In order to work as a commercial truck driver, several steps must be taken to ensure that the driver has adequate training to operate the vehicle safely.
Commercial Driver's License
First, a person must obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL). A CDL is required to operate any type of vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds for commercial use, for transporting hazardous materials, or for any vehicle that is designed to carry nine or more passengers (eg. a bus or airport shuttle). While individual states issues their own CDLs, the minimum requirements to obtain a CDL are set by the federal government.
While there is no requirement that a person take training classes prior to applying for a CDL, most people choose to enroll in a training course that teaches the skills necessary to operate a large commercial vehicle and basic instruction on the day-to-day responsibilities that come with being a truck driver, such as keeping accurate log books, map reading and trip planning.
To obtain a CDL, a person must first get a Commercial Learners Permit that allows them to practice on public roads with a qualified CDL holder in the vehicle. Then a person must pass a three part skills test: the Vehicle Inspection Test, the Basic Controls Test, and the Road Test. Some states may also administer a separate written test.
Similar to a driver's license that a private motorist carries, a commercial driver's license must be renewed periodically. It can also be revoked for a variety of reasons, such as serious traffic violations, violating out-of-service orders, violating implied consent laws or operating a commercial vehicle with a CDL from a decertified state.
The U.S. Department of Transportation requires CDL holders to undergo a physical examination every two years to ensure that a driver's health would not make the driver a hazard on the road. Among other things, a person may be deemed physically unfit to operate a commercial vehicle if he or she:
- Has lost a foot, leg, hand or arm
- Has a clinical diagnosis that requires the use of insulin (eg. diabetes)
- Has heart diseases that are accompanied by collapse or cardiac failure
- Does not have a minimum of 20/40 visions with or without corrective lenses
- Is unable to hear a forced whisper at less than five feet with or without the use of a hearing aid
- Cannot lift 100 pounds
A driver must also be able to read and speak English well enough to understand traffic signs, prepare required reports and speak with law enforcement officials.
Those federal requirements represent a minimum standard for any person seeking to hold a commercial driver's license. Upon receiving a CDL and being hired by a commercial trucking company, a driver may be required to attend a company training program or work for a specific period of time under an apprenticeship.