What's a CDL Class-A Training Program Like?
Have you been curious about starting a trucking career but don’t know the first thing about training and 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 duration—your answers are below.
“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 speed that moment along, 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 other medical conditions that may interfere with your ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle. The DOT exam cost 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 wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact the school that you pick to get additional information.
- 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. Be honest. As the saying goes: “The truth will always come out.”
- Now it's time to pay for school so plan your budget 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 many ways to get financial aid assistance to help you handle the price of tuition. Again, do your research!
In the Classroom Training
The classroom portion of your cdl training will take about 40 hours and it 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, and more. You can expect to cover things like:
- Safety procedure
- Road signs
- How to plan out your runs
- 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.
Yard Work and On the Road Training
After you’ve acquired your learner’s permit, it’s time for the hands-on part of your training. This is when you get to learn everything there is to know about a truck and how to operate it up close and personal.
- Pre-trip inspection—This part of your training will equip you with knowledge on how to inspect your vehicle every time before you leave the yard. It includes the inspection of the coupling systems, the vehicles lights, fuel tanks, and other components of your truck.
- Driving range basic vehicle controls—This is when you put your permit to use! After CDL instructor demonstrates each move, you will learn how to:
- Perform left and right turns
- Shift gears
- Master straight line backing
- Ace the offset backing
- Practice the parallel parking
- Street training—After you’ve mastered the driving range, it’s time to roll out to the nearby local 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. Be careful, and watch out for those low bridges!
You’ve Rocked Training, It’s Time to Roll
Well, not quite yet. You’ll still have to pass your final CDL test to get your official license. Your road test will take approximately 2 hours and will include two parts:
- Knowledge about operating the vehicle
- Operating the vehicle on the road
With a successfully passed test, NOW you're ready to start toward your career with a company. Congrats in advance! In 2020, the mean annual pay for truck drivers was $47,130 (bls.gov),
And if you found any of this intimidating, just remember: Your instructors will be working with you one-on-one or in small groups, on the very things you want more confidence in. They have been where you’re at, and they want to help you get your license, too.