“Truckin’

Got my chips cashed in

Keep Truckin

Like the do-dah man”

That old 1970s Grateful Dead song by Jerry Garcia speaks to so many Americans whose daily lives are on the road. A truck driver’s salary depends on their experience, equipment, and if they are crossing state lines. However, regardless of the factors, this quick-entry career holds high earning potential and ample job opportunities due to the truck driver shortage in America. Heck, it’s even never too late to become a truck driver, as we are even witnessing an increase in seniors getting their commercial driver licenses (CDL)

Below is an in-depth guide on everything you need to know to become a CDL truck driver. We cover commonly asked questions like age requirements, physical exams, expected costs, CDL schools, etc. This guide is not intended to sway your decision to enter this rewarding and lucrative career. On the contrary, we want to provide the most accurate information possible so you can weigh your options appropriately and make the best decision for your future.  

How To Become A CDL Truck Driver Checklist

Age Requirements For Becoming A Truck Driver

The age requirement for becoming a truck driver varies depending on whether you are seeking employment in intrastate or interstate driving. For clarification, Intrastate refers to driving within the same state, while interstate means crossing state lines. The minimum age requirement for intrastate driving is 18 years old, and you must be a state resident. Any US citizen over 21 years old qualifies for interstate driving on commercial vehicles.

Can You Pass A Physical Exam?

You must pass a physical exam to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for commercial motor vehicles (CMV). According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), regardless of whether you are driving intrastate or interstate, a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) is required to obtain and maintain a valid Medical Examiner’s Certificate (ME Certificate). 

To receive an ME Certificate, you must pass a US DOT physical. The medical card requirements include passing a vision test, hearing test, urinalysis, and blood pressure exam, among other criteria. According to the FMCSA, the medical card is valid for 24 months; however, the examiner can issue a card for less than two years if a chronic condition requires more frequent testing.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Truck Driver?

A common question many people ask before entering the trucking industry is how long it takes to get your CDL. Depending on the state, the test only takes two hours. However, taking the test without former training is a daunting task and reduces the chances of success. You will want to look for an American truck driver training school online or in person. 

Proper training through a certified school will increase the likelihood of passing the CDL test. Furthermore, receiving formal training on road safety protocols protects you from the dangers of long hours behind the wheel, road hazards, weather conditions, other drivers, and truck driver burnout. 

Check your state’s Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) for a list of CDL testing centers. For example, here is a link to the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles on CDL information.

Expected Costs and Expenses

There is no exact cost to become a truck driver. However, the following are expenses you can expect to obtain to become a CDL truck driver:

  • Truck Driving School: $1,000 – $10,00 depending on if the school is licensed, certified, or accredited. 
  • CDL Exam: $200
  • Commercial Driver’s License: $20
  • DOT Physical: $100
  • Semi-truck insurance: varies

What If You Have No Truck Driving Experience?

Six months to one year of over-the-road (OTR) experience is usually required for any legitimate carrier to consider you hirable. So, how do you get a trucking job without OTR experience? You will want to find trucking companies that invest in their truck drivers. To clarify, most major US trucking companies require working with a trainer for 4-6 months before allowing you to gain OTR experience alone. Working with a trainer will enable you to get accustomed to life on the road and prepare for challenges such as sleeping in your truck, unpredictable routes, unfavorable weather conditions, road closures, and being away from your family.

Conclusion

We hope the guide above provides helpful insights on becoming a CDL truck driver. Truck driving can be a gratifying career with high pay, flexible hours, and quick entry into the workforce. That said, life on the road can be exhausting and emotionally taxing, especially after long stretches away from family and friends. Even though becoming a CDL truck driver is a fraction of the cost compared to most higher education, it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons of becoming a truck driver before you make the investment. 

Outsource Financial Services, Inc. is located in Denver, Colorado. We have helped thousands of truck drivers stay ahead of cash flow by providing quick and easy factoring solutions. Contact us today for a free quote for your invoice factoring needs.