Thus, you have to take the following steps to receive the license:
- Learn DMV requirements in your state, paying special attention to the requirements for minors, in case you are one of them.
- Download the Operator Manual from a DMV official website and learn it properly.
- Practice your knowledge test beforehand to make sure that you know the traffic rules, and you are ready to take the exam at a DMV office.
- Collect all documents required for obtaining your DL and pay corresponding fees if they are not accepted in the office.
- Schedule your knowledge test.
- Visit the chosen DMV office and fill out an application form, submit the documents collected, get your photo and fingerprints taken, undergo your vision screening and knowledge test.
- Obtain your learner’s permit and start your behind-the-wheel practice under supervision.
- When you are ready to pass your on-road test, schedule a visit to your local DMV again and find an insured vehicle for the testing.
- Undergo your driving skills test and get your regular DL.
Now you have the license, but before asking how to become a lorry driver, you need to find out whether there are additional requirements regarding driving experience. In some states, you need to hold the regular DL for at least a year (sometimes two years) before applying for a commercial driver's license. If additional experience is not required, learn about possible age restrictions. In most states, an applicant has to be at least 18 to perform intrastate transportation, while for interstate trucking an applicant needs to be at least 21. Also, if you have any active DL suspensions or revocations, you won’t be allowed to obtain a CDL, even if it was suspended in another state. So, make sure that your driving record is clean before applying. If you comply with the requirements, move onto the next stage.
How to Become a Lorry Driver of the Desired Class
Before becoming a truck driver, you need to understand what kind of driver you want to be. In fact, there are commercial and non-commercial licenses that allow driving different types of trucks and trailers. You can get a non-commercial license if you are planning to drive a non-passenger automobile for your own needs, but it won’t be used for hire. If you are planning to work for hire, you need a commercial license of a certain class. There are the following CDL classes depending on vehicle types:
- Class A covers any single or combined (a tractor unit plus a trailer) vehicles weighing 26,000 pounds or more. This includes vehicles covered by Class B and C, but some types of vehicles require getting a certain endorsement on your license.
- Becoming a lorry driver with a Class B license, you are entitled to drive all vehicles under Class C plus single vehicles weighing 26,000 pounds or more, including buses, trucks, and farm vehicles unless otherwise provided by restrictions and no additional endorsements are required.
- Class C grants the right to operate all commercial vehicles weighing less than 26,000 pounds that don’t qualify for Class A and B and are used to carry hazardous materials or occupants if their number exceeds sixteen persons, including a driver.
This classification varies in some states, so do bother to read about CDL classes on your local DMV website or in the Operator Handbook. Moreover, if you want to become a commercial driver, you need to consider obtaining one or a couple of the following endorsements, which are required for certain types of transportation. Endorsement requirements are common to all states, while training and testing are regulated by the federal government. Depending on your needs, you can apply for the following endorsements:
- P: passenger transport (for transportation of more than 16 people, including a driver)
- H: hazardous materials
- N: vehicles carrying liquid materials in tanks
- T: double/triples trailers
- X: dangerous materials carried in tanks
- L: pneumatic brakes
- S: school buses
It is important to determine which endorsements you need in advance since you need to undergo different training and testing to obtain them. Moreover, documents required to apply for different endorsements vary greatly. For example, to receive H or S endorsements, you must be checked for criminal records.
Obtaining a Truck Driver License
When you decide on your truck driver license class and endorsement, it is time to move further and to start preparing for your knowledge testing. Again, you should download the local handbook from an official website, checking that you have the latest version. In the handbook, you can find helpful information on the procedure to obtain your CDL in addition to traffic laws and associated regulations. You are free to study only those sections of the handbook that apply to the type of license you need. But make sure that you learn the rules properly – it is a good idea to practice using online sample tests available throughout the Web.
Meanwhile, you should gather the documents required for the application. The complete list of the documents required in your state you can find in your handbook, but mainly it is as follows:
- your valid DL issued in the state where you are going to obtain your commercial driver's license;
- proof of identity with your birth of date specified and your photo presented;
- proof of U.S. legal presence;
- proof of your residency in the state where you are applying for the license;
- a document showing your SSN;
- a state-approved medical examination report.
There can be some other documents required depending on your local rules and the type of license you apply for. Also, you need to submit a CDL application form and to certify that you didn’t hold a DL in any other state or to specify all states that issued a license to you over the past 10 years. If you have a valid or expired DL from another state, you need to surrender it. Besides, you are required to certify that you have no active license suspension, revocation or disqualification in any state.
Pay an application fee – in some DMV offices cash is not accepted and you need to make the payment in advance. The fee structure differs from state to state, so it is better to check the information through the official website. For example, in California applicants have to pay for both knowledge and driving tests, while in New York you are allowed to pay for your application and knowledge test apart from the road test fee.
Also, you should find out what is the period of time the fee is good for in case you fail the testing. In many states, applicants are allowed three attempts for each of the tests, but there can be some time limits and exceptions.
When you are ready, schedule your knowledge test and pass it. In most states there are several sections of the test:
- general test that is taken by all applicants;
- license type specific tests that are taken depending on the class or endorsement you are applying for (passenger transport test, air brakes test, hazardous materials test, etc.).
As a rule, about 80% of answers must be correct to pass the test.
Along with passing your knowledge test, you need to undergo a vision screening and sometimes a brief physical screening to prove that your vision and physical condition cannot prevent you from safely operating a vehicle.
Upon passing the tests, you are issued a commercial learner permit that allows you to move to truck driver training.
To undergo your truck driver training, you have to find a supervisor and a vehicle – you need them to obtain your behind-the-wheel practice before passing the skills exam. Holding the CLP, you are allowed to drive a vehicle on public roads only having an experienced CDL holder with you. As a rule, before taking the exam you have to wait at least 2 weeks from the date your CLP is issued, while the permit is valid for a certain period of time (usually, about 6 months).
However, in some states applicants are required to complete a truck driving school or a state-approved training program to get the license. Also, when obtaining your CDL training from one of these schools, you can get tuition reimbursement or find a job for the future.
When you feel you are skilled enough, schedule your road test and provide a vehicle of the same type you are applying for. Learn your DMV requirements on the vehicles, since they vary depending on a state. Be prepared to undergo 3 types of testing:
- Vehicle inspection (pre-driving safety check)
- Basic vehicle control (maneuvers on a defined site)
- Driving test (showing your skills in various traffic situations)
You have to pass each part of the test, and if you fail one of them, you won’t be able to move to the next. However, you can try again (as a rule, three attempts are given), though in some states an additional fee is required.
Upon successful completion of the test, you have issued a temporary truck driver license, while a regular CDL is usually sent by email and can be received within a month.