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Become A CDL Driver

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Working As A CDL Driver

  • Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Getting Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Controlling Machines and Processes
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $50,000

    Average Salary

What Does A CDL Driver Do

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport goods from one location to another. Most tractor-trailer drivers are long-haul drivers and operate trucks with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) capacity of more than 26,000 pounds. These drivers deliver goods over intercity routes, sometimes spanning several states.

Duties

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers typically do the following:

  • Drive long distances
  • Report to a dispatcher any incidents encountered on the road
  • Follow all applicable traffic laws
  • Inspect their trailers before and after the trip, and record any defects they find
  • Maintain a log of their working hours, following all federal and state regulations
  • Report serious mechanical problems to the appropriate personnel
  • Keep their trucks and associated equipment clean and in good working order

Most heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers’ routes are assigned by a dispatcher, but some independent drivers still plan their own routes. They may use satellite tracking to help them plan.

A driver must know which roads allow trucks and which do not. Drivers also must plan legally required rest periods into their trip. Some drivers have one or two routes that they drive regularly, and others drivers take many different routes throughout the country. Also, some drivers have routes that include Mexico or Canada.

Companies sometimes use two drivers, known as teams, on long runs in order to minimize downtime. On these team runs, one driver sleeps in a berth behind the cab while the other drives.

Certain cargo requires drivers to adhere to additional safety regulations. Some heavy truck drivers who transport hazardous materials, such as chemical waste, must take special precautions when driving, and may carry specialized safety equipment in case of an accident. Other drivers, such as those carrying liquids, oversized loads, or cars, must follow rules that apply specifically to them.

Some long-haul truck drivers, called owner–operators, buy or lease trucks and go into business for themselves. In addition to their driving tasks, owner-operators also have business tasks, including finding and keeping clients and doing administrative work, such as accounting.

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How To Become A CDL Driver

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers usually have a high school diploma and attend a professional truckdriving school. They must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Education

Most companies require their truck drivers to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Many companies require drivers to attend professional truckdriving schools, where they take training courses to learn how to maneuver large vehicles on highways or through crowded streets. During these classes, drivers also learn the federal laws and regulations governing interstate truck driving. Students attend either a private truckdriving school or a program at a community college that lasts between 3 and 6 months.

Upon finishing their classes, drivers receive a certificate of completion.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is considering a requirement that mandates all newly hired interstate truck drivers to take a truckdriving course.

The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) certifies a small percentage of driver-training courses at truckdriver training schools that meet both the industry standards and the U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines for training tractor-trailer drivers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All long-haul truck drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Qualifications for obtaining a CDL vary by state but generally include passing both a knowledge test and a driving test. States have the right to refuse to issue a CDL to anyone who has had a CDL suspended by another state.

Drivers can get endorsements to their CDL that show their ability to drive a specialized type of vehicle. Truck drivers transporting hazardous materials (HAZMAT) must have a hazardous materials endorsement (H). Getting this endorsement requires passing an additional knowledge test and a background check.

Federal regulations require random testing of on-duty truck drivers for drug or alcohol abuse. In addition, truck drivers can have their CDL suspended if they are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or are convicted of a felony involving the use of a motor vehicle.

Other actions can result in a suspension after multiple violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website has a list of these violations. Additionally, some companies have stricter standards than what federal regulations require.

Training

After completing truckdriving school and being hired by a company, drivers normally receive between 1 and 3 months of on-the-job training. During this time, they drive a truck with a more experienced mentor–driver in the passenger seat. This period of on-the-job training is given so that the new drivers will learn more about the specific type of truck they will drive and material they will transport.

Important Qualities

Hand-eye coordination. Drivers of heavy trucks and tractor-trailers must be able to coordinate their legs, hands, and eyes simultaneously so that they will react appropriately to the situation around them and drive the vehicle safely.

Hearing ability. Truck drivers need good hearing. Federal regulations require that a driver be able to hear a forced whisper in one ear at 5 feet (with or without the use of a hearing aid).

Physical health. Federal regulations do not allow people to become truck drivers if they have a medical condition, such as high blood pressure or epilepsy, which may interfere with their ability to operate a truck. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website has a full list of medical conditions that disqualify someone from driving a long-haul truck.

Visual ability. Truck drivers must be able to pass vision tests. Federal regulations require a driver to have at least 20/40 vision with a 70-degree field of vision in each eye and the ability to distinguish the colors on a traffic light.

