Requirements to be a Truck Driver
You’ve watched the big rigs roll down the highway. You’ve seen the movie images of the nomadic trucker. You inhale the smell of diesel on a cool morning and it makes you smile. You want to be a truck driver.
To make your dream a reality, there are criteria that all drivers must meet before they take their career on the road. For many, it’s a daunting experience to work through the stages of becoming a truck driver, especially if you haven’t lived or worked within an industry that includes tractor trailers.
In most states, 18-year-olds are permitted to drive transport trucks, however, drivers must be 21 years of age to cross state lines. Largely due to these regulations, as well as insurance coverage, most companies set 21 as their minimum age requirement for hiring.
Note: At present, there are considerations to change this regulation so keep your eyes open for age restriction updates.
You must have a regular driver’s license before pursuing your CDL. You are required to provide a comprehensive history of the previous ten years of driving experience, including all accidents and parking infractions. You can request a driver’s abstract from your local DMV.
Gone are the days of learning on your own and taking a simple road test with a pickup truck pulling a trailer. Today, drivers are required to write their learner’s permit test and attend a licensed truck driving school that combines in-class and in-truck training components. There are many available schools that range from colleges offering courses with dedicated instructors, to schools that churn out countless drivers with minimal qualifications. Either way, you are spending thousands of dollars on your training so take the time to ensure you’re investing in quality training. Training will get you through your tests and examinations, however it can never fully prepare you for life on the road. That only comes with time.
It’s time to pull your training together. From your classroom knowledge to the experience behind the wheel, your CDL test will assess your readiness to take the wheel on your own.
● Pre-Trip Inspection - You are required to demonstrate an understanding of the DVIR requirements and answer any questions posed by the instructor. You will need to demonstrate your understanding beyond just going through the motions.
● Control Testing - The instructor will look for your ability to manage the truck and trailer by assessing your ability to back the truck in a straight line, demonstrate offset backing, and back into a dock that is often simulated using pylons.
● Road Test - You must demonstrate your ability to show care and control of the tractor trailer at all times. Consistently check your mirrors, use signals appropriately, shift through the gears (if manual transmission), accelerate and brake normally, and merge into traffic.
New drivers are required to undergo a DOT physical. The Department of Transportation requires that all drivers pass a medical exam to determine the health suitability of a driver to be behind the wheel. There are some medical conditions that could disqualify drivers, but most can be accommodated through proper medical care and treatment. Each medical exam is valid for a two-year term.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
Drivers are subject to initial and random subsequent drug and alcohol testing. While not a requirement to obtain a CDL, employers require the testing. Drug and alcohol testing is required in the event of an accident and is often required after extended vacations. Recreational drug use has no place in the life of a truck driver and can easily result in suspension and termination of employment.