How Hard Is It To Get A CDL?

Did you know there are over 3.5 million employed truck drivers in the United States alone? If you’ve thought about becoming a Commercial Truck Driver and getting your share of the whopping $723 Billion US trucking industry, you’ve landed on the right page.

Welcome to the world of truck driving! If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a truck driver, you’ll be glad to know that you don’t need an extensive education or fancy paperwork. However, it is important to note that in the US, all personnel are required to have a commercial driving license before hitting the road.

How hard is it to get a CDL? Well, read to learn more about the process.

Exactly how hard is the process?

Getting your CDL is a piece of cake for most folks as long as they’re in good physical shape and have a solid grasp of their surroundings. But for the uninitiated, the real challenge comes in the form of the driving skill test, where you gotta back that big rig up and haul it down the highway like a pro.

Usually, people having prior driving experience find it easier to obtain the CDL than those who have never driven a truck. Keep in mind that there is an Entry Level Training course in place for such people.

Since there is no definite answer to How Hard Is It To Get A CDL, we will walk you through the entire thing so you can be a better judge.

What is a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)?

A Commercial Driver’s License or CDL can be challenging to acquire if it is your first time applying for the license. In 1986, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act made it mandatory for truckers to operate heavy vehicles safely and responsibly. It’s all about keeping the roads safe for everyone out there!

Anyone who wants to make money by driving heavy-duty vehicles has to secure a commercial driver’s license. The requirements may vary between states, but the primary criteria are usually the same. 

While there are various classes of the CDL, you can only keep one driver’s license at one time.

Drivers often ask if getting a CDL without experience is challenging. Well, it is not impossible, but we wouldn’t call it a piece of cake either!

Sometimes, drivers have prior driving experience, making it easier to pass the assessment criteria. On the other hand, some have to go the extra mile to pass the tests.

How do you get a CDL?

While it can be difficult for first-time applicants to receive their commercial driver’s license, there are a lot of resources to help them. 

Obtaining a commercial driver’s license may take up to a year, depending on the region you apply from and their SOPs, your level of skill, and multiple other factors such as age, health, or general driving ability.

You may simultaneously attempt all parts of the tests in place to acquire a CDL or go home, prepare for the next part, and try afterward. 

The best part is that you have three chances to attempt all the stages if you cannot clear it on the first attempt. 

However, if you fail all three, you must start the procedure again.

Requirement for CDL file folder

Requirements To Apply

The DMV follows an extensive procedure for issuing a commercial driver’s license because of the significant risk factor for the general public if one wrongfully given license falls into the wrong hands.

However, you will need the following to apply for a CDL.

Minimum Age: The Most Important

If you want to apply for a CDL, you must be at least 18 years old to get your hands on an intrastate driving license. This will let you cruise around within state lines without violating any laws. But if you wanna hit the big leagues and grab an interstate driving license taking you from coast to coast, you need to be 21 or older to make it happen.

Identity and Residential Proofs

Next, you must provide identity proof and verify your social security number when submitting your CLD application and fee. The documents will also contain evidence of your residence.

Health Certification

Next, the authorities conduct a medical examination to check your overall health and fitness. You can only move up further in the process after you receive the medical certificate. The medical examination also includes a vision test before qualifying you for the next steps. 

Entry-Level Driver Training for the First-timers

When thinking about “Is it hard to get a CDL with no experience?” the answer is “yes,” as we mentioned. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has made it mandatory for new drivers to get Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) to ensure they have enough road sense to drive the vehicle properly on the road. It is also a great way to test how long you could go as a truck driver if you’re starting.

You might NOT need the training if you have been driving for years. Refer to your state laws to learn the exact criteria.

Components of the CDL Test Procedure

The assessment criteria to obtain a CDL has various stages, including knowledge and skill tests. 

Here’s everything you need to prepare for the commercial driver’s license.

Knowledge Test

When you think of how hard it is to get a CDL, the knowledge test is the most complicated and lengthy part of the process as it requires you to learn much about the vehicle and road.

Depending on the class of license you apply for, you have to pass the general knowledge, air brakes, and combination sections in the written exam. 

Obtaining the CDL requires you to pass the written permit examination by 80% and complete the CDL road test. 

The 100-page handbook from your local DMV can come in extremely handy. It has everything you need to learn to pass this particular test. After passing the knowledge test, you will receive a learner’s permit and take the skills test fourteen days later. 

Skill Test

When you pass the knowledge test, you must pass the skill test to obtain your license. The skill test or road test takes around two and a half hours. It focuses on fundamental driving skills and a few other areas, including:

  • Vehicle Inspection

All CDL applicants must take a vehicle inspection test to understand the basic engineering of the vehicle that they intend to drive. The inspection officer may ask you anything about the truck or trailer and expect you to know it in and out.

  • Control 

Overall control is the next skill you are judged on when applying for a commercial driver’s license. The test takes only thirty seconds, enough for the accompanying invigilator to assess your driving skills. 

You must pull the vehicle forward and backward and turn it in a specific area, similar to the car parking test, but it is easier said than done.

  • Road Driving

After you pass the inspection and basic control test, you must take a 45 to 60-minute road test along the routes designated by the DMV. The inspection officer judges your overall abilities for the last time to finalize their decision.

Wrapping Up: Was It Hard?

Many people do not opt for this profession despite their interest, believing the license-obtaining procedure is tiresome. After reading the above guide, the answer to “Is it hard to get a CDL” is neither a YES nor NO, but it depends on your prior experience and general motor skills as a driver. The assessment is purely based on a knowledge test and a skill test. 

Applicants can receive the handout booklet from the local DMV to prepare for the test beforehand and work on their motor skills to ace the process.