Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a truck driver? Truck drivers travel across the nation transporting the goods that people need in order to function in their daily lives. A truck driver is the heart and soul of our economy. Getting a license to drive a tractor trailer requires obtaining a certain kind of drivers license. Understanding the requirements and knowledge one must have before one is allowed to drive a tractor trailer is essential to being successful at becoming a truck driver.
The first requirement in becoming a truck driver is to obtain a commercial driver’s license, otherwise referred to as CDL. The federal government requires each state to establish standards in regards to licensing of commercial drivers. A commercial drivers license is required to operate any vehicle that is considered a commercial motor vehicle. Commercial motor vehicles include buses such as school and tour buses, tank vehicles such as those that carry liquids, vehicles that carry hazardous material and tractor trailers.
Although each state has its own set of standards every person who wishes to receive a commercial drivers license must pass a series of two tests, a knowledge test and also a skills test. All applicants must take a general knowledge test. The general knowledge test covers information that every commercial driver must know in order to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Applicants must also meet all physical qualifications. To get a commercial motor vehicle license an applicant must have a social security card, proof of age and identity, proof of residency and proof of insurance.
There are some general qualifications that an applicant must meet in order to be able to drive a commercial motor vehicle. The applicant must be at least 21 years old. The applicant must also be able to read, write and speak English with enough fluency to communicate with the public, read and understand highway traffic signs, fill out reports and records and respond to official questions. An applicant must also be able to operate the commercial motor vehicle by having experience, training or a combination of both. An applicant must have also completed a driver’s road test and have been issued a certificate of driver’s road test.
Testing for a commercial driver’s license consists of two tests, the general knowledge and skills test. The general knowledge test includes questions pertaining to night driving, skid control and recovery and vehicle control just to name a few. There are additional knowledge tests an applicant must take if they wish to have an endorsement pertaining to the different types of commercial motor vehicles. Some of these tests include a passenger transport test that all bus drivers must take, a tanker test for applicants who wish to drive commercial motor vehicles that carry liquids and an air brakes test for those drivers who wish to drive a commercial motor vehicle that has air brakes. The skills test consists of three parts. The first part is the pre-trip vehicle inspection which tests the drivers knowledge of whether his/her vehicle is safe to drive. The second part of the test is basic vehicle control. This part will test the driver’s ability and skill to control his/her vehicle. The third section of the test is on-road driving. During this part of the test the driver will be tested on his/her ability to operate the vehicle in different traffic situations and conditions.
There are 3 groups of commercial motor vehicles; A, B and C. Vehicles in group A consist of vehicles that have a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more and that being towed have a weight greater than 10,000 pounds. Group A vehicles include single tractor trailers and double tractor trailers. Group B consists of any single vehicle with a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more or any vehicle that is towing a vehicle that does not weigh more than 10,000 pounds. Examples of Group B vehicles include dump trucks and buses. Group C is comprised of any single or combination of vehicles that doesn’t meet the classification of Group A or Group B but is designed to carry 16 or more persons.
Commercial motor vehicles must be inspected as per the regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Drivers of commercial motor vehicles must perform before, during and after trip inspections. The before trip inspection includes walking around the vehicle and checking the vehicle’s overall condition, checking gauges, tires, lights and fluids. The inspection during a trip should consist of making periodic stops to inspect the vehicle to make sure it is still safe to be on the road. If there is a problem the vehicle should not be driven until a mechanic can repair any problems. The after trip inspection should include making a list of any problems with the vehicle. These inspections must be performed daily and a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report must be filled out and turned into the company which owns the vehicle. An annual inspection must also be performed. The annual inspection must be performed by a qualified inspector who meets the requirements set forth by the Department of Transportation.
Becoming a truck driver requires being licensed to drive a commercial motor vehicle. One must have a general knowledge about how to operate a tractor trailer. One must also have the skills to safely drive a tractor trailer. Once an individual has the knowledge and skills pertaining to driving a tractor trailer, becoming licensed is the next step in starting a career as a truck driver.
To learn more about how to become a truck driver, explore the following links.
- Summary of Hours-of-Service Regulations: Information regarding the hours a truck driver is legally allowed to actually drive a tractor trailer from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
- CDL Practice Test Web Sites: A website that has several links to practice tests for obtaining a CDL.
- Commercial Drivers License Pre-Trip Inspection Guide: A guide to the pre-inspection checklist that must be performed before a tractor trailer begins its initial trip.
- Motor Vehicle Inspection (Transporting Hazardous Materials): A guide to the pre-inspection that must be performed when driving a truck that is transporting hazardous material.
- DOT Rules of the Road: Some rules of driving safely by the Department of Transportation.
- Roadcheck List for Drivers: Some safety tips to help commercial vehicle drivers stay safe while on the road.
- Diabetes and Commercial Drivers License: An article about how a person can become a truck driver while also suffering from diabetes.
- CDL Certification Form: An example of a commercial drivers license certification form.
- CDL Practice Test: A website with information about the CDL test.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers: Information about a career as a tractor trailer truck driver from the Bureau of Labor.
- Skill Standard for Entry-Level Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers: A comprehensive guide to the skills needed to drive a commercial motor vehicle from the Professional Truck Driver Institute.
- General Knowledge CDL Exam: An interactive general knowledge commercial drivers license exam.
- Getting a Commercial Driver License: A guide about obtaining a CDL.
- Truck and Trailer Inspection Reports: A comprehensive website about the various inspection reports associated with driving a tractor trailer.
- CDL Info: A website with information about obtaining a CDL listed by state from the America’s Independent Trucker Association.