fail the tests the first time, you will be allowed to retake them after a brief waiting period. Find out about your school’s retesting policy and any applicable fees. Some educators offer unlimited free attempts until passing. Eventually, you will get a physical copy of your new license.

Step 10. Getting Hired 

Paid CDL training programs include job placement. Some carriers train candidates with a CDL for a few weeks. Their introductory programs teach things you may not learn in your formal school training. Training with subsequent employment is the most convenient, as many companies reject inexperienced drivers.