How to become a Class A driver

Written by Kate Lopaze

So you’re thinking about hitting the open road as a professional Class A driver. And why not? Logistics careers are hot right now, and truck drivers are a key element to getting goods across the country fast. (Those Amazon boxes don’t move themselves.) But even if you already have a regular driver’s license and a spotless driving record as a civilian, there are still steps you’ll need to complete before you can get on the road.

For starters, you’ll need your Class A CDL license, which allows you to drive vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds and trailers that weigh more than 10,000 pounds. Let’s walk through what you’ll need to accomplish to get your Class A CDL and become a Class A driver.

Check your state’s requirements.

Every state has its own set of rules for truck drivers, so it’s important to know what you’ll need in the state where you’ll have your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Your local DMV will have all the manuals and training information you’ll need, or you can find them online at your state’s DMV website. Factors like minimum age and physical requirements for a CDL can vary by state, so it’s crucial to know what points you’ll need to hit.

Get a CDL permit.

It’ll be just like high school again, except instead of learning how to drive in general, you’ll be learning the specifics of driving large commercial vehicles.

Consider a CDL training school.

You can always try to go it alone, but a good, certified CDL school can help walk you through every stage of the training and certification processes. With any educational programs, make sure you’re doing your research first, so that you’re finding the best possible school.

Pass the written test.

Although there are federal requirements for truck drivers, each state has its own version of the CDL test offered through the local DMV. Topics covered on the written test may include:

  • General driving knowledge
  • Transporting passengers
  • Driving school buses
  • Using air brakes
  • Driving combination vehicles (tractor-trailers)
  • Transporting hazardous materials
  • Driving tanker vehicles
  • Driving double or triple trailer vehicles

Add CDL endorsements.

CDL endorsements are basically extra certifications for different kinds of vehicles that can enhance your license. These include things like hazardous material (HazMat) endorsements and tank vehicle endorsements. Endorsements may require additional background checks beyond the normal licensing process, especially if they include transporting materials that are dangerous, sensitive, or otherwise unusual.

Pass the CDL skills test.

Like the learner’s permit, this is another flashback—but instead of trying to master a three-point turn in your mom’s Honda, you’ll be doing it with a massive Class A vehicle. This may take place at your local DMV or at an approved third-party site. This is usually the last step in the process, so once you pass the driving test with flying colors and hit all of the other milestones, you will likely be the proud owner of a Class A CDL.

And don’t forget unofficial final step, which is important as well: finalizing your road music mix. Once you’re certified and ready to go, that road trip soundtrack is essential!

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.