Before the CDL, how did people become school bus / truck drivers?

Discussion in 'Questions From New Drivers' started by NY2001, Jun 20, 2022.

  1. NY2001

    NY2001 Light Load Member

    Sep 22, 2019
    If I am not wrong, a federal law passed a bill in 1986 which blackmail states into adopting a CDL system or the federal government will cut any state's federal highway funds by 10 percent if they didn't comply (the same bullying tactic, but unfortunately ruled constitutional, they used to force states to have a drinking age of 21).

    So the CDL system officially began in the early '90s (I think it was 1991 or 1992?), but before 1991/1992, how did people become truck or bus drivers? Like did states determine their own classes or was it completely different?
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  3. homeskillet

    homeskillet Road Train Member

    Jun 1, 2013
    Dayton, OH
    Class 1, 2, or 3 license correlated to Class A, B, or C license in many states.

    Some states had a "Chauffeur's License" for trucks.

    The older guys would know better, but pre-CDL, I think instruction was pretty much OJT.

    I started in the mid-90s, and back then the old boys had lots of stories about how they had a job spotting trailers or fueling trucks, then one fateful day, the dock boss comes outside, looks around frantically, spots them and shouts "HEY KID! Can you drive a truck?"


    "Do you know how to get to Chicago?"

    (Not really, but...) "Yessir".

    Tosses him keys and a thick envelope. "Take 2644 to Chicago. Address is on the paperwork. Call me when you get there".....

    Back in high school when I expressed interest in being a truck driver, a driver asked me, "Is your dad a Teamster?"


    "Is your uncle a Teamster?"


    "Then, you ain't NEVER gonna be a truck driver, kid."

    HA HA HA! Joke's on me!
  4. tarmadilo

    tarmadilo Road Train Member

    Dec 12, 2018
    I don’t remember all the particulars, but in 1982 I got whatever was the equivalent to a Class B license in Texas. Took a written test, then took a driving test with a large box truck from U-Haul. Didn’t have to do any kind of formal pretrip inspection.

    I never actually got to use it, I didn’t get the job I was applying for…
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  5. tscottme

    tscottme Road Train Member

    Jul 25, 2008
    Nashville, TN
    In my state of TN before the CDL you needed a Chauffeur license. My aunt had the Chauffeur license for driving a school bus. My dad started driving trucks in the mid 1970s with a Chauffeur license and eventually was grandfathered into his CDL license. I don't know of the requirements of the chauffeur license. I'm sure there was a driving test, I'm pretty sure there was a written test. The main reason for the CDL was to prevent driver ability to have licenses in multiple states.
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  6. Chinatown

    Chinatown Road Train Member

    Aug 28, 2011
    Henderson, NV & Orient
    Chauffeur License: That's what I did. Went to the Springfield, TN DMV, took a multiple choice test of 15 or 20 questions, paid $10.00 and was then a commercial driver. Nothing to it. No school either. No road test either. Yes, plenty of companies to choose from.
    First time I was ever inside a truck, was hitch hiking trying to get home from a Navy ship. A Poole Truck Line driver picked me up and told me to take my white hat and jumper off because picking up hitch hikers was against company police. He said he hadn't been out of the Navy too long. Told me how to get a Chauffeur License (CDL), so that's what I did. Never been unemployed since then.
    When other people are standing in the unemployment line and wondering where the money is that's going to buy groceries, truck drivers, especially pulling reefers, will always have a paycheck. Recession, Depression, refrigerated truck drivers will always have a good paying job. I know that for a fact; went through 2 recessions and never missed a paycheck and took nice vacations with the family every year.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2022
  7. Dennixx

    Dennixx Road Train Member

    Feb 13, 2010
    twin cities
    Got mine in 74. Written and road test. Failed the first time but had already been driving a while.I could only legally drive intrastate but company I worked for didn't care and I went across state lines many many times. Each state had it's own curriculum if I recall. Many guys had several licenses. I had a California and a Minnesota.
    May have been spring of 91 when mine expired I went in to a dmv in northern Minnesota and got a CDL. No test just a renewal. At that time got a passenger endorsement but opted away from school bus which was separate test.
  8. Grumppy

    Grumppy Trucker Forum STAFF Staff Member

    Dec 11, 2010
    West Monroe, La
    Just like Chinatown, in 1982, I went to the drivers license office, told them I wanted a Chauffer's license. They sat me down at a table, gave me a test paper & a pencil. Passed the written test, took my picture & walked out with a license to drive anything with wheels on it. Straight truck, 18 wheeler, fire truck, wrecker, school bus... everything.
    I was grandfathered in to a class B CDL in 1993.
    Took my class A test in 2005

    This was in Louisiana....

  9. REO6205

    REO6205 Trucker Forum STAFF Staff Member

    Feb 15, 2014
    OJT. I got my California Class A in 1967. In those days certain employers could verify that they'd trained you and if DMV recognized the training you didn't have to take a road test. I forget how many questions were on the written exam. Not many. There might have been fifty but I think that's high. No extra test for hazmat either, the endoresment didn't exist. Same with air brakes.
    I was home on leave from the Army and a friend needed help hauling lumber so he signed for me. I'd been driving local around the ranches in our area and in the woods running off road loggers so it wasn't as though I'd never driven anything.
    Truck driving schools in those days were few and far between and not well thought of. Most companies wouldn't even talk to a guy if he'd been to a school and had no other experience.
    When the CDL stuff started I was grandfathered in. I've never taken a state driving test. LOL...from what I hear from some of the rookies on here I'm not sure I could pass it anyway.
  10. 50WT

    50WT Medium Load Member

    Dec 26, 2015
    Same thing in Georgia. Got my chauffeurs license in 1974 , like 20 multiple choice questions, no driving test . In about 15 minutes I was not only a truck driver , in Georgia I could drive anything on the road. This was probably not a good idea for a 18 year old. Only school for me was the school of hard knocks.
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  11. North Pole Nightmare

    North Pole Nightmare Light Load Member

    Dec 15, 2021
    In the US Army,70's,I went to the Motor Pool,Drivers Training.You had to pass a physical, vision and hearing,then a road test.I did that and got a Commercial TT license.It was a US Govt Operators License.When the CDL came to Alaska they had a written test.If you had your own company you could self certify and not take a road test.After the CDL law was in effect for 1 year,you couldn't self certify anymore,you had to take a road test.
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