A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is a special type of driver’s license required to operate large, heavy, or hazardous vehicles for commercial purposes. The CDL is typically issued by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and is necessary for drivers who operate trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles weighing over 26,001 pounds, carrying hazardous materials, or transporting more than 16 passengers.
To obtain a CDL, applicants must pass both written and driving tests, as well as meet specific medical and other requirements. The CDL is a crucial credential for those seeking employment in the trucking, bus, or delivery industries. It ensures that drivers have the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to safely operate large vehicles and transport goods and people across state and national borders.
What about a CLP?
A Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) is a permit that allows individuals to learn how to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMV) under the supervision of a qualified CDL holder. Essentially, it is a learner’s permit for driving large vehicles. The CLP is issued by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and is a prerequisite for obtaining a CDL.
To obtain a CLP, an individual must pass a written knowledge test covering topics related to commercial vehicle operation, such as vehicle inspection, basic control skills, and safe driving practices. They must also meet certain medical requirements and provide appropriate identification documents.
Once an individual has obtained a CLP, they may begin training and practice driving a commercial motor vehicle while accompanied by a qualified CDL holder. However, a CLP holder cannot operate a commercial vehicle without a CDL holder present in the vehicle. Once the individual has gained enough experience and is confident in their driving abilities, they may take the CDL driving test to obtain a full CDL.
Types of CDL Licenses or CDL Classifications
There are three classes of Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) based on the type of vehicle and cargo being transported. These three classes are:
- Class A CDL: This license allows drivers to operate a combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, as long as the vehicle being towed has a weight of more than 10,000 pounds. Examples of vehicles that fall under this class include tractor-trailers, tanker vehicles, and livestock carriers.
- Class B CDL: This license allows drivers to operate a single vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, as well as certain combination vehicles that do not meet the weight criteria for a Class A license. Examples of vehicles that fall under this class include straight trucks, buses, and large passenger vans.
- Class C CDL: This license allows drivers to operate a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or to transport hazardous materials in amounts that require placarding. Examples of vehicles that fall under this class include school buses, shuttle buses, and small hazmat vehicles.
In addition to these three classes, there are also additional endorsements and restrictions that can be added to a CDL to allow drivers to operate specific types of vehicles or carry certain types of cargo. Some examples of these endorsements include:
- Hazmat endorsement: This endorsement allows drivers to transport hazardous materials.
- Tanker endorsement: This endorsement allows drivers to transport liquid or gaseous materials in tanker trucks.
- Passenger endorsement: This endorsement allows drivers to transport passengers in vehicles designed to carry 16 or more people.
- Double/triple trailer endorsement: This endorsement allows drivers to tow two or three trailers at once.
It’s important to note that the requirements for obtaining endorsements may vary by state, so it’s important to check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for specific requirements.
CDL Demographics and Statistics
The commercial trucking industry and CDL holders make up a significant portion of the transportation industry in the United States. Here are some demographic and statistical insights on CDL holders:
- Number of CDL Holders: According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were approximately 5.8 million CDL holders in the United States as of 2020.
- Age and Gender: The average age of a CDL holder is around 50 years old, and men make up the majority of CDL holders. However, there has been an increase in the number of women obtaining CDLs in recent years.
- Employment Status: Most CDL holders are employed by trucking companies, but some work as independent contractors or owner-operators.
- Average Salary: The average salary for a CDL driver varies based on the type of vehicle they operate and their level of experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $48,710 as of May 2020.
- Safety: According to the FMCSA, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses has decreased in recent years, but there is still room for improvement in terms of safety on the roads.
- Impact on the Economy: The commercial trucking industry is a crucial part of the U.S. economy, as it is responsible for transporting goods across the country. According to the American Trucking Associations, the trucking industry generated $791.7 billion in revenue in 2019, and trucks move approximately 71% of all freight in the U.S.
How Much Does It Cost To Get a CDL?
The cost of obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) can vary depending on several factors, such as the state where you live, the type of CDL you need, and the training program you choose. Here are some estimated costs associated with getting a CDL:
- CDL Permit: The cost of a CDL permit test varies by state but typically ranges from $50 to $100.
- CDL Training: CDL training costs can vary widely, depending on the program and the amount of training required. Some programs can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $8,000 or more, depending on the length of the program and the level of training offered.
- CDL Skills Test: The cost of a CDL skills test varies by state, but it typically ranges from $150 to $500.
- Other Costs: Other costs associated with obtaining a CDL may include physical exams, background checks, and the cost of study materials or practice tests.
It’s important to note that some employers may cover the cost of CDL training for their employees, and some states may offer training programs at reduced costs or for free. Additionally, financial assistance may be available through grants or scholarships for those who qualify.
Overall, the cost of obtaining a CDL can be significant, but it’s important to consider the potential benefits and earning potential that come with obtaining a CDL.