by Pride Transport | Sep 28, 2023
Becoming a truck driver is something many people dream of their entire lives. It’s easy to see why young kids get excited about the prospect of driving big trucks, and pragmatic adults understand that a career in the transportation industry can provide financial stability, schedules to fit a variety of lifestyles, and a chance to see the country like never before.
As long as you meet the minimum requirements of driving a truck (you must be at least 18 to drive in your home state, or 21 to cross state lines, and have a regular driver’s license), you can start your journey to becoming a truck driver.
Step 1: Find the Right CDL School for You
While the first step to becoming a truck driver is technically getting your commercial driver’s license (CDL) permit, that process in itself takes a couple steps. We recommend making sure you have a good idea for the truck driving school you’d like to complete your CDL training with right away to help you stay on top of all of the industry’s rules and regulations. As of February 2022, you must attend a professional school registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to make sure you comply with all current legal requirements.
Attending a truck driving school can help you feel more prepared to take the knowledge test portion of the permit test, as well as offer you guidance on deciding what type of vehicle and what kind of driving you would like to do. There are three types of CDLs: Class A, Class B, and Class C. Basically, Class A licenses are for traditional tractor-trailers and flatbeds, Class B licenses are for large trailer-free vehicles like buses, and Class C licenses are for other vehicles that transport 16 or more passengers but weigh less than 26,000 pounds. Learn more about the types of CDLs here.
Once you decide what sort of driving you’d like to do, get a copy of your state’s CDL Manual so you can become familiar with the licensing process. Keep in mind that some drivers will need additional endorsements and certificates to drive a truck with a tank or carry hazmat materials, so do your research to know what sort of extra tests you might need to take.
A good truck driving school will have a good reputation, boast a comprehensive program that helps you understand these nuances, and give you ample on-the-road training. Look for one that is affordable for you, has availability, and can help you with job placement.
Step 2: Take the DOT Physical Examination
Getting your CDL permit doesn’t mean simply passing the knowledge test. This phase of becoming a truck driver will also ensure that you can pass the DOT physical examination.
Because driving a truck can be dangerous, all drivers must be checked to make sure they’re in peak physical condition to safely operate a big rig. DOT physicals are performed every 24 months to make sure drivers have safe blood pressure, which indicates good circulation–crucial for a job that requires a lot of sitting. Physical exams also include vision and hearing tests, for reasons that are self-explanatory, and drug and alcohol testing.
To prepare for this part of becoming a truck driver, try to avoid coffee, energy drinks, and excessively salty foods in the day or two leading up to your exam. Caffeine and sodium can elevate your blood pressure (and they definitely won’t help any nerves you might have!). Same deal with eating a big breakfast right before: Going into the exam with high blood sugar might make your doctor wary of diabetes warning signs. And while it might sound silly, we can’t help but remind you: Practice good hygiene, and bring a good attitude with you! There’s no need for white coat syndrome here; your doctor will most likely want you to do well just as much as you do!
Once you pass both that knowledge exam and your physical exam, you’re then able to schedule your CDL road examination.
Step 3: Take the DOT Skills TesT
The last (and arguably the most important) step to becoming a truck driver is passing the CDL test. The three-part skills examination includes the vehicle inspection test, the basic controls test, and the road test. These parts ensure that you not only understand the mechanical components of your rig, but how to keep them in tip-top shape and operate your vehicle safely while out on the job.
Keep in mind that the skills test is only part of the journey to becoming a truck driver–the knowledge test and physical examination also hold significance in the process, so make sure you feel confident about your progress before you even make it out on the road.
After you pass your skills test, you’ll be able to apply for your license, which some states might administer in person and others might send you by mail. Be prepared to provide your CDL permit, proof of identity, regular driver’s license, social security card, proof of residency in your state, your new DOT medical card, and a certificate of completion from your driving school.
Step 4: Come Work for Pride!
Congratulations! With your new CDL, you have many great roads ahead of you! Once you finally hold your CDL, it’s worth taking time to research your job options. We recommend finding a company that hires new drivers to ensure you’re getting the proper training and question-answering you’ll need as someone new to the role.
Think about what your ideal work environment looks like. Does it have great pay? Amazing benefits? Does it let you drive with a partner or batch many jobs together so you have longer strings of time at home? It’s important to set realistic expectations for yourself and the environment you work best in so you can look for a company that shares your values.
At Pride, our family business has truly put family first for close to 40 years. We treat our employees with care and respect, and we’re dedicated to fostering a culture of transparency. We encourage our drivers to do what they love and do it well so we can collectively commit to staying out on the road and at the top of the industry.
To learn more about our impressive benefits, visit our website at pridetransport.com.