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Applying for a CDL as an Owner Operator in Trucking

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

Driving a car and driving an 80,000 lb monster big rig are two completely different things, so it makes sense that both require different driving licenses. Once you have your trucking company in place and are ready to roll, you and any additional drivers that will be working for your trucking company will need to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License) from the state you are based out of. There is a process to get a Commercial Driver's License just like any license, so we have provided you with the steps it takes to apply and get your CDL so that you can start driving your truck.

Step 1 - Applying for Your Commercial Driver's License

Review CDL Requirements

You can get your CDL when you're as young as 18, however, if you plan to drive your truck across state lines or work for a trucking company involved in interstate commerce, you must be at least 21 years old. Each state has its own age, residency, and medical requirements so make sure you visit your state's CDL Manual to know all of them.

Decide which type of vehicle you will be driving

There are 3 different classifications of CDLs - Class A, B, and C.

  • Class A: Operates any combination of vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more, including towed vehicles heavier than 10,000 lbs. Examples: Tractor trailers, truck and trailer combos, double and triple trailers, live stock carriers, and flatbeds.

  • Class B: Operate a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or heavier AND/OR any vehicle as previously described that is towing another vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Examples: Straight trucks, large buses, and box trucks.

  • Class C: May be required if the vehicle does not meet the criteria for either a Class A or Class B license, if it is meant to transport at least 16 passengers, including the driver, OR hazardous material (HAZMAT) as laid out by federal guidelines. Examples: Small HAZMAT vehicles, passenger vans, and small truck towing a trailer.

There are also different certifications and endorsements depending on the work you will be doing with your truck. The fee and test will be determined on which class and endorsement you choose.

Complete you Commercial Driver's License Application

There is a specific form provided by your state that you must complete to apply for a CDL. You can fill this form our at your local DMV. Be prepared to provide a 10-year record check as part of the CDL application process.

Step 2 - Obtain your Commercial Driver's Learner's Permit

Collect all the required documents

You will need identification, proof of citizenship status, and proof of residency. It is helpful to check with your local DMV or online to see what other required documents there may be for your CDL.

Hand in your CDL Application

Head to your local DMV office and hand in your CDL Application with all required documents

Pass the written test

Before getting your permit, you must pass a general written test to demonstrate knowledge of the rules of the road. The exams consist of general knowledge, air brakes, and combination vehicles. You can find study material in a CDL handbook.

Complete a background check

To drive across state lines or transport hazardous materials you may be required to have a background check done with federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Practice driving and complete your training

Once you have obtained your permit, you can practice driving with a driver that already has a CDL. Some states will require you to complete a state-approved training class before being able to take the skills test for your CDL.

Step 3 - Getting your Commercial Driver's License

Schedule your skills test

Once you're comfortable and ready to drive, schedule your test. Keep in mind that you may need to schedule it several months in advance as they book up quickly.

Pass the test

You must pass a CDL driving skills test with an examiner before you can get your full CDL. The testing depends on the type of vehicle that you plan on driving. This test must be taken in the vehicle that you will be driving once you get your CDL.

Get your full CDL

After you pass the skills test, you will be issues your CDL.

You're now ready to start driving your truck by yourself!! Before you can officially get your wheels turning and start hauling loads, make sure that your MC authority is active. If you're having trouble with this process, stay tuned for our next blog of the series How to File for Your Trucking Authority to find out more information.

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