Students who want to become professional truck drivers must earn a Class A Commercial Driver's License (CDL). Preparation programs can be found at community colleges and technical schools and they can last anywhere from five to twenty weeks, depending on the program. Some programs distinguish between local commercial driving programs and long-haul commercial driving training.
Applicants must be 18 years old (21 years old for long-haul trucking training), and they must have a valid driver's license in the state in which they are training. They must also submit driving records from the past three to five years, and some schools reject applicants with recent DUIs, reckless driving records or too many moving violations within a certain time period. In addition, applicants must pass a drug screening, physical examination and background check.
Truck Driving Training
CDL training programs provide a mix of classroom studies and hands-on driving training in the yard and on the road. That way, students gain theoretical and technical familiarity with the concepts and machinery used in the field. In addition to CDL preparation, some programs also prepare individuals to earn endorsements in air brakes, combination vehicles, tankers, tanker trailers, hazardous materials and double and triples, which can prepare them for specialized jobs. The following courses may be included in a CDL training program:
- Introduction to the trucking industry
- Safety and First Aid
- Trip preparation
- Close quarters operation
- Materials and cargo
- City/town driving
- Freeway/open road driving
- Driver nutrition
- State and federal transportation laws
After completing a training program, students must pass the CDL Exam. From there, they can apply for an entry-level truck driving positions at the local, regional or national levels.
Newly hired truck drivers typically participate in workshops and seminars sponsored by their employers, which cover transportation regulations, safety procedures and federal trucking ordinances. In addition, American Trucking Associations (ATA) holds online workshops for truck drivers in all areas of business. Workshops address legal, financial and operational areas of truck driving.
Employment Outlook and Career Statistics
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted an employment growth of 5% for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers from 2014-2024. This job outlook is as fast as average compared to other professions. As of May 2015, the mean annual wage for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $42,500.
Professional truck driver training programs prepare prospective truck drivers to pass the CDL exam. Graduates who pass the exam can start working in the field, and those who earn particular endorsements are qualified for specialized trucking jobs.