What's a CDL Class A Training Program Like?

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Have you been curious about starting a trucking career but don’t know the first thing about training or what to expect? This article is your sneak peek into a trucking school classroom. From preparation steps you can take to speed your path, to actual training you’ll get in the yard, from cost breakdown to program duration — your answers are here!

“What matters the most in your training — just like in everything you do — is your attitude. Take your training seriously, apply yourself, and stick with a crowd that has the same goals.” - Michael Veils, truck driver with 10 years of experience.

Preparing for CDL Training

First things first, there’s some prep work. Getting behind the wheel of a semi takes a few steps, so if you’re eager to do so, check these items off your to-do list.

  • To save you some time, we highly recommend you take your Department of Transportation (DOT) physical exam before starting your CDL training. During this test, a medical professional will examine your vision, hearing, blood pressure, and assess you for other medical conditions that may interfere with your ability to safely operate a commecial vehicle. The price of the DOT exam ranges from $95 to $146 (depending on state) and is valid for up to 24 months. Some schools include physical exam in the cost of tuition, so it may be a good idea to contact the school that you pick to get any additional information you need.
  • Next on the list is your trucking school admission application. Aside from the standard personal information, such as age, address, and ethnicity, the application includes questions about your driving record and criminal background. Having your license suspended or having any criminal charges pending may bar your admission to the program.
  • Truck driving school can be costly, so plan your budget carefully and do your research. The cost of CDL training is usually somewhere between $1,800 and $6,500 (excluding multi-month programs for GI Bill eligibility). There are also many ways to get financial aid assistance to help you handle the price of tuition.

Classroom Training

The classroom portion of your cdl training will take about 40 hours and will prepare you to take the written portion of your CDL test. During classes you'll be studying the CDL manual and learning about driving safety, transporting cargo safely, air brakes, etc.

Other areas of trucking you can expect to cover are:

  • Safety procedures
  • Road signs
  • How to plan out your routes
  • Use of electronic logs
  • Operating and maneuvering trucks
  • Coupling and uncoupling a trailer

You'll also likely discuss the pre-trip inspection in the classroom before you learn hands-on in the yard. Learn more about what to expect from your CDL class.

Basic Vehicle Controls and on the Road Training

After you’ve acquired your learner’s permit, it’s time for the hands-on part of your training. You will get to learn everything there is to know about operating trucks up close and personal.

  • Pre-trip inspection—This part of your training will equip you with knowledge on how to inspect your vehicle before leaving the yard. It includes the inspection of the coupling systems, the vehicles lights, fuel tanks, and other components of your truck. It is an extremely important safety measure for truckers to take and should never be skipped.
  • Driving range basic vehicle controls — This is when you put your permit to use! After your CDL instructor demonstrates each move, you should learn how to:
    • Perform left and right turns
    • Shift gears
    • Master straight line backing
    • Ace the offset backing
    • Practice the parallel parking
  • Street training—Once you’ve mastered the driving range, you'll head out with your instructor to nearby streets and highways to solidify your newly gained skills. In this stage, you will be able to apply everything you’ve learned about operating your vehicle in traffic, maintaining your distance, paying attention to the signs, and checking your mirrors.

The Road Test and Getting Licensed 

In order to earn your CDL, you have to pass your final CDL test to get your official license. Your road test will take approximately 2 hours and will include 2 parts:

  • Knowledge test about operating the vehicle
  • Operating the vehicle on the road

After you've passed the test, you can apply for your CDL. You're ready to start toward your career with a company! In 2023, the average annual pay for truck drivers was $55,990, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent of drivers earned $76,780 or more.

Though this may seem like a lot work, it can all be accomplished in as few as 160 training hours, meaning you can be on the road in a new career in the next few months! 

Are you ready to find your local truck driving school? You could be ready to start your new career in as few as 3-6 weeks.

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