Truck Driver Training Requirements: Driving Dreams Forward

To become a truck driver, there are many training requirements you’ll need to complete. We’ll show you what to learn so you can get certified and land the trucking jo

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Jacob Lee
December 4, 2023
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Truck driver training requirements are important for individuals wanting to enter the transportation business. These guidelines are designed to provide knowledge and skills people will need to safely operate large semis, while adhering to industry standards. Without this instruction, workers won’t be able to obtain the licenses and endorsements they need to become commercial vehicle operators.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) says truck driver training requirements include studying, completing specialized safety and vehicle courses, and obtaining hands-on experience to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Truck drivers will undergo more training to earn HAZMAT endorsements and to upgrade their CDL class.

Truck driver training requirements aren’t difficult to follow, and once you’ve obtained this knowledge, you’ll have what you need to become a qualified trucker.

A CDL holder that has completed their truck driver training requirements and is now behind the wheel

What Are the Truck Driver Training Requirements?

Entering the world of transportation is an exciting journey, but it begins with abiding by the federal Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) requirements. These guidelines were founded on February 7th, 2022.

Rules set by the ELDT apply when:

  • Obtaining a Class A or B CDL for the first time
  • Upgrading an existing Class B to a Class A CDL
  • Obtaining an S, P, or H endorsement

We’ll start by breaking down the CDL training and testing process. 

CDL Training

To become a truck driver, trainees will need to obtain a CDL. This instruction equips individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to safely operate commercial vehicles.

Training for a CDL includes:

  • Classroom learning
  • Hands-on driving experience
  • Taking the CDL Exam

Before getting behind the wheel, trainees undergo classroom instruction. During this time, students learn about safety practices, commercial vehicle operating procedures, and traffic laws. 

Key points trainees can expect to learn include:

  • Pre-trip inspections
  • Road signs and rules
  • Hours of service
  • Handling a log book
  • Vehicle inspection

Next, trainees will participate in behind-the-wheel driving sessions. Students will go out on the road with an instructor and showcase the knowledge they learned in the classroom.

This will be demonstrated by:

  • Parking
  • Turning
  • Using blinkers and lights 
  • Reversing 

Once training is complete, students will be ready for their CDL exam. The specifics of the test will vary based on the state. That said, trainees can expect the CDL exam to be broken into two different parts. 

This includes:

  • Knowledge portion
  • Skills portion

The knowledge portion of a CDL exam is essentially a written test. Students can expect to answer 50 questions in a multiple-choice format. Trainees will need to get an 80 percent or higher to pass this part of the exam.

After completing the test, students will move onto the skills portion. During this part of the exam, aspiring truckers are tested on their ability to operate a commercial vehicle. 

The skills portion is broken into three different parts:

  • Vehicle inspection
  • Basic controls
  • Road 

After passing the knowledge and skill portion of the exam, students will be on their way to getting their CDL.

There are three different classes of CDL::

  • Class A — Required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 or more pounds, provided the vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B — Required when operating a single vehicle that isn’t hitched to a trailer. This applies to commercial trucks that have an attached cab and cargo areas with a combined weight that’s over 26,000 or trucks that have a detached towed cargo vehicle weighing less than 1,000 pounds.
  • Class C Required when operating a single vehicle that has a GVWR less than 26,001 pounds or a vehicle towing another vehicles that have a weight less than 10,000 pounds, or transports 16 or more passengers, including the driver.

Truckers will be tested on slightly different information to earn each one. After obtaining a CDL, drivers will need to complete the Department of Transportation (DOT) physical exam. This will need to be taken every two years to keep a CDL. Therefore, students should ensure they’re in good physical shape before they have to take this test. 

The DOT physical consists of the following:

  • Hearing test
  • Urinalysis
  • Vision test
  • Blood pressure and heart rate

While truckers don’t need the physique of a professional athlete, they should take care of their health the best they can to pass this test

HAZMAT Endorsements

Obtaining a hazardous materials (H) endorsement is a significant step for truck drivers who want to transport dangerous substances. This endorsement is added to a driver’s CDL and requires additional training and testing. 

ELDT requirements for getting an H endorsement include:

  • Holding a valid CDL
  • Completing HAZMAT-Specific Training
  • Passing knowledge test
  • Undergoing background heck
  • Paying required fees

The H endorsement is valid for Class A, B, and C licenses. Next, truckers will need to complete hazmat-specific training.

