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How To Get A Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

Christine O'Kelly
Aug 16, 2008
Truck drivers must have a truck driver's license issued by the state where they live. This often is known as a Commercial Driver's License, or CDL. A regular driver's license may be enough to drive light trucks and vans in some states, but CDL requirements mandate obtaining a Commercial Driver's License to drive a tractor-trailer or an 18 wheeler weighing more than 26,000 pounds.

CDL Requirements

To obtain a CDL, potential truck drivers must contact a state's department of motor vehicle registrations and arrange to take two tests. Applicants must pass a written test to show they have knowledge of traffic rules and regulations. They also must pass a driving test to show they can safely operate a commercial truck. Such testing involves Motor Carrier Safety Regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation. This type of testing is in place in an effort to reduce the number of 18-wheeler crashes.

CDL Requirements may be even more stringent for drivers who will handle hazardous materials -- including a fingerprint-based security threat assessment.

Federal Regulations Apply To Tests

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, truck drivers must be at least 21 years old and must pass a physical examination every two years. Physical requirements include at least 20/40 vision with glasses or corrective lenses, a 70-degree field of vision in each eye, and not being colorblind. Drivers also must have good hearing, good blood pressure and normal use of legs and arms. Being in good physical health will help to reduce the possibility of an 18-wheeler crash.

Drivers must be able to read and speak English well enough to understand road signs and communicate with law officers. In some states, drivers who travel beyond the state must take drug tests every two years. They also may need to take a drug test upon being hired, and if they're involved in an 18-wheeler crash or any other mishap.

Drivers will be disqualified if they've been convicted of: a felony involving use of a motor vehicle; hit-and-run driving which resulted in injury or death; a crime using drugs; or driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Employers Have Requirements, Too

Prospective truck drivers often attend drivers training courses in order to meet the demands of both the state and of potential employers. Trucking employers may require even stiffer standards of their drivers than those needed to obtain a CDL. A clean driving record may be imperative.

Employers tend to prefer drivers with a high school diploma or GDE; drivers who can lift and carry heavy objects while loading or unloading trucks; and drivers who are responsible, self-motivated and not prone to road rage, a cause of many 18-wheeler crashes.
About the Author
Christine O'Kelly is an author for 18-Wheeler Accident.org , an organization of legal representatives specializing in helping clients that have been involved in an 18-wheeler crash .
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