How Long Does it Take to Get a CDL
Depending on how you decide to go about it, it takes about 3-7 weeks on average to get a CDL or commercial driver’s license. There are a number of variables that affect how long it will take in your state, which you should consider as you plan your approach. Here are a few of them.
What Type of CDL License Are You Getting?
A Class A CDL is required if you want to drive a flatbed, tractor-trailer, tank vehicle, or livestock carrier. Class B is required to drive a straight truck, box truck, dump truck with a small trailer, and large passenger or segmented bus. Class C is for small HazMat vehicles or vehicles transporting 16+ occupants. Of the three CDL classes, Class A lets you drive a bigger variety of vehicles and tow bigger loads, so it tends to take longer to obtain.
Are You Planning to Earn Any Endorsements?
Endorsements are required to drive certain trucks and are achieved in addition to the CDL. For each endorsement, you need to pass certain tests. For example, in most states, driving a refuse truck will require an air brakes endorsement. Passenger or school buses might also require specific endorsements. For a Hazmat endorsement, you also need to be fingerprinted and pass a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) security threat assessment. Earning endorsements can open up great opportunities in your trucking career, but may add time to getting your CDL.
How Much Practice Driving Do You Need?
As part of the CDL process in some states, you are required to drive a certain number of practice hours with a licensed CDL driver. If your driving ability needs some work or mastering truck driving seems harder than you originally expected, you should definitely log in more practice hours, even if it means ultimately taking longer to get the CDL.
What Kind of Training Are You Taking?
Truck driving training programs are offered by community colleges and private driving schools — and some trucking companies even operate their own driving schools. Program lengths of course vary, and the number of classroom hours required may be different from state to state. Depending on the class of CDL sought and whether you take the training on a full-time or part-time basis, you could even take up to six months to complete the program.
What Kind of Testing Availability Is There Right Now?
Some jurisdictions only schedule tests on certain days, or have periods that are busier at different times of the year. Talking to your DMV can give you more information about CDL scheduling matters. Some states have a legislated time period you must wait between getting your CDL permit and the CDL road test or between CDL road test attempts.
What Kind of Truck Transmission Do You Plan to Drive?
Whether you are going to drive a truck with an automatic or manual transmission may impact how long you need to master your truck driving skills.
The CDL Process
You should already have your regular driver’s license before you apply for your CDL. You will need to provide proof of your identity and proof of residency, as well as pass a background check, vision test/medical exam, and knowledge exam. Then you may have a minimum holding period after receiving your commercial learner’s permit.
Prior to taking your CDL road test, you could enrol in a CDL training course (online or in-person), and practice driving with someone who has a CDL. Typically, it takes between 14 days (a typical holding period between your permit and tests) and up to 6-7 months to become a truck driver with a CDL when you take into account all the variables we have discussed. In that sense, how long it takes to get a CDL will depend on how you go about learning how to drive the commercial vehicles you are considering. Based on your existing skills and driving instincts, you should really take the time to master your truck driving skills, given the types of vehicles you will be taking on public roads. How well you drive commercial vehicles will affect not only your professional reputation and your demand as a truck driver, but will also have an impact on your insurance rates.
Have any other questions about how to get a CDL or become a truck driver? We at Logity Dispatch are happy to help truck drivers/owner-operators at all stages of their careers. That’s why we offer specialized dispatch services, document management, and assistance with compliance and other operational matters. Contact us and find out how we can help you find success in the trucking business.