A Class A CDL allows you to drive a combination vehicle, tractor and trailer, if the trailer’s GVWR is over 10,000 pounds. With a Class A CDL, you qualify to drive for companies — locally, regionally or nationally — that provide over-the-road trips. In some states, CDL driving school may not be mandatory to pass the CDL test, but it makes passing the commercial driver’s license test more likely. In the test, you not only have to pass the written portion, you also have to pass the vehicle inspection test and must know how to handle your vehicle. When you go to a CDL license school, you gain real-world driving skills through hands-on training.
Steps to Taking a Class A CDL Test
You’ll have to go through several steps to get your Class A CDL test, including a medical exam. Each state has its own requirements, so your best bet is to download your state’s Commercial Driver’s Licensing Manual. You’ll most likely need the Adobe PDF viewer to read the manual. Otherwise, you should be able to pick up a copy at several field locations for taking the CDL test.
Once you download and review the manual, decide which type of vehicle you’re most likely to be driving. If you are driving a combination vehicle where the trailer is over 10,000 pounds, you’ll need a CDL Class A license. Other types of vehicles require different types of CDL licenses, including 15-passenger vehicles and vehicles that haul hazardous materials, even if that vehicle is not hauling a trailer. School buses and tank trucks also require CDL licenses.
Commercial Learner’s Permit
Once you’ve researched schools and what type of license you need — including a Class A CDL license — you need to get the commercial learner’s permit (CLP). This permit allows you to practice driving on public roads as long as another qualified CDL driver is with you. You need to take several steps to determine whether you are eligible for a CLP, including:
- A clean driving record in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia for the past 10 years.
- Proof of a medical exam — your state may require you to have an exam by a doctor that the state certifies. The handbook for your state will advise you on how and where to get a medical exam. Your state may require a DOT medical card, so you’ll need a DOT physical.
- Proof of your name and of residency in your state. You will also have to show that you are a United States resident.
- Fingerprints — if you intend on applying for a hazardous waste endorsement, you may have to provide your fingerprints. You may also have to undergo a background check.
- Additional documentation may be required for additional endorsements.
- Payment — you’ll need to pay the fees for the CLP.
- Tests — you’ll need to take and pass the tests required to get your commercial learner’s permit.
Once you get your learner’s permit, find a CDL school to help you practice driving and taking the tests for your commercial driver’s license.
Getting Your Commercial Driver’s License
You have to have the CLP for at least 14 days before you will be able to take the skills test. Your state may also require CDL training before you take the test. Even if your state doesn’t require that you have training, you will learn a lot at the school that will make your first job that much easier.
During the time you spend at the school, you will practice truck inspection tests so that you know exactly what road inspectors will be looking for if you happen to be stopped by the DOT.
The skills test has three parts: The vehicle inspection test, testing on the basic controls and of course, a road test. You will need to know what is on the inspection checklist in order to pass that part of the skills test.
Once you pass the skills test, you take the documentation to motor vehicles for processing. In some states, you may get your license right then and there, while other states mail your license to you.
Getting a Job After You Finish Your Training
Southwest Truck Driver Training is not owned by a trucking company, so you are able to apply at any company you want when you finish your schooling and pass the CDL test and requirements. We provide information about several different truck driving positions that you could apply for right out of school including dedicated route positions, local positions, over-the-road positions and regional positions.
Visit Southwest Truck Driver Training to learn more about the benefits we offer including extensive training and job availability.