During this process, truckers will learn:

  • Regulations regarding hazardous materials
  • Handling guidelines
  • Emergency response techniques and security awareness

Drivers will be tested on this information during the hazmat endorsement knowledge exam. 

The test will cover some of the following:

  • Regulations on hazardous materials
  • Loading, unloading, and transportation practices
  • Emergency response procedures

To obtain the H endorsement, applicants will need to complete the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security threat assessment. This consists of submitting fingerprints and providing relevant information as required by the TSA. 

An H endorsement will typically cost $100. The TSA screening will also cost truckers money. This expense is  $86.50 or $41 for applicants that already possess a valid Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC®) card. With these requirements met, truckers will be able to receive their H endorsements on their CDL. 

We have an article on truck driver safety tips that will help truckers protect themselves and others on the road. 

An aerial view of a semi traveling on a highway

What Are the Preliminary Requirements To Be A Truck Driver?

Before a truck driver can start their training, there are certain preliminary requirements they’ll have to meet. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to obtain these credentials.  

Education Credentials

Aspiring truckers don’t need to have advanced college degrees to land a job with a transportation company. While the requirements may vary slightly depending on the employer or the state, there are general educational standards that individuals should have.

This includes one of the following:

  • High school diploma
  • General Educational Development (GED) certificate

Drivers that don’t have a high school diploma will need to invest in getting a GED. Fortunately, this is an attainable goal that requires a bit of time and studying.  

Physical Demands

Truck drivers don’t need to be fitness enthusiasts to land a job. That said, there are physical requirements other than the ones in the DOT exam that are associated with this career field. 

Some transportation companies require their drivers to load and unload the truck freight they transport. 

Jobs like these will require:

  • Lifting
  • Bending
  • Turning 

While some trucking positions do require a degree of physical movement, drivers can still expect to spend most of their time sitting behind the wheel. 

Our article on truck driver physical requirements will provide you with further details on these requirements.

Age Restrictions

To obtain a CDL, an individual must be 18 years of age. That said, CDL holders between the ages of 18 and 20 will be restricted to intrastate travel. Therefore, aspiring truckers within this age range will have to work for a company that won’t send them to different states.

A CDL driver that’s 21 years or older will be eligible for interstate trucking driving jobs. This will open up more job opportunities for them. 

How Long Does Truck Driver Training Take?

It can take three weeks to six months for aspiring truckers to complete their training and obtain a CDL. The amount of time depends on numerous factors

This includes:

  • Type of CDL 
  • Classroom time
  • Driving hours
  • Test scheduling and availability

The class of CDL being pursued can affect the length of training for drivers. Every CDL course has varying amounts of classroom time to gain essential knowledge. Trainees can also choose part-time or full-time courses. 

Programs have different requirements for driving hours. This can lengthen or shorten the process depending on how many a student has to earn. Finally, trainees need to schedule their CDL exam. Schools will hold these at varying times, which means trainees will have to pick a slot that works for them. 

Truck driver trainees attending a CDL class

How Much Does Truck Driver Training Cost?

To obtain truck driver education and training, students will need to enroll in a CDL school. This can cost somewhere between $2,000 to $7,000. The amount a trainee has to spend can vary based on where they attend a CDL school. 

Students can get their CDL education at the following locations:

  • Community colleges
  • Technical colleges
  • Transportation company CDL schools
  • Standalone school 

Aspiring truckers should look at the pricing options for CDL schools. The most affordable programs can be found at community colleges. That said, employment opportunities will be better for students that go to a standalone CDL school or one run by a transportation company. In some cases, trucking companies may pay aspiring drivers to get a CDL.

Some schools will also have close ties to specific companies or industries. This can help CDL graduates find work faster.

Look into our article on reefer vs dry van trucking jobs to determine which one is best for you.

Put Your Truck Driver Training To Use By Joining ABCO

If you have a CDL class A and two or more years of experience, then ABCO is for you! Other trucking companies often take their employees for granted. That’s why we make sure all of our drivers are appreciated on and off the job. 

When you work for ABCO, you’ll receive a weekly salary, which means you don’t have to worry about being paid per mile. We also offer a competitive benefit package so you can take care of all your medical needs. 

If you enjoy going on vacation, you can also enjoy one of our company resorts. These are available to our employees free of charge with year-round availability.   Become an ABCO trucker by filling out your application or call our team at (866) 980-2710.

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