What Are the Different Ways to Obtain a CDL?

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  • Written By: Terrie Brockmann
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 April 2019
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In the United States, there are many different ways to obtain a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). Generally, there are three ways to get the proper training: private schools, community or technical public schools, and motor carrier schooling. If a person seeks private training at a school or through a motor carrier, he or she should consider several factors, including whether the school is accredited. To obtain a CDL a person takes a two-part test of knowledge and skills. A person should choose a CDL training course that prepares the student for both parts of the test.

Drivers of passenger buses, including school buses and motor coaches, need to have a CDL, as do drivers of dump trucks and tankers. Often people erroneously believe that a CDL covers only tractor-trailer, or semi truck, drivers. Schools and training centers typically offer training that cover one or more of these types of licenses, including hazardous material and air brake training. Motor carrier companies frequently cover only the training needed to drive trucks. Frequently, a school transportation or motor coach company offers training to obtain a CDL that is appropriate for the company's needs.


When finding a school or training center, a person should clarify the types of training the instructors use. Most places offer classroom and hands on or over the road instruction. Some courses use online training aids, training on a simulator, or other interactive techniques. Other schools limit the classroom training to strictly lectures. Balancing the best instruction techniques with the monetary fee usually is the best approach for prospective students.

Some of the other factors that a person needs to consider when selecting training to obtain a CDL include the state's requirements and the school or training center's requirements. Most places require that the student have a CDL permit before starting the course. Some schools require that a student provide an official copy of your driving record, which a person often can acquire through the state's department of transportation for a fee.

Some motor carrier companies offer free training to obtain a CDL, but generally these require a student to complete a work contact. The typical contract usually states that the student must work for the company for 12 to 18 months. If the student leaves the company early, the amount of money refunded to the company is pro-rated according to time or miles driven. Each company covers different expenses during the training period, such as housing and meals.

Some of the options that a prospective student should consider are the school's accreditation, whether it offers job placement, and if the trucks and equipment are modern. Some schools offer a list of students who agreed to give referrals; and, if possible, a prospective student should contact some of the former students. If a person can pass the health examination, the drug testing, and other mandatory tests, typically it is possible to obtain a CDL in a few weeks time.



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