What is a CDL Driver?

The life of a commercial driver is one that appeals to many people, but if you are unfamiliar with the profession, you might find it difficult to figure out the requirements, as well as the different terms and acronyms that are attached to them. As such, you might be wondering about the answers to questions like what is a CDL driver? What does CDL stand for? And how do I get a CDL license?

So to help you out, we have the answers to those questions, as well as everything you need to know about CDL licenses and the required training.

What is a CDL Driver?

CDL stands for Commercial Driver’s License, and a CDL is the certification that shows both carriers and employers that you are qualified to drive their vehicles. You might think that if you can drive a regular car that you are qualified to drive any kind of vehicle, but the truth is that driving a commercial vehicle often requires a more specialized set of skills and knowledge, beyond that of a regular driver.

Prior to 1986, many states allowed the operating of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) with just a regular driver’s license, but after the passing of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act, it became mandatory for everyone to have a CDL before being permitted to drive a CMV. And this doesn’t just go for large eighteen-wheeler trucks. It goes for a variety of vehicles such as buses, local delivery vehicles, dump trucks, and more. That is why there are three classes of CDL license — A, B, and C. So, what is a CDL driver? Basically, a CDL Driver is a licensed truck driver.

How to Get a CDL License

As with regular driver’s licenses, a CDL license is distributed by the state in which you live. This means that there may be some variation from state to state, but the general process is usually the same. Here are the steps you will likely have to take to get your CDL:

1. Get a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP)

Before you can get a CLP, you will usually have to be at least 21 to drive interstate, or 18 to drive locally. You will have to submit an application and pay a fee, provide proof of identity, demonstrate state/US residency and pass a basic physical exam.

2. Train and practice

While you do not have to go to truck driving school, you will need to learn the skills required. Just as you did when you learned to drive for the first time, take the time to train and practice driving a CMV.

3. Pass an inspection

Before you take your test for CDL certification, you will have to pass an inspection to determine the safety of your vehicle.

4. Pass your exams

Finally, you will have to take two tests to get your CDL: a written knowledge test, and a practical skills test.

This is the process to get a basic CDL; you will then likely have a few more steps to get your required license class.

What are the 3 types of CDL license?

You might now be wondering what a “license class” is. There are three main types of CDL classes, and they are as follows:

  1. Class A — a Class A commercial driver’s license is required to operate vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds whose towed vehicle weighs more than 10,000 pounds, such as tractor trailers, tank vehicles, livestock carriers, flatbeds.
  2. Class B — a Class B CDL is needed to drive a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, but whose towed vehicle (if there is one) weighs under 10,000 pounds. This includes box trucks, dump trucks, large passenger or segmented buses.
  3. Class C — a Class C license is required to operate a vehicle that transports more than 15 occupants (including the driver) or hazardous materials, such as small hazmat vehicles and passenger vans.

In addition to these classifications, if you are looking to drive certain specialist vehicles such as a school bus or a tank, you will need further endorsements such as a brake test or similar.

What is the difference between CDL A and B?

You might have read the descriptions and thought that classes A and B seem somewhat similar. The difference between CDL A and B is that Class A vehicles tend to be bigger. Class B is for towing trailers that are less than 10,000 pounds, whereas Class A is required for those towing more than 10,000 pounds. While the minimum weight of both A and B is the same, Class B vehicles will tow either much smaller trailers or no trailer at all.

How much does a CDL Driver make a year?

As with any job, the amount that you are paid depends on a number of factors such as location, experience, the company you work for, and the type of work that you do. However, the average salary nationwide for a CDL driver is between $40,000 and $60,000 according to a number of sources.

While many companies will pay CDL drivers per mile, if you work for Matheson, you will be paid hourly. This means that you can guarantee that you will always be paid for the hours that you put in, and your take-home pay won’t be affected by things like traffic. Also, you will have a dedicated route, so you always know when you will be at home and when you will be at work. You can check our driver requirements and job listings, and apply to start your career with Matheson today.