What to Expect in CDL Training

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The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets forth nationwide training standards for CDL programs. However, your state may have waived the national CDL skills test, meaning these exact requirements may not fit.

What Should I Expect During CDL Classroom Training?

Classroom CDL training hours may include the use of simulators, lectures, and other instructional methods. Note that "classroom" doesn't necessarily mean meeting in a schoolroom—it could also be outside working on trucks themselves, but without driving or riding along with other drivers. Topics to expect may include:

  • Basic and advanced vehicle operation

  • Driving theory

  • Driving-related laws

  • Insurance issues

  • Non-driving activities, like handling cargo

  • Safety

  • Use of AV and other equipment

  • Vehicle maintenance and inspection

  • Weather considerations

 

 

What Does Behind-the-Wheel CDL Training Involve?

When you get behind the wheel during your CDL training, you could be

driving or observing experienced drivers.

 

Your training will likely include:

  • Backing up

  • Defensive driving

  • Parking

  • Practice in cities and on highways

  • Shifting gears

  • Starting and stopping

  • Steering

  • Turning, including three-point turns

  • Potentially experience in both automatic and manual transmissions

 

 

Can You Take CDL Training Classes Online?

This varies by school, but some places allow you to take CDL courses that would normally occur in a classroom online. Continuing education for existing CDL holders can also be delivered online. Of course, training that must happen in a truck can't be taken online.

 

 

How Long Does CDL Truck Driving Training Take?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CDL training programs generally last between three and six months.

Hours spent in CDL training vary by state. For instance, Illinois requires 160 total hours, Nebraska mandates 12 hours, and Ohio requires 80 hours for CDL A and 40 hours for CDL B. Some states focus more on the quality of the training and experience of the instructors than on the hours spent.

 

What Should I Expect After Finishing My CDL Truck Driver Training?

Once you've completed your CDL training, you're not quite done—you need to take CDL exams. The written test is similar to a standard driving test but geared toward CDL holders. You can expect questions about law, safety, driving skills and norms, and more. There will also be a skills exam, showing your behind-the-wheel abilities. Depending on the state, the written test and skills test will be offered by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), though the skills test may also be offered by state-approved testing locations. Some CDL schools have certain instructors who are certified by the DMV to administer skills tests.

After you've earned your CDL, it's time to start searching for jobs. The interview process may involve a phone or in-person interview, drug test, road test, MVR (background check on your driving history), and other background checks.

You also need to stay on top of your state's CDL licensure renewal requirements—you usually need to renew every five to eight years—and make sure you're driving safely so you can continue your new career as a CDL driver.

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