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Commercial Driving Certification: Program Overview

Commercial driver's license (CDL) certification programs teach students to operate tractor trailers, straight trucks, passenger buses or school buses on all types of roads and in all types of weather conditions. Students learn how to meet federal and state regulations, handle emergencies and communicate with their passengers.

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Essential Information

Professional truck and bus drivers must have a commercial driver's license (CDL) to operate vehicles designed to carry 26,000 pounds or more, 16 or more persons, or weighing over 10,000 pounds. Professional truck driving schools and community colleges offer certification programs to help drivers prepare for state CDL exams.

States issue CDLs, thus schools that offer CDL programs must comply with the laws of the state they reside. This means that prerequisites for programs may vary by state. For example, some states only require students to be 18 years old to enroll in a CDL program, while others may require students to be 21 years old. All states require students to be in good health, have a valid driver's license, pass a background check, have a clean driving record, pass a health and drug screening and have their CDL learners permit.

Some commercial driving certification program fields that are available are safety and emergency procedures, inspecting equipment and handling cargo, passenger relations and interpersonal communication skills.


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  • Heavy Equipment Operation
  • Truck, Bus and Commercial Driver

Commercial Driving Certification

Commercial driving certification programs include in-class instruction and hands-on driving courses that prepare students to take CDL exams. Full-time and part-time programs are designed to meet state requirements. Some of the most common required courses include:

  • Vehicle equipment and safety inspection
  • Truck, tractor and trailer operation
  • Bus operation
  • Backing, parking and docking
  • Navigation and communication
  • Defensive driving

Salary and Job Outlook Information

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that earnings vary greatly by employer and by the type of cargo being hauled. Some long-distance drivers are paid a percent of each load's profit.

According to the BLS, the mean salary for transit/intercity bus drivers was $40,160; for school/special client bus drivers it was $30,580 in May 2015. The BLS also reported that heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers made a mean annual salary of $42,500 as of May 2015.

The BLS projects that the employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers will increase by about 5% from 2014 to 2024, which is about as fast as average for that 10-year period. Positions for bus drivers are expected to increase 6% during the same period.

Students who complete the CDL certification program will be trained to drive various vehicles in different weather conditions. Upon completion of the program, students will meet regulations and will be trained to handle their vehicles in a variety of situations.

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