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CDL Driver Career Paths

CDL Driver
Driver Foreman Superintendent
Project Superintendent
10 Yearsyrs
Driver Foreman Manager
Human Resources Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Driver Foreman Supervisor
Warehouse Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Technician Team Leader Store Manager
Area Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Technician Engineer Project Engineer
Construction Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Technician Team Leader Operations Manager
Site Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Truck Driver Class A Electrician Owner/Operator
Operator And Truck Driver
5 Yearsyrs
Truck Driver Class A Electrician Superintendent
General Superintendent
11 Yearsyrs
Truck Driver Class A Electrician Maintenance Supervisor
General Contractor
5 Yearsyrs
Shuttle Driver Dispatcher Logistics Coordinator
Logistics Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Team Leader Operations Manager
Terminal Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Specialist Operation Supervisor
Transportation Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Emergency Medical Technician Operation Supervisor
Transportation Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Transportation Driver Emergency Medical Technician Operation Supervisor
Fleet Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Sales Person Buyer Warehouse Manager
Warehouse Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Sales Person Buyer Warehouse Supervisor
Shipping Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Sales Person Project Coordinator Logistics Coordinator
Driver Manager
5 Yearsyrs
CDL Class A Driver Dump Truck Driver Tank Driver
Lead Driver
5 Yearsyrs
CDL Class A Driver Tank Driver
Professional Truck Driver
7 Yearsyrs
Tank Driver Professional Truck Driver
Flatbed Truck Driver
6 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a CDL Driver?

CDL Driver Demographics

Gender

Male

83.2%

Unknown

9.4%

Female

7.4%
Ethnicity

White

61.9%

Hispanic or Latino

17.1%

Black or African American

11.9%

Asian

5.6%

Unknown

3.5%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

64.0%

Carrier

6.2%

French

5.1%

Italian

3.4%

Portuguese

3.4%

Russian

2.8%

Hindi

2.2%

German

2.2%

Turkish

1.1%

Bosnian

1.1%

Norwegian

1.1%

Uzbek

1.1%

Urdu

1.1%

Japanese

1.1%

Dakota

1.1%

Swahili

0.6%

Luganda

0.6%

Somali

0.6%

Mandarin

0.6%

Ukrainian

0.6%
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CDL Driver Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

14.9%

The Academy

11.5%

New England Tractor Trailer Training School

7.4%

All-State Career School

5.6%

Diesel Driving Academy

5.4%

Houston Community College

5.0%

Del Mar College

4.5%

San Juan College

4.3%

Southwest Texas Junior College

4.1%

Central Texas College

4.1%

Central State University

3.8%

Universal Technical Institute

3.8%

El Paso Community College

3.6%

Community College of the Air Force

3.6%

Pima Community College

3.6%

Ashford University

3.4%

National Tractor Trailer School Inc

3.2%

University of Houston

2.7%

Lamar University

2.7%

Southern New Hampshire University

2.7%
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Majors

Business

22.2%

Criminal Justice

9.6%

General Studies

8.4%

General Education, Specific Areas

8.1%

Automotive Technology

8.0%

Electrical Engineering

4.3%

Computer Science

4.3%

Graphic Design

4.3%

Education

3.9%

Precision Metal Working

3.8%

Electrical Engineering Technology

3.1%

Accounting

3.0%

Management

2.6%

Psychology

2.6%

Liberal Arts

2.2%

Nursing

2.1%

Communication

2.0%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

1.9%

Information Technology

1.9%

Medical Technician

1.8%
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Degrees

Other

49.5%

Associate

17.1%

Bachelors

14.9%

Certificate

10.7%

Diploma

3.7%

Masters

2.0%

License

1.9%

Doctorate

0.2%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$50,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$30,000
Min 10%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$84,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Carrier
Highest Paying City
San Jose, CA
Highest Paying State
Nevada
Avg Experience Level
3.0 years
How much does a CDL Driver make at top companies?
The national average salary for a CDL Driver in the United States is $50,428 per year or $24 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $30,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $84,000.

How Would You Rate The Salary Of a CDL Driver?

Have you worked as a CDL Driver? Help other job seekers by rating your experience as a CDL Driver.

Top Skills for A CDL Driver

  1. Delivery Instructions
  2. Appropriate Safety Procedures
  3. Customer Vehicles
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Maintained telephone contact with supervisor to receive delivery instructions.
  • Followed appropriate safety procedures while transporting dangerous pr hazardous goods.
  • Conducted periodical reviews of veteran drivers to address potential problem areas in following DOT laws, customer service and safety procedures
  • Deliver construction material to job sites in Southwest Florida
  • Operated tractor-trailer combinations, including doubles and triples.

What is it like to work as a CDL Driver

5.0

Truck Driving

June 7, 2019 on Zippia

What was your job title?

CDL Driver.. Show More

What do you like the most about working as CDL Driver?

Making money to sustain an affordable life. I wish I could drive locally but that doesn't seem to be the case without OTR experience for some odd reason... Show More

What do you NOT like?

Driving nights I really wouldn't want to drive at night. Because, sometimes I get tired and sleepy. But with the proper amount of rest I could do it. Just given the right chance if possible... Show More

How Would You Rate Working As a CDL Driver?

Are you working as a CDL Driver? Help us rate CDL Driver as a Career.

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