Are you interested in becoming a truck driver in California but not sure where to start? Truck Driver Academy is here to help. When it comes to joining the truck driving industry, it is imperative that every truck driver on the road is equipped with the proper hands-on training and guidance before they are handed their license. That being said, in California, there are several requirements every truck driver must meet before they can be issued a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). To make it as easy as possible for new truck drivers to navigate these requirements, the staff at Truck Driver Academy are always happy to help guide you along. For those who are still in the very early stages of becoming a truck driver, we have compiled a short list of the requirements you will need to start your trucking journey, as well as answer the questions of “how to get a CDL” and “how to become a truck driver.”
As mentioned above, to get a truck driver license there are several basic requirements you will have to meet before you can start working your way towards your CDL. These requirements include the following:
- Be 18+ for in-state driving or 21+ for state-to-state driving
- Have a high school diploma or GED equivalent
- Have a clean driving record
- Have a Class D license for 1+ years
- Be able to provide proof of California residency
- Have a valid Social Security card
- Have proof of insurance
- Pass a background check and TSA screening
- Pass medical examinations and periodic drug tests
How to Become a Truck Driver
Once you have met all of the requirements listed above, you are ready to start taking the necessary steps towards earning your CDL and becoming a truck driver.
- Step 1 – Find the Right CDL Program
When it comes to finding the right training program or school for you, it is important that you explore your options before committing to the first program you find. Be sure to look at your local community colleges (generally less expensive but longer in length), private truck driving schools (may cost more but are shorter in length), as well as specific trucking companies that host truck driver training programs that often have a direct career path built in once you receive your CDL. Remember that program lengths (up to a year) and price will vary ($1,000-$10,000), so speak to as many schools as possible and don’t rush this process.
- Step 2 – Enroll in a Program
Once you have determined what program would work best for you, it’s time to enroll and get started! The hardest part is getting started, so be sure to ask them when the soonest start date is and what you need to do to make sure you are ready for that date. From here, your instructors and the school’s staff should be able to help you through this process from start to finish.
- Step 3 – Earn Your CDL
As mentioned above, to become a truck driver, you will at minimum need to have a CDL. This will require you to read through the California CDL Manual, complete a CDL Learner’s Permit Application, take the CDL General Knowledge Test, learn, practice and study, and of course take and pass the Final CDL Tests. If you are unable to achieve a passing score on your first go, don’t beat yourself up about it too much. You will be able to go back to the drawing board, study what you think gave you issues and retake the tests again after a short waiting period.
Please note that CDLs come with different classifications, depending on the size/weight of your truck. The CDL-A is the most versatile for drivers of large freight, CDL-B is for single vehicles with a GVWR of 26,000+ pounds or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not over 10,000 pounds, and CDL-C is for vehicles carrying hazardous materials. It is also important to remember that you may need an additional endorsement code on your license, depending on the job you desire. Endorsements indicate what you are legally allowed to transport and are mandatory for specialty vehicles like tankers and school buses.
- Step 4 – Find a Job or Placement Assistance
Depending on the program you enrolled in, this might be easier for some and more difficult for others. Thankfully, most truck driving schools offer job boards and career counseling. Some truck driving schools even tell you that they have job placement assistance, allowing their students to feel more confident about their ability to get their foot in the door of the industry and get a job. If your program doesn’t not offer any kind of job placement help or career counseling, in addition to applying to jobs independently, you may want to consider joining a truck-driving association or two. Truck-driving associations often do a great job of helping their members connect with employers and career mentors that can aid in their job search. As a rule of thumb, the more involved you get in the industry, the more people you will meet, and ultimately the more doors that will open for you.
- Step 5 – Complete Any Employer Specific Programs
For the most part, if you are a newly licensed truck-driver with little to no “on the job” experience, companies will often require you to complete their in-house training program. Trucking companies often call these programs “driver finishing programs” – which aim to introduce you to the vehicles, materials, and equipment you will be interacting with when working for the given company. Driver finishing programs can vary in length from company to company, but they often span around three to four weeks. During this time, you are likely to review many things you were tested on when getting your CDL, as well as get more supervised driving experience. The goal is to ensure that you are able to successfully achieve the job and tasks required of the role safely, efficiently, and confidently.
Now that you know more about how to get a CDL and how to become a truck driver it’s time to put everything you have learned into practice! If you are still not sure exactly where to start, we at Truck Driver Academy are here to help! We offer a range of program options allowing you to find the perfect option that fits your needs and helping you go from beginner to Class A licensed driver in no time. We help guide you through the whole process, start to finish. Give us a call at 909-414-3814 or send us a message and start your new career today!