Semi-trucks and trailers are large, heavy, and difficult to operate. It takes a lot of skill and experience to be able to drive a semi-truck safely. Because of the safety risks associated with driving a semi, anyone who wants to operate one on public roadways needs a special license known as a CDL. Obtaining your CDL requires that you complete three basic steps. Learn more about each of these steps so that you will be prepared to pursue your own CDL more effectively in the future.
1. Obtain a CDL Learner's Permit
Just as you have a learner's permit prior to obtaining your driver's license, you will need to acquire a CDL learner's permit as part of the licensing process. The learner's permit allows you to legally operate any large vehicle, as long as you are accompanied by someone with a current CDL.
Anyone hoping to obtain a CDL learner's permit must be able to pass a rigorous physical, provide medical clearance, and have a clean driving history.
The learner's permit must be obtained before you can move on to step number 2 in the CDL process.
2. Complete a CDL Course
A CDL course will teach you everything that you need to know about operating large vehicles.
All courses begin with instruction in a classroom setting. This classroom education allows you to become familiar with the components of a semi-truck and provides you with the opportunity to learn about the safety precautions that you will need to take when behind the wheel of a large truck.
Once you have passed a written examination, you will be able to begin the hands-on portion of your CDL course. You will learn to maneuver a semi-truck effectively by practicing on a closed course. This gives you a controlled environment in which to hone your driving skills.
3. Pass the CDL Exam
Once your hands-on training is complete, you will be eligible to take the CDL exam. This test requires that you know how to complete a thorough vehicle inspection, that you can successfully back a semi into a confined space, and that you can safely operate a semi-truck on a public roadway.
Most of the instructors who oversee CDL courses are certified to administer the CDL exam, so this test is typically included in the overall cost of your course.
You will need to present your certificate of completion and passing test results at the DMV to obtain your official CDL.